Editorial / Magazine typeface choices (condensed sans serif)

Public Spaces Design's picture

Hey folks,

Looking to pick some brains on thoughts and choices for typefaces in the editorial environment. I don't post often here but have enjoyed other discussions in the past, so hoping to gather some opinions here.

I am currently redesigning a magazine. It is a monthly, full colour news print (printed tabloid format, around 60gsm, 64-72pp). Content wise, I'll keep it brief/nonspecific, but mainly features (interviews) and reviews across a wide cultural spectrum that includes music, art, film, theatre, comedy, lifestyle and even much more. Focus is on the cutting edge and local events. There is also a fairly large listings section.

Currently the typeface of choice is Neuzeit for everything (Headlines, body, footnotes, standfirsts etc) along with a tiny amount of Eagle (black for section tabs, light for pullquotes). I am a big fan of the classic grotesque faces such as Akzidenz and Neuzeit. But it is time for a change and address some practical issues. The main issue is space – I am often cramming content in, and having to reduce the body text tracking when typesetting, despite writers sticking to our current word counts. I know – change the word counts, but I'd rather not for various reasons.

What I am looking for is a sans serif typeface that will work well in it's condensed form. I recently used Univers condensed for a publication and it worked well at a small format (A5) but I find it 'too much' (i.e. not as easy on the eye) in large amounts. Okay, that may then apply to any condensed face, but a recent discovery of Bauer Neue (http://lineto.com/The+Fonts/Font+Categories/Text+Fonts/Brauer+Neue/) has been much to my liking, although it is pretty expensive. I like the slightly quirky character whilst retaining a certain formal, 'old school' grotesque demeanour. It also works well for both body and headlines (some may argue against body, but I think it works). Having stated my preferences, I am willing to consider a lot of things, even serif faces.

A final point to the considerations is that I may look at using two families – one typeface for features (where there is generally more room) and another for reviews, which must be condensed to help with frequent space issues. In which case, I am not sure whether to keep Neuzeit and find another, complimentary typeface. Eagle will go completely.

I appreciate your time on this.. and now your thoughts please!

hrant's picture

Sans + Condensed = Unreadable. :-(

For one thing, saving space doesn't have to come from choosing
a condensed design; mostly it comes from a large apparent size:
if you have a font that's large on the body you can simply set
it smaller; one thing that does is economize with every line,
with no "cancellation of savings" as when you hit a paragraph
break with a condensed font.

As for sans: you can get away with a sans (especially a highly
readable one like Legato) for a fair amount of text, but I think
making the reading experience suffer for fashion is anti-design.
If you choose a "slanted slab" (AKA "sheared wedge") serif font
you might end up with something modern with great readability.

This will all sound like a ploy to plug a font that
I collaborated on, but: http://ernestinefont.com/
If you don't like that there are a number of other
good recent designs in that genre, such as FF Olsen.

hhp

.00's picture

Sans + Condensed = Unreadable.

Untrue.

Have you ever worked as a magazine art director Hrant?

Nick Shinn's picture

I’ve designed several compact faces for editorial work (and even art directed a few magazines).
Sense, commissioned by The Globe and Mail, is semi-condensed, has a large x-height and short descenders, and is tightly fitted—packs in the copy without being obviously condensed.
Sense and Sensibility pdf.

hrant's picture

James: No. I'm just more into how fonts really
work versus simply selling stuff to the blind.

hhp

Public Spaces Design's picture

Thanks guys,
Reducing the point size is not an option, it is already as small as it could possibly allow it to go at 7.5pt. I don't think sans + condensed always equals unreadable (the majority of the time maybe), one just has to be careful. I recall the old quote (can't remember from who) "typography is a beautiful collection of letters, not a collection on beautiful letters", so it is really what you do with the typeface that counts. I think a large x-height and small ascenders/descenders could be pretty key, so thanks Nick, Sense is a great recommendation that I didn't know of. Only aesthetic issue is that I am not keen on humanistic faces, which this is. I am quite attracted by Proxima Nova (http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/marksimonson/proxima-nova/), although I'd imagine the condensed faces are just too tight for any amount of body text, so Sense may win there – I like the idea of it being 'semi-condensed'.

Hrant, you are not wrong with the idea of a slab-serif number, the previous typeface for the magazine before I redesigned it last was Soho (http://www.linotype.com/3273/soho.html). Ernestine (which I have seen before) is lovely but not right for the job, and the characters are quite wide in regard to the space issue. Olsen would have been good though, just unfortunate in this case it would appear like a step back into the Soho era of the magazine! The irony, maybe grovelling back to Soho would solve my problems!

