Re: typeface to go with photographs of various kinds

From: Jonathan Taylor ^lt;[email protected]>
Date: 07/26/04-08:59:52 AM Z
Message-id: <>

Ryuji et al,
I'm just a lurker who'd like to get into alt-process someday, but I also
teach graphic design (high school level) and have a particular love for
typography. So, here are a few humbly offered suggestions:
1) Avoid all web & screen fonts (unless it's a digital/screen presentation
or you want to self-consciously refer to the medium). These fonts were
designed solely for screen use: Capitals, Charcoal, Chicago, Comic Sans,
Gadget, Geneva, Georgia, Impact, Monaco, Monotype, New York, Sand, Skia,
Techno, Textile, Trebuchet, and Verdana. Fonts designed for screen use have
dramatically different kerning and generally set ugly on the printed page.
There are of course many other fonts designed solely for screen use, so it's
always good to know where a font comes from, who designed it, and what the
intended uses were. Most designers and foundries have good pages describing
their faces.
2) Avoid those tired "basic" typefaces. We're all probably aware that most
computers shipped since the 80's came with a basic set of free fonts. It
goes without saying if you want something subtle, distinctive, or fresh,
none of these will be suitable. Sadly there are some nice designs included
in this group: Helvetica, Palatino, and Zapf Chancery. Times is a special
case; it's a competent design that IMHO should be obliterated and removed
from all possibility of future use. Times was designed to be used in small
sizes (9 & 10 pt) on low-quality bleed-prone newsprint. Outside of that
context, it's bland and characterless. My feelings about Courier are
similar, but less sanguine. If you are going for the "typewriter look" there
are many other more interesting choices. Please avoid the lowest of the low:
Arial, Book Antiqua, and Times New Roman. Early on, Microsoft wanted some of
the same fonts that Apple shipped, but they didn't want to pay for them, so
they had Monotype (who were desperate and teetering on the edge of
bankruptcy) create some rip-offs. They're supposed to be equivalents of
Helvetica, Palatino, and Times respectively, but they're bungled copies.
Many other faces could fall into this category. MacOS X for instance ships
with a nice (if odd) selection of faces, or all Postscript printers shipped
with the same basic set of fonts, but I won't name all those here; I've
covered the most common and heinous offenders.
3) Consider the history and background of the typeface. For general
guidelines on this, I can think of no other better reference than
Bringhurst's previously mentioned, _Elements of Typographic Style_. If I
recall correctly he has a great section on selecting typefaces. (My copy
isn't handy at the moment; I'll check later this afternoon.) Really I think
the next best resource is the designer's or foundry's own information on
inspirations and intended uses. The type section of Adobe¹s website is one
of the first places I go. I like to pair faces from the same designer or
trace the tangled web of relationships between designers. But I must say,
for me at least, this whole approach can be a bit of a distraction-- much
less important than my next suggestion.
4) Print samples and study them. This may seem like obvious advice, but it
really is the only way to make good type choices. Print samples that reflect
your final uses. Juxtapose the type with your images. Print key bits of text
at large size so that you can become aware of the visual elements that unify
the letters of a given typeface. Print samples of running text; compare the
typographic color (that is the gray tone created by a block of text) of
different faces. Try all the styles (bold, italic, and so on) of a given
font family. It is, by the way, very important to actually kill some trees
and see printed samples. Proofing the finer points of typography on
low-resolution monitors is impossible. Even the best setup and monitor can
be quite misleading. In essence, you are looking for typefaces that visually
complement your work. As others have suggested it is of course important to
think about the visual strength of your type in relation to the artwork.
Usually you don't want to overwhelm the work. The type choices used in
_Aperture_ are an excellent example of this approach. _Blind Spot_ and
_Double Take_ are good examples of a less traditional approach.
Ok, I'll get off my soapbox. Sorry to be so long-winded. I hope that some of
this is helpful.
Received on Mon Jul 26 09:00:19 2004

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