What is a newspaper typeface?

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Ramiro Espinoza
Ramiro Espinoza Posts: 839
edited August 2016 in Technique and Theory
Hi there,

I am interested in reading / researching about what is currently understood as a 'newspaper typeface'. In your opinion, what are the (technical and aesthetic) features that make a typeface optimal for newspapers? Can you recommend good books or articles on this subject?
Also, what are the fonts that you think constitute the archetype of a 'newspaper typeface'.
Thanks in advance.

PS, I've found this book to be useful: Historia del periódico y su evolución gráfica, by André Gürtler.

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  • AbiRasheed
    AbiRasheed Posts: 238
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    not an expert or anything but things that come to mind are ink traps, saving ink.
  • Mark Simonson
    Mark Simonson Posts: 1,678
    edited August 2016
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    Also, one of the common characteristics is efficient use of space (high character count for a given area relative to type size), so they tend to be fairly compact and dense, designed for tight line spacing.
  • Craig Eliason
    Craig Eliason Posts: 1,413
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    Spatial efficiency has been mentioned but particularly I think of stunted descenders. 
  • Nick Shinn
    Nick Shinn Posts: 2,160
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    Indeed, short descenders are advisable for body text.
    Both because narrow columns of auto-justified text (and in newspapers body text is almost always justified) can easily create rivers and islands (ascender-descender accretions), and because tight leading is de rigueur—in North America the standard size of web rolls has decreased, along with circulation and profits, as a cost-cutting measure, and therefore the pressure is on for maximum copy-fitting.

    Body text sizes are generally larger in North America than in Europe, again putting pressure on maximizing character count.

    Also, the trend is for a more magazine-like like quality, both in terms of content (as TV and the Internet have usurped news immediacy), and print resolution. Therefore, size-specific (“optical size”) fonts are useful, for matching the degree of fine detail in heads, decks and body.
  • Bianca Berning
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    Rob McKaughan focused on newspaper typefaces in his dissertation about pattern language in type design. Try to get hold of that or read about it here
  • Luke Freeman
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    This is more based on commissioned font projects for newspapers.

    Would consider fonts designed for a newspapers when approaching a redesign. The font seems to encapsulate a newspapers: brand, audience, readers etc. Then the other side is fonts are not just for print anymore, they are embedded on various digital platforms.

    If you look at font designs for newspapers, either the font has to solve a problem in print and in digital form, while at the same time work towards the vision of editor, director or design team.

    When designing a font for Newspapers it seems the font not only has to support the redesign of the layout, must test the course of time and not become phase out in a short amount of time. I say that if you look at a font/typeface for newspapers they become the newspapers identity.    

    Here are some related links for the redesign on the Independent Newspaper, it's a nice to hear from a Editorial Designer and Type Designer on their view on the importance a font can have towards the design of a newspaper.

    Article:
    https://www.creativereview.co.uk/the-independent-redesigns/

    Matt Willey



    Henrik Kubel

    https://youtu.be/aA3Vl4ZLtbA?t=1397


    Links on Times 



    Dan Rhatigan on Times and newspapers

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7hgQ_MXL8k

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szpBcBG9Vdw

  • Maurice Meilleur
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    Not sure how far you can generalize from one example, but Gerard Unger designed Swift's outlines to be able to withstand slight compression or extension to accommodate whatever-it-takes copyfitting in newspapers. That was clearly widely practiced at least by the clients/end-users he had in mind in the 80s and 90s, and I would guess still is?
  • Alfonso García
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    Ramiro, I made a work on newspaper type for my postgraduate course in Buenos Aires. 

    https://issuu.com/fonzo/docs/tif_2012_garc__aa_i.pdf

    First part is a sinthesis of the book by Gürtler that you have mention, with some personal insight and this paper from Victor Gaultney: http://gaultney.org/jvgtype/wp-content/uploads/BalanLegEcon.pdf

    I hope you find it useful.

    Saludos!

