Mrs Eaves -- save me from myself

Simon3W's picture

Hello all.

I'm not a designer or typographer, just an editor. I edit a small-scale UK magazine. As well as covering current affairs we review films and music, but it's a pretty intelligent read -- sophisticated but pretty sober. We're relaunching next month, going from a mono interior to full colour.

Obviously fonts are a pretty big deal. It's the designer's call, but I got a few books and read up just because typography interests me. I also read a bunch of blogs and forums.

But here's the thing. I can't understand why Mrs Eaves wouldn't be a brilliant body text for us. I know it's pretty common now, and I know it draws attention to itself, but I like that it's full of character. In comparison most other things look bland, particularly the Baskerville alternatives that I get presented with.

The designer is with me to a certain extent. He says that he loves the way it looks, but that I should understand that typographers have a problem with it as a body text. Well, I guess I do, but only insofar as it wants to be seen. I do think it's readable despite all that.

If we use it it'll be 11.5 on 11.5, with column widths of around 75mm. We'll be printing onto good-quality 90gsm satin.

So, if you think my subscribers will benefit, please convince me that I'm wrong (with alternatives). The only other font I've seen that I really like is Fabiol, and I reckon you'd think that was worse...


charles ellertson's picture

I've set a book (over my protest) in Mrs. Eaves. The designer insisted on it. To my eye, it is so open & gappy you can drive smallish trucks between the letters. When you look for type for body copy -- text -- don't look at individual letterforms first. Look at sentences, or at least groups of words. Once you find fonts where that is comfortable, then look at letterforms if you wish.

Yes, it is readable. I once had a famous designer call me & exclaim "I took all the word spaces out of the text, and I can still read it!" I suppose you could. But why would anyone want to?

writingdesigning's picture

''In comparison most other things look bland, particularly the Baskerville alternatives that I get presented with..''

I think Mrs Eaves was meant to be a revival/reinterpretation of Baskerville.

I haven't seen it used at small sizes, and for a lot of running text as in a magazine (But then 11.5 is not very small). Fabiol too has somewhat eccentric details for running text.

Why not set a page or two with actual content in both, and get a few people to read it. Or have you already?

Btw. You may also like to look at FF Absara

pattyfab's picture

Mrs. Eaves is very wide and, as Charles says, gappy but I like it and have used it for body text.

dan_reynolds's picture

Typographers argue about everything! But this is your magazine… if you like Mrs. Eaves, then use it! Your designer should be able to handle it without too much trouble. If your readers don't like it, you could always change it later, but they probably won't find anything to object about.

Simon3W's picture

I have set some pages. We found that if we kerned (I think that's the right term) the text to -5, the gaps seemed fine to us. Is there a specific reason we shouldn't be doing that?

And yeah, it's a Baskerville revival. But the other Baskervilles (at least the ones I've tried, which includes the Storm ones) just seem pretty dull to me.

pattyfab's picture

Tracking is the right term, and I've found a little tracking helpful in Mrs. Eaves too. I'm assuming you're talking about InDesign when you say -5, not Quark.

writingdesigning's picture

''Is there a specific reason we shouldn’t be doing that?.."
I don't think there's one, as long as it looks good.

If it's Indesign, the other way of doing it is to go to 'Justification' from the 'Paragraph' tab and adjust Word and Letter spacing.

William Berkson's picture

If you are not familiar with the problems of typography, as you say you are not, one thing it is important to be aware of is that scale makes a big difference. A type can be excellent in display size, and less good or even horrible at at small size in extended text.

If you like the look in display you might consider using Mrs Eaves for display, but use another type in the text.

blank's picture

…I know it draws attention to itself, but I like that it’s full of character.

The problem is that the fabulous character the makes Mrs. Eaves so great as, for example, a business card typeface, can get really tedious after a while. The funky spacing and generous overshoots are really cute in small doses, but compound them with the high-contrast of the text and you’re making a recipe for annoyance. Also, keep your printing techniques in mind; if this magazine is coming out of a not-so-great press on low-cost paper, as small magazines often are, the hairlines in a Baskerville will start to break up and disappear, especially if you use a color that isn’t very dark. Topping it off, there’s a very historical feel to any Baskerville design, and it’s going to look very odd as body copy in a contemporary music and film magazine.

