Research Point: Book Covers

‘Books used to be made, today they are designed’ –  August Heckscher, 1966.

The thing about book covers is that there are many versions of the same titles. Orwell’s 1984 is a great example of this variety of approach, interpretation of a theme and how publishers, aesthetic taste and contemporary styles shape cover design. The post war period saw a positive bloom of creative designers; Paul Rand, Paul Bacon, Edward Gorey, Elaine Lustig Cohen, and Andy Warhol. It also saw Publishers such Penguin build a contact list of designers to help deliver beguiling, visual stunning yet often simple and abstract covers that were clearly of their period. And that is a great part of thier appeal.

The one thing we tend to look past as researchers is where we find our inspiration. We are almost anchored to the twentieth and twenty first century’s and even more so to the work of culturally familiar writers, works and publishers. A great example of a creative approach is Kolomon Moser’s 1897 book cover design for Ewart Felicie Jugendschatz. This shows creative use of the whole cover and that inspiration and innovation are not a modern approach and deserve to be considered as more art than design. The surface of the book has become a canvas to be utilised by the designer to produce a stunning cover that is more artwork than mere book cover.

This then leads on to looking at work produced by non-English speaking countries, if only for balance and reflection. The creativity is just as wide as America or Great Britain. I chose examples from France and the USSR just to show a visual difference and similarity to how the cover is arranged by artists.

This then brings me to house styles and how each one differs from the other, even during the same time period. As I’m a great fan of Mid-Twentieth century design. Looking at designs its clear to see how certain publishing houses developed their own style. One that springs instantly to mind is Penguin. The colour coded Classics range was initially designed by Edward Young, and developed further by Jan Tschichold, used striking Tyography to introduce and sell the book. The original 1930’s classic covers were split into three horizontal lines, using the white space of the centre line to show off eye catching type as well as book details. The coloured band was the preserve of the brand, with a monogrammed logo at the head and the flightless Penguin, again designed by Young.

Jan Tschichold developed the stripe theme further, inverting them to the horizontal and introducing basic imagery to support the books title and give the potential buyer an insight into the story’s plot. The use of line drawing echoed contemporary illustrative trends, and made excellent use of the central stripes white space. Its also interesting that Tschichold also started to change the font styles at this stage and using it as part of the cover design working with the illustrations.

Of course time stand still for no-man and the covers continued to develop to embrace photography and contemporary illustration styles. By the early 1960’s the coloured stripes slowly began to disappear, slowly replaced by a simple horizontal series of blocks featuring a smaller logo, followed by the title and finally the authors name. The accompanying illustrations had become the key features and the illustrations were visually more powerful and seemingly more important than the author.

This new style continued to develop and soon covers designed by David Gentleman started to appear. The headers were simplified and Gentleman’s series of illustrations for the New Penguin Shakespeare series featured slashed of colour and took on the appearance of wood block carvings. These were intricate, enticing and in some instance, such as Richard III, echoed contemporary paintings with a naivety of touch and lack of perspective.

By the 60’s and 70’s the general style had changed once more and with titling centralised and incorporated into the white space of the cover and engravings continued to dominate. The work of Diane Bloomfield and Bruce Robertson was as challenging as it was enticing. The days of the image reflecting the book were gone, and experimentation was the new game. Here the use of computer generated designs and pseudo science fiction imagery added a touch of modernity.

No where was the use of such stunning and challenging graphs as prevalent as the Pelican series of books. Established as the non-fiction branch of Penguin the covers were always interesting and are worth considerations as they were influenced by the work of Robertson in particular. What is interesting is the use of montage as well as props, which shows a further development of the genre of cover design. The use of symmetrical and abstract themes also help to confirm the type of publications the book is; serious, challenging, no nonsense.

The late 1970’s and 19801’s also saw further developed to include a full CMYK palette and this was used to great effect, providing colourful and enticing covers, often not afraid of raising eyebrows. A Clockwork Orange. Designed and illustrated by David Pelham in 1985 is a notable example of this new found confidence in colour to be found in the library of Penguin books.

Photo Covers were slowly introduced by Penguin featuring the world of designers such as John Sewell. These often featured montages and collages, which as time past featured unique and one-off font designs. The influence of popular culture was clear to see and visual experimentation was not shied away from.

As Steven Heller wrote in his essay Type as agent of Power¹ …the marriage of type and word (and image too) determines tone, tenor, and weight of expression’. Type rarely changed for Penguin in the twentieth century. Whilst instantly recognisable in its varying forms of Gill Sans, as demanded by Tschichold, it was rarely incorporated into the book cover design as a leading element. However, the spread of work by the popular illustrator Ronald Searle in the 1950’s and 1960’s, soon had Tschichold’s policies on Type yielding under his light hand.

However it was in the children Puffin range of books that the fonts stepped away from the rigidity of Tschichold’s edicts and became more playful. They featured often beautifully illustrated covers designed to grab the attention of the young reader, but also featured decorative text. Combined with the smiling Puffin logo the font was often integrated into the cover as in the case of The Jungle Book. These decorative fonts often mimicked children writing, making the title accessible and fun, and event the earlier books, whilst still very rigid in their use of a Serif font, Tarka the Otter for example, they still stood out as something, not adult.

The final set of covers that were used were those featuring elements and close-ups of famous arts works by artists such as Frantisek Kupka (left) N.C. Kierkegaard (centre) and Hans Old (right). The use of such work added a weight of formality to the book, lending them an air of drawing room seriousness that perhaps illustration and photography would miss. In using established and famous artists work not only was there an attempt to provide visual provenance but also an opportunity to expand the readers knowledge of the visual arts. Notice how the details are worked into the overall master designs used during that particular period of publication.