Té Rowan's picture

No worries, @hrant… I, too, am way outta my league on this.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Umph. I’m predictable now, but it sounds like you are looking for Graphik. It’s a little bit of all those you mentioned: Univers, Neuzeit, the old grotesks, geometry. I belive there is a condensed version in the works too. Just ask them directly! I’m not sure about extended text, but I’ve used it aside a kick-ass new take on the Century Schoolbook style transitional/scotch that is still a bit of a secret and it sat like WHAM.

hrant's picture

> 7.5pt

!
I assume each issue comes with a loupe?

hhp

Public Spaces Design's picture

I love Graphik! It would have been at the top of my list were it not for the lack of a condensed version. Good news if it is coming though, I'll have to check.

Yes, I knew there would be some guffaw at 7.5. It does work in this instance, just. It would be another ideal to up it to 8, so another demand in my case for narrower characters.

hrant's picture

The only place I've seen such small sizes turn out
OK is newspapers, where narrow columns attenuate the
problem. But, quite tellingly, newspaper fonts are wide...

hhp

Trevor Baum's picture

Flama is great for editorial use.

Public Spaces Design's picture

Well, it is a newspaper essentially – it is printed tabloid newsprint. But isn't Times rather narrow?

Flama is a great call, wunderbar Trevor. Don't how I've missed that as I'm familiar with Village's great range (I really want Typewriter). Only had the chance for a quick look but I like what I see!

hrant's picture

> But isn't Times rather narrow?

When Times was designed, it was standard practice to
use different "optical masters" for different sizes, and the
smaller sizes of Times look nothing like our digital cuts
of the face - they're much wider (and looser, and larger
on the body). In fact if you set digital Times at 7.5pt the
results are pretty useless.

hhp

Public Spaces Design's picture

Okay, I have got a copy of flama (semi condensed) to try out – don't worry, it will be bought if used! Seems like a strong option thus far...

That's interesting about the different cuts of times. I had assumed there'd be little difference in the digital era version, but I have read about changes in actual face structure at different sizes with other type faces - it certainly makes sense that the smaller sizes were wider. One often sees different fonts for display and body with good type families, but does such a feature exist for different fonts for different point sizes (don't know all the open type features if there's something in that)?

hrant's picture

1) Don't advertise such behavior, lest you encourage
those who don't have the necessary morals or backbone
to actually pay up when they should.
2) Make sure the fonts don't "drift" to others.

--

Increasingly digital fonts are enjoying optical masters.

hhp

William Berkson's picture

Flama is very good. You should have a look at Font Bureau and H & F.J. also, as they have lots of semi-condensed variations on their sans.

Public Spaces Design's picture

I don't encourage it, but I find it the only real way to be able to judge specific (practical) issues, as well as some more minor aesthetic ones. I do of course understand the issue and there'd certainly be no drifting, never mind anything else.

William Berkson's picture

As far as readability in text, the best narrow sans that I've seen is Vesta, but I don't know if it fits your desired aesthetic.

hrant's picture

> I don't encourage it

The best way not to encourage it is not to mention it.
Also, the designer of Flama* might mind, in more ways than one.

* http://typophile.com/node/29674

hhp

Public Spaces Design's picture

I'd rather be transparent and honest, not mentioning things does not solve issues of action, while mentioning things does not necessarily encourage them. Sorry, not to be facetious – I do of course agree in sentiment.

Ah, Unger, I've always liked Praxis, ironically from its appearances in Raygun magazine. Will try and find some samples of Vesta in action, looks interesting. You're right aesthetically, but must look past the first hurdle.

Trevor Baum's picture

Glad you decided to test Flama. Hope it works out well!

If you're not happy with it for some reason, I would also check out Tungsten and Knockout from H&FJ, Solano Gothic from MVB, and Trump Gothic from CanadaType.

Public Spaces Design's picture

Cheers. I am not sure about Knockout for body copy, or even Tungsten (although they'd be great for Headlines, but they're always great!) but don't recognise they other two so will check them out. Thanks again!

Public Spaces Design's picture

hrant, I was just looking back through some old magazines and noticed Typographic magazine (http://www.istd.org.uk/) had been setting body copy at 7pt (issues 64 and 55). I didn't give it too much thought at first but second glanced it thinking 'hang on, this is a bit of a struggle' and remembered this thread! I am not too sure what they were playing at but I guess I am not so crazy!

hrant's picture

What font?
In any case a planet can have more than one crazy person. ;-)

hhp

Public Spaces Design's picture

Haha, you're not wrong.

Pardon the delay - it was Swift and Helvetica (Light and reversed no less!!)

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