Consider reserving Mrs. Eaves for flavor here and there in short articles, especially when the point size can be bumped up to compensate for magazine printing. But using it as body copy throughout probably won’t work out too well.

Simon3W's picture

James that's a good point viz the dose. I may love it because it's a recent discovery. If I were to use it as a headline or display font, which serif font might work alongside it for body copy?

blank's picture

I think that you should do your designer the favor of letting him do the work you’re paying him to do. He’s a professional, and shouldn’t have to deal with being second guessed by not only his client, but by an internet discussion in which he is not a participant.

pattyfab's picture

I'm with James there, where clients are concerned a little knowledge can be very dangerous. Makes me crazy when they try to educate me about fonts.

Dan Gayle's picture

Mrs. Eaves is one of my favorite typefaces, but it is one of the worst spaced professionally released typefaces of the digital era. The spacing of the punctuation is especially jacked-up.

Some people say the letterforms themselves are not good for small text, but that's nothing compared to the spacing issues.

where clients are concerned a little knowledge can be very dangerous.
Jeez Patty, that one of the most elitist things I've heard in a while. Educating a client should look to make it easier for the designer, not harder.

"Yes, your designer is right. There are myriad reasons, such as such and such, why you should listen to your designer."

How does that harm the designer? In fact, it might even lead to a greater appreciation of type, and that leads to not only better typography, but better sales for the type designers.

Miss Tiffany's picture

I think you read into that a little deep, Dan.

It isn't a client who is educated that is the problem. It is a client who has read an article or two and thinks they are experts.

Scalfin's picture

One thing the designer might not know about is fontin, though he might know how to get the permission to use it in a for-profit product.

Simon3W's picture

It's a fair point about letting the designer do his job, and I don't mean to make anyone believe that I think I have a proper understanding of the problems with this font. It's just that, in a sense, I'm not the real client -- my subscribers are, and I have to believe I understand them better than anyone. That's also what the designer believes (or how he flatters me) and he seems keen to get my input. Of course I discuss this with him, I'm just canvassing for a little opinion. Also, I wonder how much of this stuff comes down to fashion. I've heard a number of things said about Mrs Eaves that just aren"t true, and they appear to have been said as much in reaction to its popularity as to its inappropriateness.

Equally, not all designers have typography as a strength, and some advice from people who take it seriously has to be worth seeking.

Bear in mind that I was asking you to convince me! I wasn't looking for ammunition to use against my designer. We are both looking for font recommendations -- something with character that will hold up to this sort of use.

I'm sorry if I've trodden on any toes -- I appreciate that I'd get uppity if a designer tried to teach me how to edit. I'm genuinely trying to take advantage of your knowledge.

Dan Gayle's picture

It is a client who has read an article or two and thinks they are experts.

Believe me, my eyes roll whenever my editor tells me that there's "too much white space" or that Arial is the "most legible typeface of all time".

But that shouldn't discourage anyone from educating a non-designer, "It’s the designer’s call, but I got a few books and read up just because typography interests me," who is looking specifically for help in understanding his designer's decision.

FeeltheKern's picture

Mrs. Eaves sometimes feels like Papyrus to me, except that by the grace of god it wasn't included in Windows, so it's only designers for the most part who abuse it. Same goes for Scala Sans. It's just a no-brainer go-to for designers working on another condo development or another organic product.

FeeltheKern's picture

My point is, if you're looking for something that feels like a historical revival, there are way better options out there. -- dstype's Leitura, for example, or his not yet released Capsa

pattyfab's picture

Dan - way to overreact. I believe in educating the client as much as the next person. The problem comes, as Tiffany said, when the client thinks they know more than the designer. Or when they get an idee fixe about a design idea or a font and won't listen to other ideas. I had an editor recently who insisted the type be miniscule because that would make it look "contemporary". Another client who won't allow purple because he read somewhere that purple doesn't sell. I felt sorry for the designer of my mother's book after she showed me the galleys and I marked up everything that didn't work. Believe me the design was terrible and needed help desperately, but the last thing that poor designer needed was the author's daughter telling her what to do.