If anything this little foray into the world of book cover design has led me down the proverbial rabbit hole, and whilst I have deliberately chosen to predominantly look at the work of the Penguin House in the mid-twentieth century their twenty-first century output continues to engage the potential buyer through the use of traditional approaches as well as engaging in more contemporary DTP and computer based illustrations. Fonts and type are explored and used to good effect and montage is an increasing staple of visual communication. It will be interesting to see what the future bring the reader.

Resources Used

¹Heller, S, (2014, Design Literacy, Understanding Graphic Design, Allworth Press, New York

Inglis T, (2019), Mid-Century Modern Graphic Design, Batsford, Pavilion Books, London

Paul Bacon Covers (Accessed 24112020)

Edward Gorey;p=Primary%20Works;i=61#.X71U9Gj7TIV  (Accessed 24112020)

Book cover designers  (Accessed 24112020)

15 Famous Book Cover Designs  (Accessed 24112020)

Best covers of all time  (Accessed 24112020)

French book covers[]=french%7Ctyped&term_meta[]=book%7Ctyped&term_meta[]=covers%7Ctyped  (Accessed 24112020)

1984 Book Covers[]=george%7Cautocomplete%7C0&term_meta[]=orwell%7Cautocomplete%7C0&term_meta[]=1984%7Cautocomplete%7C0&term_meta[]=book%7Cautocomplete%7C0&term_meta[]=covers%7Cautocomplete%7C0  (Accessed 24112020)

Publishers List (Accessed 24112020)

Paul Rand Collection[]=paul%7Ctyped&term_meta[]=rand%7Ctyped  (Accessed 24112020)

Kolomon Moser  (Accessed 24112020)

Soviet Book Covers[]=soviet%7Ctyped&term_meta[]=book%7Ctyped&term_meta[]=covers%7Ctyped  (Accessed 24112020)

Penguin Classic Covers (Accessed 25112020)

Penguin Classis Covers (Accessed 25112020)

Pelican Covers[]=pelican%7Cautocomplete%7C0&term_meta[]=book%7Cautocomplete%7C0&term_meta[]=covers%7Cautocomplete%7C0 (Accessed 26112020)

Puffin Covers[]=puffin%7Ctyped&term_meta[]=childrens%7Ctyped&term_meta[]=books%7Ctyped (Accessed 26112020)

Contemporay Penguin book covers  (Accessed 26112020)

Ex. Hierarchy – The search for clarity

Contemporary publications are fewer but there are still some great ideas to be found.

Part Four of the learning cycle in Graphic Design has led me to this point, where selecting the right font is dependent on whether or not I’ve been paying attending. The one thing I have gleaned from my studies to keep the font pallet restricted when working with any member of the Header groups. So the trick is to adapt those that are used. That is to say Arial can be used in any number of styles, along with Garamond for example, but introducing a third font would be a disaster, especially a decorative type.

This methodology holds true in printed publications especially, so the opportunity to experiment with both form and colour is a welcome one, and one I hopefully produce well. Taking the lead from a host of examples, both physical and on-line, has provided me with excellent research material, and kept me focused on the brief in hand; to design three different pages.

The Listings Magazine:

These were strangely hard, impossible, to find in my local town, but an internet search came up trumps with some great examples. The Radio Times was more formal, following a Sunday supplement lead, whilst TV Times goes for a more of a 2-minute read format that’s proved popular with coffee-time magazines.

Header – A light styel font seems to be favoured with a contrasting colour, red or white

Sub Heading –  Sans Serif or Serif Fonts but always Italic,

Subhead and Content– Always Times New Roman

The more formal approaches used in magazines such as the Radio Times

The more informal, quick read, approaches used in magazines such as the TV Times above and the more informal, quick read, approaches used in magazines such as the TV Times below.

The tech industry and its supporters on the other hand are far more likely to try out new font designs as a reflection of their contemporaneous nature so will utilise a clean easy to ready font style with a stylish text font. However the banner at the top of the page, whilst using the white of the paper as a part of the design, something the designer Jan Tschichold was keen to exploit in his work. That said I do like to see a bit of a header graphic and will experiment with something low key.

For the Book Reviews the Newspapers treat this section as an opportunity to have some aesthetic fun, it’s also one of those rare occasions that newspapers actually deviate from the Times New Roman in black. Occasionally a logo may also make an appearance amongst the austere columns of print to brighten the page.

Of Fonts and Choices…

I’ve identified a series of aesthetically fluid and easy to read fonts that could be used in all three genres. I noted there are far more options for the subheadings than Headers.

