Carnival/great depression typeface?

shielddesign's picture


I am looking for a companion typeface for this logo I created for an event (this is Big Top). I would like to use something I might already own, but I am not sure what the right feel is. Whenever I look up great depression typefaces Futura comes up which does not have the feel I want at all. I don't want a machine feel.

This is another piece that goes with it. Here I use baskerville..does this work? Something seems off to me out.


Queneau's picture

I think this might be suitable. And have a look at this list.

You might also find stuff on freefont sites like dafont. The fonts your looking for are mostly classified as 'western'.

greetings Jeffrey

JuliusFernie's picture

try clarendon, possibly for free [link removed by moderator].

Queneau's picture


You're not gonna make a lot of friends 'round here if you're guiding people towards illegal font downloads, that should not be free at all.

greetings Jeffrey

JuliusFernie's picture

apologies – it was never my intention - first hit on google and still a nice font

blank's picture

Your type choice is off by decades. Circus/carnival materials of the depression era used sans lettering that blended American gothic type styles with humanist proportions similar to Gill Sans, mostly drawn by hand. Ornamental wood type like that was long out of style by then, and Baskerville was a book face. It’s also probably not a good idea to expect a Baskerville to hold up well knocked out like that on the tickets, and because ticket printing is usually cheap you should just use black or blue on red paper if you want it to look real.

shielddesign's picture


Hmm well I do like the ornamental wood typeface I have now...perhaps I can let go of the great depression era that I was trying for and just go with the ornamental woodtype to simply suggest " vintage carnival". If I do that then what typeface should be my secondary? They must have had carnivals before the great depression right? I want more of the feel of the attached inspiration piece.

Thanks James for the printing advice, but i am doing postcards that have this graphic on them so that won't be a problem this time.


Don McCahill's picture

While James is true that the wood types you show are a generation before the Great Depression, you can probably still use them for a carnival of that time. Carnival posters were printed by specialty printers that had loads of old wood type and they used it for years and years. They pretty much ignored the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles that followed, keeping to the big and brash wood types.

Just don't go confusing us with talk about the Depression era, when the look you want is more of the Wild West Shows of the late 19th Century. :)

shielddesign's picture

thanks Don! sometimes i guess i can't put in words what i want only any ideas what typeface would go with what i have or wood type in general?

shielddesign's picture

Hello? : )

What about this typeface, does this work with the Big Top display face?

Artcraft Pro

If not still looking for advice on the secondary typeface.


riccard0's picture

I think Artcraft would get along nicely with the "Carnival" typeface.

shielddesign's picture

thanks riccad0, do you think i should do the dates in a third typeface? It seems like this style of design uses multiple typefaces at once (I guess because that was what printers had). thoughts on that? If so what about:

and if so which one?


Nick Shinn's picture

I think your logo works just fine with the present font, although you should fix the alignment/skew of "type on a path".
It may not be historically authentic, but it is first and foremost the cliché for circus/fairground type, and looks like fun.
Don't use the same font for "admit one", as that cheapens the logo, which should be repeated (or at lest the type part of it) where you have set its name in Baskerville. At the moment, it looks like the name of the event is "ADMIT ONE".

riccard0's picture

Before trying out a third typeface, I would try some treatment of the numerals of the two already in use.

shielddesign's picture

Hello Nick,

Hmm interesting I didn't think of it that way...that makes sense to use the same font for the title. But using baskerville would be wrong too wouldn't it? Should I use a different wood type display face?

I set each letter of the logo by hand...what exactly looks wrong about it? I think I am too close to it to tell.


will do, thanks!


typotrope's picture

I'm with James, namely on the suggestion of black ink on blue/red paper and on his mention of American gothics.

I think the logotype has got the flowery details covered. (Yes, I know we're dealing with a wedding, but even so.) To my eye, when you use delicate serif with it, the latter just looks overwhelmed, or like it's getting bullied. In response to your question to Nick, yes, I would put Baskerville aside, and consider an american display gothic that's got just a bit of character to it. Gothic Medium, or Gothic Special if you need a few more weights, from Wooden Type Fonts are but some examples.

Good luck!

thetophus's picture

I'd use a nice slab serif for the "Admit One", maybe Egyptian. For the other text try Clarendon or something similar.

umlautthoni's picture

Don't forget about a REALLY scary typeface for the 'House of Horrors' portion of the nuptials. ;)

You could always use the three ring circus reference as well. . .

'Like all great circus productions, all great relationships have three rings.

First the engagement ring. . .

Then the wedding ring. . .

and finally, the suffering.'

I'm outta here.

shielddesign's picture

Thanks everyone! I will try to post again when I finish.

Nick Shinn's picture

...what exactly looks wrong about it?

It's not mapped to the surface of the banner.
Try >Object >Envelope Distort in Illustrator.

eliason's picture

I think the all-lowercase decision on the tickets are the most anachronistic looking part of the design.

shielddesign's picture


I see thanks...i did it by hand. but maybe I will do what you suggest and then lock that in place and just move my separate letters on top so I get the hand set feel, but it still looks "mapped".

thanks elisason...I was actually toying with getting rid of that just last night

5star's picture

The / of / in the ferris wheel banner should also be rendered text on a curved path to align with the other banner text?

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