In any event, showing is always more effective than telling when it comes to design.

dezcom's picture

"it it’ll be 11.5 on 11.5, with column widths of around 75mm"

No leading on an open spaced face like Mrs Eaves is not the best idea. The open look and poor kerning will accentuate the flaws even more so when it is tightly set like you suggest. As the film title says, A River Runs Through It.


writingdesigning's picture

A large part of the fun of setting up and running your own publication, or any small enterprise for that matter, is the freedom it allows you to dabble in areas, which in a more formal structure, would be off-limits if you're a non-professional.

And when you're doing that, it goes without saying that the results may not be the same as what a professional would have come up with. A year down you may not agree with your own earlier choices.

In this case, Simon's apparently working with a designer who's comfortable with his interventions. So I suppose it's a good way of growing.

Randy's picture

Have you looked at Tribute, also from Emigre. It has a similar funkiness, without some of the headache. Not a baskerville obviously, but worth a look.

TypoJunkie's picture

How about Epic. I bought it while it was on sale and absolutely love it; although I'm waiting for a REALLY nice project to use it in; so I couldn't tell you how it sits in the page or if it's the right one for you.

Happy hunting!

P.S. Josh's suggestion of using a typeface that has not been released made my day.

pattyfab's picture

FF Atma has a similar feel too - but I've never used it, don't own it, so I don't know its pitfalls.

Renaissance Man's picture

I have Mrs. Eves and agree that it is loosey-goosey in terms of spacing. Not bad for setting small blocks of poetry.

While they don't have the same character, two fonts you might want to look at are Cycles Eleven (no bold italic, though) and Freight Text Book. Both do have character and are some of the easiest reading and beautiful fonts I own when set at 11pt and below.

adnix's picture

Just don't overdo it on the ligatures.

Cookie Magazine in the U.S. uses Mrs Eaves for display type and a Garamond or Caslon for text. I don't have an issue in front of me, so I can't provide a sample.


Miss Tiffany's picture

Good point, David. Using historical alternates is always more irritating for the reader. Especially when that reader is me. ;^P Seriously. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Most historical alternates are not good for reading. The loops are too big or the spacing is off. Ok. Yes. I'm annoyed by them. I like to see them used for effect, but not in any sort of long read.

i cant delete my username's picture

"Mrs. Eaves sometimes feels like Papyrus to me" (small chuckle).

Mrs Eaves (remember, no dot after Mrs) was originally one of my favorites to use, but I feel as if it has a really strong "voice." It has this very sophisticated and stodgy attitude about itself. It has such a characteristic look, that i feel it wouldn't look right next to certain images or for certain topics. I've started feeling that way about a lot of Zuzana Licko typefaces ( Lately I've been leaning more towards H&FJ ( I haven't used them yet, but I love the type samples for Mercury and Chronicle.

mr smith's picture

I agree with Cookie, Mrs Eaves won't cut it for a body copy -- doesn't set nicely. I wouldn't write off Storm's Baskerville, however, until you set a page in it. I find all of the Storm text faces work beautifully -- not boring at all.

Nick Shinn's picture

What Dan said.

IMO if you start off with something you like, you have a better chance of designing a page, and a magazine, that works as a whole, over time.

I don't think the readability of faces can be considered apart from the layouts they're used in.
Perhaps it is the very "gappiness" of Mrs Eaves that some find a flaw, which can be a virtue in the hands of other designers, and in the eyes of readers.

FeeltheKern's picture

@Chipman223: It used to be a favorite of mine as well. It's a go-to typeface for design students, because it has such an obvious "fancy & sophisticated" feel to it.

@TypoJunkie: Glad to know I brought some joy to your world. All the coolest designers are using type that doesn't even exist yet. Which means a lot of white space...

ebensorkin's picture

I think you may be bending over backwards a bit far there Nick.

Also Mrs eaves is looking more & more twee* to me over time. But that is just my taste...

*chiefly British : affectedly or excessively dainty, delicate, cute, or quaint

Nick Shinn's picture

I think you may be bending over backwards a bit far there Nick.

