Main Font and Weight Help for Newbie Magazine Designer

Demmy's picture

Hello - apologies if this a stupid or often-asked question, but I've managed to blag my way into designing a magazine (210mm x 260mm) and am studying like mad to get it professional and stylish looking. I'm going for a pre-war british Gill-inspired new-retro faded aesthetic but am having problems with my main text serif font. I'd like it to look 20s - 50s era London, but it is far far more important that it is readable and well balanced as everything else on the page will give the main style I'm thinking. After comparing some big name fonts I'm thinking of going for Sabon Next - although Mercury looks okay and I'm yet to have a good look at Whitman. Some pages are newspaper style - four columns no space, and some more bookish - two column loads of space, so I need an allrounder and I figured Sabon to be, not wow-beautiful, but serviceable for my needs. I'm not into Garamond (too delicate) or Times (too stiff). Any thoughts?

What I really need to know though is the optimum font size and leading for the whole thing. I'm thinking of 9.5 Sabon, but what would the best leading be? My attempts so far - despite following some really good tutorials, being fairly proficient in InDesign, making a neat baseline grid, etc look horribly clunky (e.g. nothing as neat and crisp as these - http:// Basically what's an optimum all-round newspaper-magazine classy brit-style font-leading ratio? After going through these good forums I've found Mr Bringhurst, so he'll probably be able to answer all my questions when he pops through the letterbox, but in the meantime, any thoughts welcomed gratefully.

And sorry again if all that sounds "gawd, not again"



jabez's picture

>What I really need to know though is the optimum font size and leading for the whole thing.

No idea. I would find out by mocking up pages and looking at printed proofs.

What kind of magazine is it? What is it about? Audience? What kind of content? Average length of articles?
Do you have existing content to work with?

Demmy's picture

Hi Jabez, thanks for replying. The magazine is an illustrated retro utopian newspaper, its about love and death in these extraordinary times, the audience is everyone who feels a love or a yearning for something they can't quite name, the content is spoof news articles, neo-regency agony aunts giving subversive advice about shoes and sex, guides to world history and staggeringly beautiful retro-style adverts for sweet nothing. Average length of articles between 300 and 3000 and if you can somehow blend what you've just read, with the information I've given above about what I know, what I need (body text - titling and so on is sorted) and a desire to create a Johnston-Gill style pre-war London aesthetic then I shall take my HAT OFF to you!

Anyrate, your basic advice - obvious as it may sound to others - is relatively new to my ears and clearly sound - and I thank you for it. Make proofs, take a look and feel in my heart for the balance of white and text, etc... The reason I posted is that the 10pt Sabon Next on a 12pt baseline grid that I decided on after a first proof and print now suddenly looks so clunky to me and I can't work out why. (Obviously you'd need to see the thing, but that's not poss right now alas).

blank's picture

Just test a few articles at a variety of size and leading settings and decide what works. If you can’t come to a decision about this you might not be cut out for the job and should consider backing off.

Amado's picture

I don't know why I'm even making a recommendation, green as I am, but...

12/10 = 1.2

One thing to try: get that number higher. As high as 1.5? I usually like for it to be 1.333 to 1.4

9.5pt on a 13pt baseline grid?

Meh, experiment. Good luck.

Trevor Baum's picture

What about a Baskerville? Very English, and has a bit more character than Sabon and Times.

Demmy's picture

Amado - seems sensible, although to my eye 15 seems a bit much. Yes - experiment, clearly.

Trevor Baum - Baskerville! Yes, I tried this, really like it - but Sabon seems more readable. Any thoughts on the pedigree of Baskerville in magazine print welcomed. Also Baskerville vs Mrs Eaves - a personal fave too (although I've read it has "spacing issues" which I don't understand but which give me the fear).

Trevor Baum's picture

If you can get hold of a copy of Fortune magazine from the 1930s, it showcases Baskerville for editorial text, in body and display, on coated and rag.

- Nick Shinn

There are many iterations of Baskerville, some with greater readability than others.

In addition to those, I would also look at:
Athelas (Beautiful, and influenced by British literary printing!)
Utopia (Robert Slimbach)
Mrs. Eaves XL (larger x-height than the original)

Demmy's picture

Really appreciating this help Trevor. Thanks.

Athelas is new to me - truly gorgeous - but might be a tad too ornate or academic seeming for me. Mrs Eaves XL I've been experimenting with, something irks me, subliminally.

My brain is aching now. Fonts are swirling around me like bees. Must rest... But to my eyes Utopia 9.5 / 13 leading with Gill Sans headers... reckon that could be the one... looks restful, austere yet familiar and readable to my eye. If anyone wants to stamp this tentative decision with a ringing approval, please go ahead.

Either way,

Thank you again

Nick Shinn's picture

Get hold of some Punch magazines from the era.
The editorial style is Victorian, but the ads will give you a good idea of the traditional conservative aesthetic of the era (less continental, less American than other trends of the era, therefore more British).
Most of them are set in Monotype faces.
Plantin would be a good choice for the text face.

Demmy's picture

All this information is so valuable, so interesting. Thank you.

BUT - Lord its tough - and I'd love anyone's thoughts on this one. On the one hand, utopia and sabon are so friendly on the eye, meaning, I suppose, they give subliminal ease of reading - they're 'transparent' - right? (again apologies for my unschooled descriptive fumblings here) Whereas Baskerville, Plantin and company, more attractive, but a TAD more difficult to read? Perhaps only because they're a TAD more unfamiliar?

Yesterday I was all for utopia, but the commas and the capital R just make me sick, like I'm in a 1980's Madison boardroom.

Sigh. Striking a balance between practicality and pulchritude - I suppose this is ever the work of the smith.

Demmy's picture

(Actually Mr Shinn I'd not considered Plantin or knew anything about it - its really starting to grow on me - thanks so much for the info)

Trevor Baum's picture

I emphatically agree with MVB Verdigris. Aside from my previous suggestions, I would also look at Bembo, Rongel, Renard, Starling and ITC Galliard. All of them stunning.

Demmy's picture

My cup runneth over!

What I have finally gone for is Minion Pro and Gill Sans Pro. Minion was the tough one - Plantin, Baskerville and others had elegance and Englishness, but I just couldn't get anything to look as good as Minion 10pt on 12pt leading - which I copied from Bringhurst. Maybe when I get more experienced with this business I can somehow make other fonts look as well balanced, stately and readable, but for now it will have to be this. A few things about Minion don't work for me, tad angular, horrible capital Q, etc. But looks gorgeous on the page and that's that.

I'm so grateful for all this help - I've learnt a lot. Particularly excited about Athelas and MVB Verdigris... maybe next time.

Thanks again chaps.

Trevor Baum's picture

My pleasure, dronbo - excited to see how it looks!

Also, glad you like Athelas and Verdigris - be sure to check out Rongel as well.

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