  • John Savard
    John Savard Posts: 1,100
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    Historically, the primary distinguishing property of newspaper typefaces is a large x-height. The use of Scotch Roman for newspapers was characteristic of the 19th Century in the United States, and persisted somewhat longer in Britain.

    The first of the Linotype legibility faces, Ionic No. 5, was a light Clarendon. Corona, one of the most popular of that series, resembles Century Expanded somewhat.

    In addition to large X-height, attention is paid to things like ink traps, and counters - things like the open space in the top half of a lower-case e - are made as large as possible.

    Incidentally, Melior was designed as a newspaper typeface.
  • Hrant Հրանդ Փափազեան Papazian
    edited February 2017
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    I have a good-size folder of articles I've collected about newspaper type and typography. The best one was from Typografischen Monatsblätter.

    To me the most notable thing about a newspaper face is that it has to be ugly.

  • To me the most notable thing about a newspaper face is that it has to be ugly.
    Well, I actually kind of like these newspaper fonts and don’t consider them ugly TBH.
  • Hrant Հրանդ Փափազեան Papazian
    edited February 2017
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    Of course taste varies, and text face designers naturally develop a deeper, more functional grasp of beauty. But I think my theory generally holds for users. Maybe a better phrasing is: "has to have a certain ugliness".
  • Ahh; now I understand! You mean newspaper-type users have to have a certain ugliness. Fair enough.
  • John Savard
    John Savard Posts: 1,100
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    I would put it this way: with a large x-height, and with open counters, newspaper type has to lack certain features that suggest grace and delicacy. That does not mean that it cannot be designed with aesthetics strongly in mind; that does not mean that it cannot be beautiful in some respects.

    But when you combine those deficiencies with a need to be very familiar and comfortable to a wide range of ordinary readers, it is likely that the resulting face will not be all that interesting to those whose primary interest is aesthetic and not practical.

    I would not call Melior ugly; but then, I would not call Corona ugly either, and yet I can understand that some might feel that way. However, of late, the technical requirements of newspapers have changed, as they're now being printed by offset lithography instead of by stereotype, and that has reduced the problem.
  • Kent Lew
    Kent Lew Posts: 906
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    However, of late, the technical requirements of newspapers have changed, as they're now being printed by offset lithography instead of by stereotype, and that has reduced the problem.
    By “of late” I suppose you mean since roughly four decades ago.

    Offset lithography certainly improved control and consistency in the printing of newspapers.

    But the paper is usually quite thin and absorbent (to differing degrees in different shops), and the presses run at very high speeds. So, unique challenges do remain.
  • Hrant Հրանդ Փափազեան Papazian
    edited February 2017
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    > But when you combine those deficiencies with a need to be very familiar and comfortable to a wide range of ordinary readers, it is likely that the resulting face will not be all that interesting to those whose primary interest is aesthetic and not practical.

    I think the first part of that passage alludes to something more than simply lack of interest. This can get philosophical rather quickly (turning off large swathes of practically-minded designers) but to me it's a difference between conscious taste and the needs of the subconscious; if one agrees that the two have their differences, and latter is more relevant the more we aim for immersive reading, it follows that there's a certain ugliness that must be allowed to manifest. Good examples of this: ungainly short descenders, particularly in the binocular "g"; and trapping, which very few people enjoy noticing.

    Something like Melior doesn't have to be seen as ugly per se; but I put forth that giving it more of a subconscious-accommodating ugliness would help it read better, especially in adverse conditions. So, a matter of degrees.
  • Nick Shinn
    Nick Shinn Posts: 2,160
    edited February 2017
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    Press gain is not so much of an issue with oldstyle or transitional faces. The problem for newspapers was the predominance of didones, and crude printing, but that is history now.

    My strategy for the Pratt fonts, for a paper which has both coated and uncoated sections, was not grading, but an oldstyle (with large x-height and short descenders) that has robust micro-detailed serifs and fine tapered joints; that way, large amounts of press gain are accomodated on the glyph as a whole, yet the details prevail when printing is finer.

    Historically, Fortune magazine in the 1930s had both coated and rag pages, set in Baskerville. The difference in effect was ridiculous, but so what?