At least I haven't recommended Oneleigh :-)

But seriously, did you ever look at Garamond or Bembo?
How in the world those don't scare the pants off readers is beyond me.
I can only assume they are blissfully oblivious of the details which typographers believe "call attention to themselves" -- or worse still, perhaps they do notice them, and actually enjoy reading text with a bit of flavour.

BTW, no way is the hefty Mrs E "twee".

pattyfab's picture

Nick - I love Oneleigh and just bought it as a matter of fact. But it wouldn't work for magazine body copy. I may use it for a cookie cookbook. Wishing it had more fractions though. OSF don't make good fractions.

ebensorkin's picture

At least I haven’t recommended Oneleigh :-)

Maybe you should - I would rather read Oneleigh than Mrs Eaves. Slightly strangely shaped letters are far better than poor spacing IMHO. Also Oneleigh has a vibe that is way more fun. But I would have to know more about what was driving this choice before etc. etc.

ebensorkin's picture

BTW, no way is the hefty Mrs E “twee”.

Yes it is. It is twee as F***.

It's not the weight but the sentiment. That's great for some things; but magazine copy, unless it's all frilly couches and forcing bulbs and small cottages (all things I have no quarrel with BTW ) - not so much.

microspective's picture

"BTW, no way is the hefty Mrs E 'twee'."

Eben, I believe Nick was referring to the woman, not the font...

ebensorkin's picture

Zuzana Licko is quoted as saying:

“I think Mrs Eaves was a mix of just enough tradition with an updated twist. It’s familiar enough to be friendly, yet different enough to be interesting. Due to its relatively wide proportions, as compared with the original Baskerville, it’s useful for giving presence to small amounts of text such as poetry, or for elegant headlines and for use in print ads. It makes the reader slow down a bit and contemplate the message."

I think she is right.

Eben, I believe Nick was referring to the woman, not the font...

And what makes you say that? Was she substantial? I have no idea what she was like in personality or form, but weight would not come into it.

Nick Shinn's picture

I was talking about the typeface.
I suppose its proportions--small x-height and long extenders--might make it a bit twee, but its low contrast and lack of fussy details certainly don't.
In comparison, the recent types derived from Fleischmann, which have been used for magazine text, have quite mannered details.

But really, I don't believe that one should say "oh, such and such typeface can't be used for such and such kind of work".

Having said that, I think Ms Licko's pushing it a bit to suggest Mrs Eaves for "elegant headlines", unless they're small headlines, as it doesn't have optical scaling.

ebensorkin's picture

RE: Headlines That's a great point.

But really, I don’t believe that one should say “oh, such and such typeface can’t be used for such and such kind of work”. I agree in general. There are choices that seem beyond good sense to me. I would almost certainly not set an entire novel in FF Amoeba for instance.

And moreover how a typeface strikes me is individual. It's how your audience feels ( or client's ) audience feels that will count.

Dan Weaver's picture

All Emigre faces take real work with kerning especially larger sizes. At my site I use Tarzania Bold but it was a lot of work. I would think for a publication you wouldn't have the luxury of adjusting the kerning with your deadlines.

pattyfab's picture

Yeah well that's where Quark comes in handy. For all it's maligned on this forum, Quark lets you adjust kerning pairs for each font universally. My in-house typesetter (when I was A.D. of a publishing house) used to go in and customize each font before she started. Hopefully InD will get with that program in the next upgrade.

ebensorkin's picture

Patty I had wondered about just that issue being new to InDesign. Thanks!

blank's picture

Those crazy overshoots make Mrs. Eaves twee as all-git-out. It sets some of the most crazy bouncy lines I’ve ever seen.

Dan Gayle's picture

I wonder why more bands don't use it, because according to Wikipedia, it's the very definition of Indie:

ebensorkin's picture

I think the age of twee must be over because you only get 6 months to be 'in' now. Innit? ;-)

Link is maybe NSFW. It uses that f word don't you know...

Nick Shinn's picture

crazy overshoots

Surely not in print. Are you talking about on-screen hinting?


Interesting text faces used in magazines: Goudy Old Style (Harpers), Tyfa (Fast Company).


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