Alternative to Minion - with slightly(!) greater x-height?

ultramartin's picture

I'm looking for a serif font to combine with Christian Schwartz' Graphik. I will need it for magazine layouts, and I will use it for shorter, and longer texts, as well as for headlines. I like Plantin, but feel the difference between Graphik and Plantin in x-height might be a problem. Minion Pro is much closer, but I'm thinking that a serif with a slightly(!) greater x-height might do well. And if it looked a little sturdier than Minion Pro does (like the feel I get from Plantin) I would probably like it. I especially like the lower case 'a' of Plantin better than the lowercase 'a' of Minion. I would also like it to be a font that works well over a wide variety of printing techniques and paper qualities. Am I asking too much? Or does any of you have any suggestions?

snow is nigh's picture

Adobe Text Pro has a high xheight, while being similar to Minion.
An /a/ similar(-ish) to Plantin can be found maybe in Rawlinson by Terminal Design or in Erato by Hoftype.

Igor Freiberger's picture

Another option is Iowan Old Style.

Nick Shinn's picture

You might try my Scotch Micro.
I thought of it as a specialist face for very small text, but Simon Esterson convinced me otherwise in Eye 77.
At any rate, I do think a modern would be the best pairing for Graphik.

ultramartin's picture

Thanks for the suggestions. Those are great! The Iowan Old Style seems to me, unless I have understood the concept of x-height wrongly, to be taller than what I'm looking for --it seems to be about the same x-height as Plantin.

At the moment I lean towards Rawlinson.

ultramartin's picture


"... I do think a modern would be the best pairing for Graphik."

Monocle Magazine combines Helvetica and Plantin. Plantin is a Transitional (rather than a Modern). For me those two combine pretty well in Monocle. My reasoning was that I wanted to switch Graphik for their Helvetica, and then figured I would try to switch their Plantin for another Transitional with a lower x-height, to see if I could get a decent result. However, from what I read on Wikipedia, Helvetica is classified as a Neo-grotesque or Transitional or Realist, and I suppose Graphik is more of a Geometric ... Am I tweaking this in two different directions, here, getting a weird result?

Nick Shinn's picture

OK Martin, since you asked…

Plantin was something of a novelty in Monocle at the time.
I suspect that it is a particular favorite of the designer's:

“We knew we wanted a bookish, crisp white uncoated paper, and that a serif would be core to the look of the project. So Plantin was first choice, it has more character than most serifs, more charm, and holds ink very well and is hence extremely legible. The old style numerals and italics are really beautiful too, lowercase ‘v’ is a particular favourite. Plantin also possesses, to my mind at least, that rare quality that it seems to elevate a simple typed word into a logotype. Something that Helvetica has achieved for a long time.”

Perhaps you should approach your project with the same depth of design thinking, driven by the criteria of the project in hand and personal taste, rather than merely tweaking someone else's design from several years ago.

Lead, don't follow, and trust your instincts.

OK, so you like Graphik, that's a personal preference. So why not just pair it with a contemporary serifed face you'd like to work with? Perhaps they won't mesh immediately when you first drop them into the layout, but then you have to work to make it work.

I recall when I first got hold of the digital fonts for Shinn Sans, which I had designed prior to DTP, and which were digitized by Steve Jackaman; I started using the fonts, and it looked like crap, and I felt gutted that my type design was too. But then I worked with it a bit, and it wasn't too bad after all. Best of all was the way that Andy Cowles used it in Woman magazine.

So what I'm saying is what I always say, that a font is a tool, and that its inherent qualities will only take you so far, because it's the typographer who adds the magic by experimenting with all the variables of layout.

ultramartin's picture

Thanks, Nick ... but ouch! When you contrast my pre-production backyard research, half-digested philosophizing and naive inquiries with the post-fact slick rationalization of Monocle's Creative Director, I feel like quite the dilettante. I guess I had it coming. :)

What attracted me to Monocle's design on this occasion was the crisp legibility of the text. The text in the magazine I will be working on tend to be very academic and heavy (one could at times even argue that some of it is indecipherable). So, in order to make the material as available as possible, I wanted to pull the layout in the extreme opposite direction: while I might not manage to make it easy to read, I can at least create as few speed bumps as possible. What is more, I dare even hope that I can make it look good and attractive. Concern number two was that I have very little control over paper and printing quality of the final product, even less so because the magazine will also be available for download online, and thus some pages might be printed with all sorts of crappy printers on all sorts of crappy paper. That's why I need a type that "scales" well, by which I mean that it needs to work for low budget print jobs, while it simultaneously has a certain seductive finesse, some sort of low key glamorous mojo. This legibility was one of the reasons I chose Graphik. And Rawlinson appears to me to have the same quality.

snow is nigh's picture

If PDF distribution is important, please look up the End User License Agreement of the foundry in question. Not everybody allows this purpose. If in doubt, don't give up, but contact the Foundry to get an "off the records" precise answer, as EULAs are often in a language does not shed enough insight how a specific situation would be under the EULA.

One recent font designed for low-end printing conditions is Karmina from type-together:

Syndicate content Syndicate content