Headers; a mix of Serif, Sans Serif, Bold and Decorative styles

  • Arial Black
  • Arial Rounded MT Bold
  • Bohemian Typewriter
  • Brotherhood Script 8
  • Castellar
  • Edwardian Script ITC
  • EcuyerDAX
  • Forte
  • Franklin Gothic Demi
  • Kaushan Script
  • Lilita One  
  • Passion One 
  • Paytone One
  • Old English Five
  • Olde English

Sub Headings; these are a mix of styles so I went through the full range of fonts available to me and selected the following list:

  • Arial
  • Bahnschrift SemiBold
  • Calibri Light
  • Candara
  • Century Gothic
  • Comfortaa Light
  • Corbel Light
  • Ebrima
  • Eras Demi ITC
  • Franklin Gothic Book
  • Franklin Gothic Medium
  • Gadugi
  • Gill Sans MT
  • Helvetica
  • Leelawadee UI Semilight
  • Malgun Gothic
  • Microsoft Jhenghei Light
  • Microsoft YaHei UI Light
  • MS Reference Sans Serif
  • Myanmar Text
  • Nirmala UI Semilight
  • Open Sans Semibold
  • Oswald Light
  • Palaquin Dark
  • Prompt
  • Prompt Medium
  • Quicksand Bold Oblique
  • Quicksand
  • Roboto
  • Segoe UI
  • Segoe UI Semibold
  • Stika Subheading
  • Tahoma 
  • Trebuchet MS
  • Verdana
  • YU Gothic UI Semibold

As I go through these lists I realise that there are some great designs, but sadly they’re not suitable for the task in hand. So my next challenge is to choose three that would read well at 10pts. So I’ll refine the selections a little further.

All layouts have been made using Affinity Publisher whose ease of use is idea for anyone with a cognitive dysfunction. It’s highly recommended as its slightly easier to use than Adobe’s InDesign and allows for slightly easier manipulation.

Best of Three.

The nest step was to identify the three pairings of font that feel will work best together for each sample article. After much consideration I chose the following:

TV Listings

I chose to go with a more informal TV Times style of presentation that is akin to the coffee break style magazines. It’s visually engaging and more suit to the ‘gossip’ nature of the articles title which infers an actress is talking about her character rather than herself.

Heading#1 – Arial Black

Subheading#1 – Century Gothic

Heading#2 – Lilita One  

Subheading#2 – Verdana

Heading#3 – Passion One 

Subheading#3 – Microsoft YaHei UI Light

To help add a touch of authenticity I made a simple logo using the Bree Serif font and a catch line in the same sample font tilted at 15°. The colour palette and photos introduce the character and the faded background would set the scene as belonging to the opening credits of the TV program, Dumble Side Manor. As the articles word count is approximately 500, combined with images, it spilled over to two pages, which gave it nice balance. I elected to you two columns’ to help facilitate an easy and quick read.

Of the three I have to say I prefer the appearance of #3; it shares the same visual approach of coffee break reading as the TV Times, whilst giving the opportunity to include visual cues connecting character to readership. Body text is Times New Roman at 10pts.

Computer Magazine

As mentioned earlier computer magazines tend to use the more contemporary and ‘designer’ style fonts in their publications, so this selection will hopefully echo this distinctive editorial approach.

Heading#1 – Arial Rounded MT Bold

Subheading#1 – Helvetica

Heading#2 – Franklin Gothic Demi

Subheading#2 – Oswald Light

Heading#3 – Paytone One

Subheading#3 – Candara

PC magazine reviews are all pretty much the same; information clearly presented, decorative fonts kept to a minimum and info graphics that are visually simple and easy to understand. For the last element I included a Pros/Cons and overall rating box in the bottom right corner.

Occasionally they feature a decorative banner; in this case I chose to use a simple binary style image from and a stock PC image from The name is fictitious. Of the three combinations I though the first and second sets worked particularly well, but the third seemed a little fat faced, and not in keeping with the genre. This surprised me a little, and just shows that test a font in context is an important element of the development process.

Of the first and second drafts the second is my favourite, as the Oswald Light pulls the Sub-heading up a little and keeps the theme tight and to the point visually, whereas Helvetica seems to dominate the page a little. The Headers were chose to be a dark yellow to provide contrast to the blue header and draw the eye to the product details.

Like the TV Guide I left the justification to the left and used three columns to fit all the information onto the page. The body text is Times New Roman at 11pts.

Book Review

Here the traditionally staid newspaper industry let down their guard for a light hearted moment, choosing to use the weekend as an excuse to introduce some much needed colour, and font change.

Heading#1 – Castellar

Subheading#1 – Franklin Gothic Book

Heading#2 – EcuyerDAX

Subheading#2 – Comfortaa

Heading#3 – Old English Five

Subheading#3 – Quicksand

The Newspaper review is an opportunity to use a few different approaches as there were several elements to tackle to give it an air of authenticity. The first is to add the relevant headers that populate the pages of newspapers, I’ve chosen to go with a regional format using Bohemian Typewriter font as an eye-catching section introduction.

The body text was justified across three columns with a cover illustration drawing the eye inwards. The main text was kept as is whilst a shear of 15°was added to the Sub-Heading text. Of the three setting #3 didn’t come out as I expected (in fact it looks hideous), but #1 and #2, which echoed the EcuyerDAX font of the book itself, have come out nicely. After much consideration I have to go with #1 for being my personal favourite of the three.

Overall I really enjoyed this exercise. The penny is finally dropping with what Graphic Design is and means to me.

Resources Used

Tschichold, J. (1967), Asymmetric Typography, Faber & Faber, New York.

Shaughnessy, A. (2009), Graphic Design: A User’s Manual, Laurence King Publishing Ltd, London.

