Substitute for Futura in body copy?

jbasuvcd's picture

I'm using memphis for my headlines, and naturally futura is the sans-serif go-to guy. But Futura body copy looks and reads... not so well. Any ideas as to what to substitute in its place?

DrDoc's picture

If you're looking for something similar to Futura, then Avenir's probably the obvious choice, as it's essentially a humanized Futura.

But I don't follow why Futura is "naturally" the "sans-serif go-to guy."

Jean Paul Beumer's picture

Neutraface?

jbasuvcd's picture

because futura mixes with memphis so nicely, in my opinion.

Chris Keegan's picture

Proxima Nova, Gotham, Myriad, and Frutiger are options to look at as well.

DrDoc's picture

because futura mixes with memphis so nicely, in my opinion.

To me, Futura and Memphis are *too* similar to effectively mix. Memphis is more or less "Futura with slabs," except that it's not a perfect match, so the little differences throw it straight into the uncanny valley of type matching.

Andreas Stötzner's picture

My Lapidaria may be worth a try.

Nick Shinn's picture

Futura body copy looks and reads... not so well.

The "look" part is subjective, and so might the "read" part be.
It's just a question of stylistic preference.
Up until about five years ago, slab serif types had been rarely used since the 1940s, no doubt because people thought they didn't look and read too well. The came the Clarendon revival, and a colonization of the slab genre by contemporary type designers.

I've always found it useful to match faces and styles from the same era (unless going for a pointed contrast).
However, Neuzeit Grotesk, from the mid 60s, is probably what you're looking for. It's classic, vintage, with less of a harshly geometric quality than Futura or Avant Garde, and without the compromise of a two-storey a.

hrant's picture

> It's just a question of stylistic preference.

> slab serif types had been rarely used since the 1940s, no
> doubt because people thought they didn't .... read too well.

This is escapist drivel. No doubt.
We Read Better What Our Physical Reality Needs To Read Better.
Mr Reality Check, at your service.

Fartura? Although the original small-x-height stuff wasn't nearly as
nasty, anything based on lines & circles is inescapably too simplistic
to match what humans really need. We are not OCR software.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

It's not drivel, it's what happened.
Slabs fell from favor, now they're back.
This observation is based both on my career as an art director (for 25 years slabs hardly ever seemed an appropriate choice), and on my knowledge of the history of mass media typography (few other ADs spec'd them either).
Even perusing type specimen books of the second half of the 20th century (not always a clear guide to what was popular), it is apparent how passé slabs became—with the odd exception such as Lubalin Graph ("Avant Garde Slab")—because very few new slabs were published.

The observation that art directors extrapolate what they think looks good to assuming it reads well for the target audience is something I would have thought you would have concurred with me on.

…too simplistic…

Right. That's why I recommended Neuzeit Grotesk, not Century Gothic.
Compared with the reductive "f", "j" and "t" of Futura, NG has the usual fully-formed versions of these glyphs, plus friendly round tittles.

hrant's picture

History isn't drivel; your anti-functional interpretation is.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

What is "anti-functional" about noting that slab serifs were relatively unpopular during the latter part of the 20th century?!

My interpretation was that this was due to the stylistic preferences of those who spec type, not any consideration of functionality.
(After all, the geometric Futura continued to be popular, even as typographers eulogized the theoretically more readable humanist sans Syntax, but didn't use it much.)

How would you interpret the slab's lean years?

hrant's picture

> My interpretation was that this was due to the
> stylistic preferences of those who spec type

No it wasn't.

Don't step sideways - either stand your ground
or don't occupy the ground in the first place.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

No it wasn't.

I said:

"…slab serif types had been rarely used since the 1940s, no doubt because people thought they didn't look and read too well."

OK, so I said "people", not typographers, but I would have thought it's pretty obvious that I meant typographers — readers don't use type, they read typography; and the phrase "look and read" refers to the OP, who is a typographer, not an end reader.

Nick Shinn's picture

Hrant, I'm trying to understand your position on modernism.

It was a characteristic of the Modernist movement, especially for design, that its practitioners believed design had a social responsibility—isn't that how you view type design?
They felt that decoration was bourgeois frippery, an unnecessary embellishment to the function of design—isn't this how you view display type?
So in the name of functionalism they removed the seemingly decorative serifs from type—but took it too far, to the extent that types such as Futura are not the most legible or functional. That's the irony of modernism, intent subverted by execution.

Your belief (if I understand it correctly) that there are certain letter forms which are fundamentally more readable/legible to human physiology is modernist. Isn't that functionalist and mechanistic, and not too far from seeing the process of reading as OCR decoding?

The idea which you castigate, "That which we read more often we read best" is Post-modern—because it situates readability as culturally specific and admits to multiple subjective viewpoints and values.

It seems to me that you are a modernist in principle, but have issues with the historically reductive, minimalist style of modernism.
Are you a neo-modernist?

hrant's picture

Naming movements can be useful, but I don't know if finding a label for me -or any individual- is useful. To me Modernism is inherently escapist - it denies the complexities, the inherent lack of control in human existence. On the other hand although Post-Modernism can make sense to me most individuals who associate themselves with it are escapist - many of them strike me as artists who do design only because they want to make decent money; it's almost like Post-Modernism is a sanctuary for those who don't have the mettle for Modernism. If a person does not enjoy figuring out readability for example, he's quite likely to also not have the mettle to admit it, too often he'd rather simply state it's not important. Who's going to pay somebody who says "I'm not sure"? That's why Agnoticism could never be a formal religion BTW.

hhp

jbasuvcd's picture

Interesting outlook... I'll keep experimenting. Thanks guys.

Joe

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