What do newspapers need in their typefaces?

Hello everyone. I am a novice in type design aiming on making a serif (and if possible, a sans-serif companion) type system aimed at newspaper use. I am still in development, and I am looking at some other fonts that look great on print.

Acta and Acta Display - Dino dos Santos for DSType
Acta Display

Arnhem - Fred Smeijers

Century - L.B. Benton + M.F. Benton

Charter - Matthew Carter

Farnham - Christian Schwarz

Miller - Matthew Carter

Periodico - Eduardo Manso

PROFORMA - Petr van Blokland

But I am confused on how to do it because there are some issues on character sets, color, legibility (His Excellency Fred Smeijers said one can do wedgies on the serifs), and even chemistry [H&FJ brings up the topic on font grades, to cope with how ink reacts with paper (I know lazyheads, you are all crying right now :'{ )].

So the question remains: what do newspapers really need in the design of its typefaces?

hrant's picture

This is a big challenge. For one thing although the technical stuff is huge, "mood" still plays a role, and you have to end up with a design that reflects the character of the newspaper.

The one recent effort that I think has revealed deep insight into news face requirements is Christian Schwartz's Houston Chronicle typeface*. It aptly demonstrated how features that look ridiculous when large turn into gold when small. In fact, as I've opined before a text face in general can't be optimal if it looks too nice when used for display (although many designers dispute this).

* http://www.christianschwartz.com/houston.shtml

BTW there's a huge reference you've missed: David Berlow. Hopefully he'll chime in.


Nick Shinn's picture

They need types that will work well on the presses on which their publication is printed; paper stock and ink gain are key issues, especially for body type.

They need types that will not waste space, which is at a premium in a medium which is quite literally downsizing.

They need display types which are tightly fitted.
For serifed headline fonts, very fine details for use huge.

They need types with unique personality, to stand out in the SND awards every year.

They need types with contemporary style, because newspapers are more like magazines now that news is delivered fast by TV, Internet and tweet.

hrant's picture

Nick just reminded me of something: economy doesn't always come from narrowness - which explains why news faces are generally pretty squat (noting that newspapers use a lot of linebreaks). Do a Find on "economy" here: http://www.daidala.com/25apr2004.html


Maxim Zhukov's picture
    Some excellent but unfairly forgotten news fonts:
  • Olympian (Matthew Carter, 1970);
  • Rotation (Arthur Ritzel, 1971);
  • Nimrod (Robin Nicholas, 1980);
  • Clarion (Robin Nicholas, 1985).
Sonoraphobic's picture

@hrant, Cap M on Houston is super-shitty. David Berlow did come up, on an article in the Boston Globe (which he redesigned in 2000).

@Nick Shinn, Amen.

@Maxim Zhukov, liking Nimrod. 8)

hrant's picture

A lot of things in Houston look horrible large, but the fact that it clicks when small/lo-fi is what deserves careful attention. And a lot of prettiness in other -wannabe- news fonts backfires. Look at the work of Walter Tracy* for similar golden lessons.

* http://www.myfonts.com/person/Walter_Tracy/


Sonoraphobic's picture

@hrant, That's the problem with Houston. Horrible when large, beautiful when small. Shouldn't it be more, well, consistent?

I will have to mention two additional news fonts worth looking at: Starling by Mike Parker

and Worldwide by You-Know-Who

hrant's picture

Repeating myself:

a text face in general can't be optimal if it looks too nice when used for display

You need a certain ugliness in this case*. I admit many people don't agree with that view. But to me the fact that scale changes everything is a no-brainer.

* Same sort of thing that happens for example with the binocular "g" in any text face; if it's too pretty other more important things are going wrong.


Sonoraphobic's picture

Also worth mentioning would be Publico by Schwartz (this time, more beautiful.)

Sonoraphobic's picture

@hrant, is this the reason for the occurence of separate text and display fonts in one typeface?

hrant's picture

Yes, although most designers don't make them different enough.


Sonoraphobic's picture

@SmartSearch, I am not in the mood for Ireland right now, but I like dem Irish lads.

Edit: On your argument about typefaces and fonts though, I do understand that. But that's it. We'll get back to the topic now, kay? :D

PabloImpallari's picture

> a text face in general can't be optimal if it looks too nice when used for display
> Yes, although most designers don't make them different enough.

Agree on that!
Not only the glyphs, but also the spacing need to be different.

Sonoraphobic's picture

@PabloImpallari (!), spacing, which means kerning or metrics? (Sorry, just a newbie.)

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