Newark and Southwell Advertiser, 21 May 2020, Iliffe Media

Kingston Review, Computer Active, 9-22 September 2020, Dennis Publication

Chat, 17 Sept 2020, Issue 38, TI Media

Take a Break, 17 Sept 2020, Issue 38, Bauer Media

Bake Off/ Radio Times  – (Accessed 25.10.2020)

Patrick Stewart/Radio Times  –  (Accessed 25.10.2020)

David Tenant/Radio Times  – (Accessed 25.10.2020)

Martin Clunes/TV Times – (Accessed 25.10.2020)

Corrie Summer /TV Times – (Accessed 25.10.2020)

Broadchurch//TV Times – (Accessed 25.10.2020)

Book Review by Robin Stevens, First News, 30 Aug 2013.  (Accessed 25.10.2020)

Book Review, JS Landor, First News, Issue 623, 25-31 May 2018 – (Accessed 25.10.2020)

Letters to Nigeria, The Guardian, 23 Aug 2013,  (Accessed 25.10.2020)

Book reviews, Sussex Living, October 2017, (Accessed 25.10.2020)

Thecus N4100 Pro Review, PC Magazine Italy, Feb 2013,   (Accessed 25.10.2020)

In-Win GRone Review, Custom PC Magazine No. 127 April 2014,  (Accessed 25.10.2020)

Exercise: Lorum Ipsum

For this exercise, I plan to do four pieces using the generically generated using program, selecting words for the following two examples:

Gardening News

Type: Passion One, Times New Roman and Louisiana for hand script

Narrow Gauge Times

Type: Times New Roman and Gill Sans

The first task is to create template pages used samples from both publications. I used Affinity Publisher for this task as it something I’m familiar with and I’m still fumbling my way around the Adobe suites. I created the ‘copy’ layout using layers for both the Gardening News (L) and Narrow Gauge Times (R) using layers.

The use of the Lorum Ipsum package was an interesting experience as the word Length generated by can be problematic. This leaves the overall effect a little artificial as you have to trim the words down to make them fit, literally. However what it did show that what I thought looked ‘smart’ was actually far from it. The Gardening News item was messy, chaotic and frankly hideous, whilst the Narrow Gauge Times was surprisingly clean and well thought out. The aesthetics were ‘right’ despite what I thought and felt.

Humility restored I set to trying to improve the layouts, starting with the Gardening News Given my motor skills are deteriorating in some respects I decided to make my comments onto the JPG image, for some reason, it’s slightly easier to write like that.

This is where technology is extremely helpful for disabled students, it allows for easy manipulation of tasks and forms. I chose to colour the writing blocks in pink as not to get too overwhelmed by the text. This something that occurs increasingly, and perhaps has a role to play in my not fully enjoying or engaging with certain elements of the course. However, the colour block works nicely in calming this down. The yellow/green borders were added to help me identify the various boxes as I moved them around.

I settled on using a grid system for both articles, as it’s easier to both read and work with (I recommend reading Muller-Brockmann ‘Grid Systems in Graphic Design’). I had a play around with what layouts would work the best and simplified and unified grid size with the final version.

I kept the original fonts as I felt these suited the friendly nature of the article whilst the changes in layout gives it a little more structure and visual balance.

Next I repeated the copy pattern with the Narrow Gauge Times, which looks rather smart when presented in a basic manner.

I looked at how the basics, whilst right could be improved. I chose to stick with the Time New Roman font as it was in keeping, but the layout was a great foundation to play with.

Again I went with for the gird arrangement and played with which arrangement was the easiest and most intuitive to navigate around;

Again I used pink to signify the text blocks before filling these with the Lorum Ipsum text. Seeing the text aligned next to grey picture boxes left with a few choices to make.

However, I went for a linear approach with regards to the arrangement choosing ton have the text running along the outer edges of the page with stills running along the spine:

Now time to tidy the formating starting with Gardening News.

The adjusted format left, original right.

One major change was the changing the black bold Type of Passion One to Lalezar by Borna Izadpanah. It’s slightly more slender and a little more delicate in terms of presentation when reviewed against the original type, therefore a little more keeping with the nature of the publication. I also feel that for larger, bolder type, a Sans Serif type is more appealing to the eye. I kept the Times New Roman and Louisiana Types as they matched the feel and, in the case of Times New Roman its accepted use as the publisher’s choice is well understood.

For formatting, I kept the paragraphs left-justified with the tracking adjusted to 10% horizontal tracking, 6pts for the baseline and 11.5pt for the Leading Override tracking. These subtle differences seem to deliver a more polished finish for the resigned article.

For Narrow Gauge Times, Header horizontal tracking increased to 10% and the Leading Override 25ts and the font changed to Gill Sans MT at 25pts size as a nod to its use within the rail industry.

The main change was the Type, I decided to use Arial, in keeping with the Sans Serif theme whilst increasing the size to 14pts, increasing the horizontal tracking by 10% and the Leading Override tracking by 18%.

Overall a very useful exercise and one which has taught me quite a bit about the importance of arrangement and design.

Research Point – The Printed Word

Note: This is a review of how I see the printed material featured and is purely personal.

There’s a fine line between collecting and hoarding; fortunately, I seem to teeter on it and over the past few years I’ve collected a collection of various magazines, papers and the like which I find visually interesting. Whilst I have a thinning out every six months or so, lest I become overwhelmed, there are always those few that I choose to keep on.

So the first task was to identify a good selection of newspapers, magazines, leaflets and brochures, so I settled for 10 examples, taking four sample scans of all but one. The next is to sift them out by looking at those which are easy to read, and those not so.

That said there are examples where the formatting in both is ether good and bad, and I‘ll discuss this during my review, these elements should always be looked at in context. This list is purely subjective. I used the fonts used in each case.

Easy to read:

  • Artisan Rifles leaflet

Artisan Rifles

Type: Rival Sans Extra Light and Anuparp Thai Regular

Words per line: Ave. 5

Column Width: Ave. 108pts

Alignment: Left Alignment

Designers Intent; has it made this easier to read (Speed, Type size, Font, layout)?

