Naming typefaces: had Book Antiqua been a name as good as Palatino?

LexLuengas's picture

Naming a typefaces is probably one of the greatest pains that comes with typographic design. As usual, my list of name alternatives grows faster than a rabbit population, and the chance to decide upon one falls into the deep. One is tempted to eeny-meeny-miny-moe... but there's this other mind:

  1. To which extent is the name of a font a catalyst for good sales?
  2. How important are these characteristics in your opinion?: (e.g. Is Palatino a name as good as Book Antiqua?)
    • Semantics.
    • A name that relates to yourself.
    • A ‘good looking’ name.
    • A ‘good sounding’ name.
    • Great number of letters with different characteristics (a show-off name).
    • Length of the name.
    • Single word vs. multiple words.

Note that I just want to know your personal priorities, not which one you think is ‘the most efficient’.

Examples of names you like (whatever the reason) are also appreciated.

Mark Simonson's picture

Well, Palatino was so successful that it inspired numerous copy cat fonts, including Book Antiqua. I don't think Book Antiqua has been marketed per se, so much as served as a stand in for an already popular font to get around licensing issues (presumably). It's all a moot point since a single company now owns the rights to both faces.

That said, the name Palatino has not seemed to stand in the way of its success. Hard to say how much it contributed.

rs_donsata's picture

If the second letter of your font name is an a it shows first on lists.

Nick Shinn's picture

I always thought that Palatino was a great name, from the first time I came across the typeface in the 1970s.
Immediately, it conveys the patina of classical antiquity (if one knows a little about Ancient Rome), and the capital P is a distinctive feature of the face, its open counter also referring to the style of antiquity.

The allusion to Antiquity is appropriate for a design which follows the principle of the first humanist types, basing letter forms on broad-nibbed scribal styles that are considered to be classical and ancient.

While Renaissance styles of type had been revived since the days of Morris, and designers such as Goudy had produced new designs in the Renaissance idiom, they had referred to the printed tradition. What Zapf did with Palatino was address the process, which is what made it so radical and of its own time. The name, in providing a type-historical critique of the face’s genesis, may even suggest that the design is Post-modern.

Book Antiqua is a phony name, seeking to deny the plagiarism of a clone by asserting that the original is generic.

So yes, semantics!

hrant's picture

The name is very important.

It has to have the right feeling, it has to make a designer want to see what the font looks like, and hopefully confirm what the designer thinks it would look like. Choose a name that sounds right (doesn't have to be a positive sound or meaning) and that brings attention to what makes the font special when set in that font.

And what Héctor said.

One of the best-named fonts is Newlyn's "Luvbug". Another really good one is Parkinson's "Azuza" (not least because it's "misspelled" so does not get overwhelmed with search results against the SoCal city). I've helped name other people's fonts (like Sindre's "Satyr"*) and have pages of names ready to go; making as many fonts is another matter. :-/



LexLuengas's picture

Next time I'll first choose the name, then make the font :-)

Maxim Zhukov's picture

Many current font names are either Anglo- or Germanocentric.

A font name better be reasonably short—at the maximum, three syllables—and easy to say. Just think of a string of style names that may follow a family name, like “ultrabold extra compressed oblique”. If the typeface is multilingual its name should be easy to transliterate to other (non-Latin) scripts, and easy to say for the target users. Arno, Bembo, Octava, Pepita are easy; Haettenschweiler, Benguiat Gothic, Cheltenham Handtooled, Agedage Cancelleresca, Berthold Englische Schreibschrift are not.

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