A List of Font Choices for Five Specific Purposes

Demmy's picture

I’m sure some of you will groan, but this kind of thing is so useful for us type-novices. Here’s a list of five vague design briefs. Name - off the cuff - one or two fonts (body / text?) you’d choose for each. Could be a classic or a little-known modern gem, something which obviously fits the brief, or something weirder.

1. A book of contemporary poetry.
2. A poster advertising a left-wing demonstration.
3. A minutely detailed, finely illustrated, copiously footnoted but slightly quirky miscellany.
4. A world war one strategy boardgame (cover, pieces and instructions).
5. The kama sutra, a new translation.

hrant's picture

This type of thing can be fun, but personally I'm mostly wondering where it's coming from.


J. Tillman's picture

Hrant, I sympathize with the original poster. This is designed to be a learning experience, not fun. I, probably like the OP, have spent time on this forum looking at lists of font suggestions (for an adventure novel, or a cookbook, or spring-themed poetry, whatever) trying to figure out why the suggested fonts are appropriate. It's just something you learn a little at a time. This seems like a useful exercise.

Ryan Maelhorn's picture

4 would have to be fette fraktur

hrant's picture

I can dig that. I just worry about doing somebody else's homework.

1. You know how they used to use Italics for poetry? http://typophile.com/node/93061
2. Fidel is cool. Or maybe: http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/fontfont/ff-primary/
3. Something French. http://www.fontshop.com/fonts/singles/bp_swiss_typefaces/sangbleu_bp_ser...
4. Something musty. http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/linotype/president/
5. FF Pitu and/or Fenland and/or FF Avance.


Demmy's picture

Thanks for posts so far - fascinating. Note that I’m not asking for homework or any other study but interest in fonts and the preferences of my betters. I can only give my word of course.

My own - again, off-the-cuff (and amateur) - choices would be:

Stuart Pro (Perhaps insane?)
PAG Revolution with Outsiders (although not sure of combo)
Skolar (is this becoming a modern cliché?)
Wagner (although not sure with what)
Rama Gothic with Granjon

David Vereschagin's picture

Okay, I’ll play, although it will show how old school I am:
1. Syntax
2. Neuland
3. Goudy Oldstyle
4. Fette Fraktur
5. Journal

1. Helvetica
2. Helvetica
3. Helvetica
4. Helvetica
5. Helvetica


Nick Shinn's picture

I’m tempted to play (suggesting my own types, of course) but it’s really too much work to do properly—chooosing typefaces involves a lot of thought and experiment. For one project, perhaps, but not five.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Not what you asked for, but you’ll learn more this way. Take it with a grain of salt.

1. A book of contemporary poetry:
A serif, not to strict (with room for some passion), probably humanist (venetian or old-style), fairly low x-height (long extenders) for more leading.

2. A poster advertising a left-wing demonstration:
Sans serif, harsh, rough, certainly not delicate or “corporate”, grotesque and bold (filling as much surface as possible, grabbing attention) or geometric (industrial)

3. A minutely detailed, finely illustrated, copiously footnoted but slightly quirky miscellany:
If it includes long texts: A somewhat “invisible” serif text face (between old-style and transitional) with optical sizes. Optionally a text face with a structurally matching sans-serif for notes.
Otherwise: I might also consider a somewhat “invisible” text sans with optical sizes and/or very close weights (closer than most contemporary families).

4. A world war one strategy boardgame (cover, pieces and instructions).
A strict text serif (prob. transitional or veering towards modern if still readable), possibly matched with a rough grotesque or geometric sans serif for shorter stuff and for contrast. I’d also consider throwing in a display face from the time period.

5. The kama sutra, a new translation.
No idea.

Add to that the needs of the content: emphasis, language support & other technical challenges.

Si_Daniels's picture

The two people who might conceivably purchase these items (your mum and her friend) really won't care which font you use. :-)

Moniker42's picture

I'm disappointed by the left-wing demonstration font choices. I live near and work at a university campus in the UK and there are various protest posters up all the time - they are always terrible. People with no design sense trying to be radically avant garde. The font choices above reflect the same: "harsh, rough ... grotesque and bold (filling as much surface space as possible, grabbing attention)" as frode frank said.

Here is an example from a campaign currently running where they have used this typeface not only for the website/logo but for smaller sizes like 20pt with long lists of speakers. Unreadable.

I would use a thick but contemporary, humanist, readable sans serif like Meta Headline. The left, at least in the UK, needs to reclaim clarity and implicit humanism from the establishment.


Té Rowan's picture

From somewhere way up in the kop:

1. Junicode.
2. Pilsen Plakat (TMg).
3. Equity.
4. Old Standard and Fette Kanzlei (TMg)
5. Baskerville.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

If you believe your left wing demonstration is all about gentle love for the humanity, maybe look at some display faces with a humanist touch? It might be mistaken for something else though: The radical left style guide is kinda semented.

In general, humanist designs are less display-geared. IMO this is one of the philosophies of the modern/grotesque genre: closing up and filling the surface.

Demmy's picture

Thanks all. Particularly Frode Frank and Moniker 42 - and I completely agree with Moniker 42’s point. In this light I see my own choice for the poster as something of a cliché - and nothing is as useful as to witness one’s own reflexive blindness.

(wondering from Frode Frank, which humanist sans are display geared? +Are there soft humanist Impact or poster-font style fonts out there?)

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Quite a few here: http://fontfeed.com/archives/extra-bold-ultra-black-fonts/

Just to be clear: A humanist can certainly have display qualitites, but at its roots the structure is intended for text. I think so at least. Perhaps others disagree.

hrant's picture

Intended being the key word...


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