This is a leaflet that was on display at the local country store and being intrigued I picked it up. For me, it was the way very complex legal subjects are broken down into easy to understand short bites of information.

The use of a Sans Serif font always helps when it comes to conveying important messages. It’s easily read and with the combined use of Rival Sans Extra Light and Anuparp Thai Regular with a three colour pallet helped add the necessary sobriety and tone to the subject matter leaflet. whilst providing an eye-catching design. This makes for quick and easy reading, with font size aiding greatly.

  • The Brambly Newspaper

Type: CG Times Bold and Times New Roman

Words per line: Ave. 5

Column Width: Ave. 108pts

Alignment: A mix of Left and Justified Alignments.

Designers Intent; has it made this easier to read (Speed, Type size, Font, layout)?

The desire to say ‘It is what it is’ when talking about newspaper layouts is simply overwhelming. They all follow a cultural norm and are presented as such. However, they remain a celebration of typesetter’s art.

Working within the confines of the column the unknown typesetter has evened out the headlines, given the columns word count balance, and allowed for a decent amount of space between columns. Given that The Bramley, our local paper, is distributed in an area predominantly older readership, this not only makes sense, but also engages the reader. Retaining the traditional Times based Type allows for quick and easy reading.

Font size seems a little larger than normal and the use of equal spacing between letters is used to not only keep the words per line to a maximum of five, but to also make the words more legible. So clearly a lot of thought has gone into this design.

Sally Mitchells Fine Arts Brochure

Type: Calibri and Calibri Bold

Words per line: Ave. 8

Column Width: Ave 180pts

Alignment: Left, centre and right alignments.

Designers Intent; has it made this easier to read (Speed, Type size, Font, layout)?

Given this is a brochure it eschews the normal layout for print media, mixing a vernacular style with a grid-based one. The Vernacular is used to display certain key works, whilst the use of the now accepted grid style is used to promote multiple print items as in a now traditional sales brochure format.

The Font, and Type Size is spot on for legibility and makes the brochure easy too read. Whilst the layout isn’t necessarily orthodox, it’s unique approach makes for easy browsing.

  • Gardening News

Type: Loka Extended Extra Bold,  Times New Roman and Louisiana for hand script

Words per line: Ave. 8

Column Width: Ave 108pts

Alignment: Left alignments

Designers Intent; has it made this easier to read (Speed, Type size, Font, layout)?

The eye-catching heading lines in  Loka Extended Extra Bold coupled with the varying weights of Times New Roman, grid structure with no more than four columns per page enable the reader to rapidly read articles. The size of the text font is 10pt, is easy on the eye, and when there’s a need for emphasis the designer has proved the reader with a bold Times New Roman, rather than employ italics, which at a small size can be awkward to read.

  • Country Living

Type: Bodoni based range, including SB Med OsF, Light and SH Roman

Words per line: Ave. 9

Column Width: Ave 252pts

Alignment: Left alignments

Designers Intent; has it made this easier to read (Speed, Type size, Font, layout)?

Country Living takes an interesting approach to layout, by sticking to a predominantly two-column width the layout is designed for a slower read, with imagery working alongside content. The use of a single, though varied in weight, type shows how simply altering line weight and size of one font can have as much an impact as using two or three different designs of font. It also keeps appearance and design crisp and fresh and the size allows for easy reading. Of the five selected examples, this is my favourite by far.

Not so easy to read:

  • Narrow Gauge Times

Type: Times New Roman and Gill Sans

Words per line: Ave. 11

Column Width: 144pts

Alignment: Left alignments

Designers Intent; has it made this easier to read (Speed, Type size, Font, layout)?

Firstly, the topic aside, this is a product of its time, yet its layout can still be found in a multitude of locally produced magazines. In this instance the use of dual column, with a traditional font is atypical of information sharing, it’s quick and to the point. The print size is a little too small at 10pts, with kerning a little too close. This approach doesn’t lend itself to easy or fast reading. Whilst the subject matter is light and interesting, the design makes it feel as though the reader to wading through treacle at times.

  • Pocket Bond Catalougue

Type: Stencil, and varying weights of Calibri

Words per line: Ave. 5

Column Width: 72pts

Alignment: Left and Centre alignments

Designers Intent; has it made this easier to read (Speed, Type size, Font, layout)?

For most brochures, quirkiness is expected to help sell products, but this is normally in terms of the visuals and headlining type and font. Pocketbond has used varying styles of alignment, layout combined with unnecessarily small Pt sizes and poorly arranged product images all lead to the reader being left with something that lacks uniformity.

Whilst the enthusiast will look past this for the outsider, reviewing it on an aesthetic level its quite an uncomfortable experience. Many model kit manufacturers and importers produce brochures which engage the reader, draw them in, in this instance that doesn’t quite happen. Its a hodgepodge of dry information, with occasional sparks of engagement that are ruined by poor layout and presentation. 

  • Vogue

Type: Vogue AG and Garamond

Words per line: Ave 8

Column Width: 128 and 216pts

Alignment: Justified and Left alignments

Designers Intent; has it made this easier to read (Speed, Type size, Font, layout)?

For a magazine like Vogue, which is an icon and revered, to put it here was a hard choice. On one hand, the photography is engaging, and the subject matter light. Yet where it falls down is in the details, which really surprised me. The use of Garamond for the articles makes for easy and quick reading, however, the photo captions are a different story.

