Re: typeface to go with photographs of various kinds

From: Ryuji Suzuki ^lt;[email protected]>
Date: 07/29/04-05:45:46 AM Z
Message-id: <>

The reason I started this thread is to think about factors that should
connect between pictures and letters. Obviously, there are many kinds
of pictures and many typefaces. Otherwise there wouldn't be a place
for such a question.

For photography, I consider factors like:

- process
  b&w photography as we practice is a 19th century thing
  color and digital are 20/21st century thing
  silver gelatin (among others) is an English technology
  in contrast, Daguerre (among others) is a French technology
  film is an American technology
  but if you use commercial material these may not matter at all

- subject
  obviously if the subject expresses the notion of time it is probably
  stronger than that implied by the process

- print's quality
  if the print has nothing to do with sharp, contrasty, formal look,
  it may not go well with types that have pronounced bracketed serifs
  with high stroke contrast... etc. but Kris Erickson had success
  combining photograms with such a font.

- texture
  Kris Erickson brought up that the texture of brush coated material
  goes well with bandwritten letters.

Other criteria like readability, avoiding those overwhelming the
photographs, etc. still leave a lot of options for these factors,
after which there are probably still lots of room for personal

From: Judy Seigel <>
Subject: Re: typeface to go with photographs of various kinds
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 2004 23:35:04 -0400 (EDT)

> What I'm reacting to I think is the idea that I have to *prove* I
> care.

I think neither Jonathan nor I said that. What we expressed is that we
can often see sign of not caring.

In one of his early responses Jonathan said to understand the history
and background of the typefaces. I totally agree with this view. If you
know a bit of the story how Times New Roman was made for Times of
London, and the role of Stanley Morison in that whole work, you'll
realize how little Times New Roman has to do with photographic images
we are talking about here. (To me there is no need for the recent
arguments that Times is unsuitable because of its too typical use.)
Those newspaper and magazine faces are associated with something to
read fast just once for strictly informational content and throw away,
or put in file at best. And for these applications these faces look
good and fit well functionally.

> I think 98% of my "audience" (if any) wouldn't know Times from Zapf
> Dingbat, let alone Zapf Chancery... and if there were any connection
> to "drab office correspondance" (which in my drab mailings is more
> likely to be Courier or -- I pick the top envelope of a pile of fund
> appeals off my desk....

If you don't have motivation to care for the 2%, that's it. No
obligation. Why bother.

99.98% of the general public don't care if the image consists of
inkjet of whatever dyes, metallic silver or silver sulfide or gold or
platinum or palladium or whatever, really. And you don't need to prove
you care about anything. The result is obvious if you look at how
majority of prints are made today. I don't argue they are obligated to
care about the 0.02% who makes too much noise about whether dots are
grains or pixels or what not.

> However, since you know so much -- What type face would you suggest
> I look at (to care without showing it) for a commercially printed
> book (not my alt photo prints) with photos & captions in Roman &
> italic ? (I found doing P-F that not all italics are created equal
> -- some from perfectly decent faces are illegible.)

For one thing doesn't "care" mean *you* think, decide and do something,
not just follow someone else's decision? And I thought you were so
aginst just copying what the experts think correct and you often spent
many words trying to come up with reasons to go against it. So why
bother to ask for a shortcut answer?

If you are printing books of strictly informational contents of
current nature, type like Sabon, Century, Bodoni, etc. are probably
standard choices. (If you pick several books of similar subject to
yours and look at the types you'll know what's standard for the
subject. But when I did this for photography-related books, I saw not
much sign of authors/publishers caring this issue. On the other hand
when I look at cookbooks from serious publishers, I see a totally
opposite tendency. Mathematical books and journals are probably
another example because they need math fonts and text fonts that
match, and there aren't many options.)

Another problem with fonts like Times, Minion and Garamond is that, if
you make typical single-column report or business communication layout
on US letter or ISO A4 size and set in 10-12 points, lines will
contain too many words for good readability. Newspapers, magazines
and newsletters typically have narrow columns so this is not an issue

But these things are a part of standard selection guidelines you can
find somewhere and read in 15 minutes. More fundamental question is
what to consider instead of how to decide.

Ryuji Suzuki
"You have to realize that junk is not the problem in and of itself.
Junk is the symptom, not the problem."
(Bob Dylan 1971; source: No Direction Home by Robert Shelton)
Received on Thu Jul 29 07:10:38 2004

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