Whilst some sit traditionally by the side of stills, those which are overlaid are infinitely harder to read. Always in italics and a size smaller than the font, possibly 8pts, they was produced in either black or white print. This difficulty in reading is further compounded by the fact that, especially on black and white stills. Which is a pity as Vogue is an otherwise beautifully laid out magazine, yet proves that a slight flaw will always detract from the overall beauty of a product. Much like a loose thread.

  • Lakeland Christmas Brochure

Type: Unidentified Hand Script, Bodoni Old Fashioned, and Bodoni. 

Words per line: Ave. 10

Column Width: 72 to 210pts

Alignment: Left and Justified alignments

Designers Intent; has it made this easier to read (Speed, Type size, Font, layout)?

Christmas catalogues will always be quirky, but this particular one takes the visual-aesthetic journey a step too far in some respects. The fonts, in particular the stylised hand script, are so poorly chosen that couldn’t identify them. Here is a brochure which totally missed its key audience and instead becomes a showcase of all that is gimmicky and fake.

The premise is okay, buy the lack of uniformity in presentation, the use of more than one type of Font per page and the zig-zagging arrangement of imagery. Written information whilst clear and easy to read is likewise haphazardly thrown about the page, or placed against a hard to read background. In terms of total accessibility, like Vogue before it, Lakeland falls short for me. It’s more the result of client leading the Designer than the designer guiding the client.

  • Gonalston Farm Shop Christmas Brochure

Type: Helvetica, Gill Sans Heavy, Arial, Pristina Std and Times New Roman

Words per line: Ave 8

Column Width: 140pts

Alignment: Left and Centre alignment

Designers Intent; has it made this easier to read (Speed, Type size, Font, layout)?

Granted this is a locally produced brochure, and I do love the rein-cow cover (almost a crime against Photoshop), but when you open it it literally screams at you. Oversized Gills Sans Fonts in green and black jostle with Times New Roman and the odd bit of Helvetica thrown in for good measure. All of this is topped off with Pristina Std. 

In terms of layout, aside from the occasional piece of poorly placed clipart shape, its spot on, but sadly this is ruined by the arrangement of lettering. One redeeming feature is the clearly laid out order form. Overall a tad too busy visually, but not the worst offender by far.



Exercise: If the face fits Pt3.

As I find it easier to break things down, as it helps me keep a track on what’s what, this is the final part of the exercise. The main reason I do this is I sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury which led to some brain damage, which can make life a little awkward, so please bear with me.

I can now say with a little certainty that this may happen to me, so it led to me to a bit of research and I came across this wonderful site:, truly a designers friend if ever there was.

So I’ve had a play using the above site for legibility checks as well as empirical evidence for formatting and design. The results are:

  • A Short Story in a woman’s magazine

Font examples_1


Women’s Magazine Font Sampler

The one thing I’ve noticed about this type of magazine is that they ignore Bold in their formatting and go for Black Type. The reason being is that it’s a little more legible and maintains this at smaller font size. Its also about seizing the moment and grabbing the readers attention. After all, these are designed as coffee break magazines, something I can attest to this as these were a firm favourite of my colleagues at a summer job I had 30 years ago.

So in this instance, the headlines were always bold and eyecatching, with a colour combination of black, yellow or red, depending on the theme. In this case, I’m going for yellow on red;

Font example colour

Brash and bold, but not threatening. The smooth flow of Lilita One sees to that. Hints of 70’s children’s TV shows too.

Given that these magazines are more gossip columns than news sharers editors and designs had free play on the fonts they used, so the opportunity to have a play is ever-present. Though legibility is a must. To that end, Lilita One is the perfect fit, especially at 20pt.

I’ve always found that Times New Roman seems a little fussy for a light read so opted for a range of light type fonts. At first, Javanese seems accessible enough, but like Times New Roman, as a text font, its seems crowed and stunted, forcing the reader to engage more with the font design, which defeats the purpose of the exercise.

Helvetica, the designers favourite was next. Light and dynamic it lacks the height, so, therefore, slows down the reading process. So for the text I’m going with Verdana; it’s easy on the eye and easy to read at a fast pace given its Sans Serif format, ideal for this type of coffee break magazine.

  • An advertisement in a parish magazine

The construction Parish magazines are normally read by a slightly older population so text tends to be slightly larger (often multiple styles in the same advert), but also rely on visual cues. Sometimes these are muted, occasionally brash with clip art detailing. I’ve gone for a mix of the two, utilising Times New Roman with some imagery form my own files to produce the atypical form of advert (which can I find now? Of curse not) that would appear in a parish magazine.

Parish Flowers

A quick mock-up of an atypical parish magazine advert

After a quick review I decided that the background was a little too busy, so putting my local head on realised that any adverts would feature clip art, if only for simplicity. So a quick internet search led me to a basic flower arrangement and a simplified church tower:

Flowers PNG can be found at:

Church PNG can be found at:

The next step was to review the types used as it needed to replace the background detail/distractions and become the focal point. The first new font type was Sylfaen a serif script which is easy enough to read. However, it lacks impact.

Parish Flowers Sylfaen

Sylfaen flyer – I cleaned up the background but the Type lacks impact.

Happy with my visually cleaner background, I set about looking at the Type once more. Perhaps something a little heavier? Rockwell has a nice weight to it, but with the serif flourishes, it gives the advert more of an order air than a polite request.

Parish Flowers Rockwell

Rockwell; demanding your time one letter at a time

I was also unsure about the serif style so looked at what Sans Serif types were available, even as Black Fonts. Franklin Gothic Medium, though, fits the bill nicely; whilst black, it’s not heavy, it flows nicely and as its Sans Serif it look less cluttered at a smaller pt size.

Parish Flowers Franklin Gothic Medium #4

Franklin Gothic Medium, when capital letters and bold are simply too much to handle and you’re seeking visual clarity.

  • After School Club

The good, the bad and the indifferent? Pinterest has a mass of great ideas and what to avoid

Sometimes posters can be inspiring and sometimes not quite hitting the mark. Looking at the above examples there’s a fair mix of good information and visual cues alongside indifferent and ‘trying too hard’. I get the ‘understand your audience’ approach, but when it comes to youth culture, especially teenage boys, it becomes a veritable mine-field.

Youth culture, behaviours and tastes change. In my youth model making and role-play games were de rigour, followed by rugby and visits to rural youth clubs. School was something that we went to by law rather than by compulsion. My teenage daughter is now more interested in her iPhone, Instagram and Nandos, so I’m going to have to find a middle ground.

Posters containing multiple images seem to be favourites, and in fairness are eyecatching, and let the activities do the talking. Though there is a propensity to include more than two fonts, something I’m keen to avoid alongside cliched ‘yoof-culture’ imagery.

After School #3

Above: A great poster; Using two fonts this contains the activity information, joining instructions and conveys a light-hearted and fun factor feel. However, below, if used as a basis for any after school, club lacks a dynamic and inventive approach. Although it’s the use of the military-style stencil font that is reflective of the intention; structure, discipline and joy-less endeavour.

After School #4

So following a very similar format to the first poster I’d be looking at, the font isn’t ideal and the decorative font, even at A3 size would be hard to read in a hurry, especially if the poster is placed in a busy communal area.

Given the copy is quite punchy I’m going for Roof Runners ( by Pressgang studios as the headline font. It’s a great contemporary black font with punch and substance and isn’t too twee.

For the information sections, I’ll use Quicksand Light ( by Andrew Paglinawan. It’s San serif Form flows smoothly, whilst it’s contemporary lines and simple structure make it easy to easy in a rush, especially in bold regular.

The next step is imagery; queue teenage boys having fun in some form of informal setting (which this is). A quick hunt led me to a pretty generic image at


The above image will serve as a background and is ready to be processed through Photoshop. Its popped through a couple of filters with this as the end result.

Boys Club #001

I now have a basic layout, and colour base, but I want the heading to be eye-catching, the quick headliner below is just tagged on. I have a thought; Jamie Reid

Boys Club Draft #001

The collage aesthetic is inspirational, snappy and has been used as a basis for designs  before:


Jamie Reid’s original…

..and some good copies…

So time to have some fun. First I’ll look at the colour palette to use, which I’ve based on a blue core. I want a contrasting palette but not jarring, so a quick review of colours led me to change the background colour of the poster slightly and then identifying four complimentary colours.

The next task is arranging the wording using Roof Runners and complementary colours. I sketched a few ideas for the arrangement of the wording and once I was happy with it placed it on the poster. The first attempt (L) was a little crowded, but I moved it around and came up with the second final version (R), which seemed more balanced.

A tale of two posters…

Next up the activities; ‘ We’ve got football, ping pong, table soccer, computers, karate, cooking and lots more’ it’s fair to say that’s a lot going on. However I wanted to bring the poster alive; so a quick generic images search for the key activities and its time to montage. But before I do that I wanted to check the Quicksand font to ensure its legibility matched the background and theme of the poster, thankfully it did.

Boys Club Draft #005

Check draft of Quicksand Font shows it works. 

Back to the montage, I want to the top element to show a mix of indoor and outdoor activities, for these to act as a sort of headline. I arranged the computers, table football and physical football as a triumvirate of activities. A bit of swinging around in Affinity Designers seem to do the job quite well. Each image had its opacity lowered so as not to detract from the poster title.

Boys Club Draft #006

Starting to come together…

Boys Club Draft #007

Getting there, but it looks too crowded.

Sometimes less is truly more, so I reviewed the montage imagery and went back to the beginning. It may be a photographer mindset thing, but the desire to fill the poster is overwhelming and I need to rein it in a bit. So a bit of adjustment with what’s what, changing sizes and moving images around so they didn’t clip seems to have done the trick.

Boys Club Draft #008

Rearranged images and now time to work on the wording. 

Whilst the wording is presented readymade, the format isn’t, so a bit of experimentation is required. The font works, but the colouring needs adjustment. I want to avoid black as much as possible, but at the same time needs to consider legibility. Looking at experience and colour charts the colours featuring a yellow or red base would be best-suited to the task. Orange was too light so I settled for burgundy and then used a Bold format for the structure of the wording as white wasn’t sharp enough.

Boys Club Draft #009 - Final

The colours right, but it needs some attention. 

The more I look at the wording the more its now sharp enough. I decided to open a new file simply for the lettering to see if a separate layer is sharper.

Boys Club Wording Draft

The new layer as a PNG with a transparent background.

Success! The new layer has done the job, I’ve also raised the message block slightly so that it sits more centrally on the poster.

Boys Club Draft #009 - Final v1

The finished Boys Club poster.

  • Engagement Party

Engagement parties, always fun. My thoughts straight the way are to use a decorative script style font in differing weights with a range of colours.

Whilst the header can be ornate the information must be clear if only to ensure brevity on such a card. The temptation to completely re-word the whole invite was overwhelming, but it’s their event, and so any copy is a reflection of their characters.

So I had a play on Affinity Designer, especially useful as my hands aren’t behaving right now, with a variety of scripts choosing to stick with AR Decode at 20pt size as the headlining font.

I then had a play with a series of font for the text bodies mixing Serif and Sans Serif script types to see how they would appear for brevities sake. Book Antiqua was my first choice, striking at 12pt size, but it lacks that appeal.

Engagement Party #1 w Book Antiqua

First attempt featuring AR Decode  and Book Antiqua

I then chose to experiment with the background and type appearance and colours, as whilst I liked the pink/grey mix I wanted to be sure I wasn’t missing out on anything. I also took a moment to change the body font to Bodoni and re-arrange the headlining arrangement.

Engagement Party #2a w Bodoni

Close; but the red over yellow is a little jarring to say the least

Okay, it’s hideous. So back to the originally plan of pink/grey, however swapping the colours and a pink background seems to be a little too much, almost baby shower territory. I’ve changed the body font once again for the lighter touch of Perpetua. Seems more in keeping.

Engagement Party #3 w Perpetua

Getting there with a change in font style. 

Still not quite right. The main text font isn’t exactly dynamic, so I make a final change, this time to Nathan Condensed. I also change the colour, making the shade a touch lighter.

Engagement Party #3b w Nathan Condensed


Okay, I’m happy with the types of Fonts, their weight and arrangement, yet the colours are making it look like an invitation to a Bespoke Kitchen Fitter showroom opening rather than an engagement. So I chose to reverse the colours once again and have come up with this:

Engagement Party #3c w Nathan Condensed

Final Draft

The colours combine with the types to give the script a sharpness that previous attempts couldn’t quite achieve. It’s legible, flow’s nicely and is of a suitable tone for an engagement party.

Exercise: If the face fits Pt2.

The second part of the exercise is to identify typefaces which have bold, italics, black or light forms. Identity is a pretty straightforward exercise, but choice, that’s another ball game altogether. It’s almost like asking which flavour of jelly bean is your favourite.

However ever eager to delve into the on-line collection I’ve pulled an example of each, otherwise we’d be here all day.

Bold; Prima Serif:

Bold, sharp and clear. Prima Serif is a definite favourite for both headlining and highlighting.

Italic; Clarity Serif Light:

When properly designed Italic type can be light and flowing, and Clarity proves that exceptionally well. The is not so much drawn, its almost ethereal in its form. This Type is wonderfully suited to more decorative work and would suit a colourful background; think two-tone vertical pastel stripes. It has that early 60’s vide to it with more than a twist of contemporary clarity.

Preview Clarity Serif Light SF Italic free font

Black; Hennigar:

Strong, thumpingly clear and without flourish the block-like form of Hennigar is ideal for signage and newspaper headlines. I imagine it wouldn’t work particularly well on long words but for short words, it’s pretty much the Black font of choice.



Light Type has come of age more so now in the past decade. It’s well suited to a range of uses, from the web to print. Whether its a contemporary trend that’s been riding on the back of numerous ‘vintage’ themes or simply that Light Type has been ‘rediscovered’, I’m glad it has.


In part 3: selecting the type…

Exercise: If the face fits Pt1.

The following are samples from the book of type I’ve been collecting over the past few months and storing on my Google bookmarks. Whilst I am easily distracted by the sheer amount of types, it’s more than fair to say there are some great examples available to use.

To help with examples I’ve had to rein it in a little to a couple of example of each style of type, otherwise, you’d have been assaulted with tens of examples of type each with its own weight, style, and font. Not only would that have been unfair, but also would have possibly confused me. However, I can only encourage you to follow the links I’ve added so that you can look and consider the merits of each example, and hopefully discover example that appeals to your taste.

Serif examples:

Bold: Bodoni ( is the classic great all-rounder, for me, it’s almost synonymous with the weightier style of type used in a range of identity situations. Company names on merchandise in particular always look good in Bodoni.


Goku, ( originally designed for a watch event, its stencil nature gives it a delicacy that one would not expect from a bold font. As such I can see why it was used to promote watches. It has style and grace.


Sans Serif Examples:

Aaargh ( Simple curves and graceful down strokes Aaargh has a simplistic appeal to it that would sit exceptionally well with contemporary lifestyle and fashion reportage. Definitely, a headliner or descriptor box style of type as opposed to every day reading type.

AaarghAsgalt: ( At first I wasn’t sure if this would be considered a decorative font, more useful in advertising than print, then, like Aaargh,  it could form part of a headlining or business font quite nicely. Given its pseudo-futuristic this type has numerous commercial as well as artistic functions; it’s also remarkably easy to read. I would genuinely consider placing members of this font as drop caps for impact.


Script Font: Allura  (

This is definitely an advertorial decorative font, even the still below shows it’s the best way to use it. It’s light, fun and has an air of luxurious abandonment that wants to you beggar off to Tobago for a month with your dog. It’s quirky, yet beautifully designed and easy on the eye. What’s not to like?


Melany Lane: (

Again a very decorative type, fit for shop windows and packaging, yet visually pleasing and flows rather nicely. It screams chintz, but I rather like it.

Melany Lane

Decorative Fonts:

Camelot Caps: (

I love this type of decorative font work. It screams William Morris, Arts & Crafts, Victorian artistic idealism and Pre-Raphilite sensibilities; everything I want from my own art almost. Its an abandonment of austere type and welcoming a more decorative art form is aesthetically warming and visually enticing. It uses are restricted in one sense, but in another, they are simply limitless.


Summit: (

To paraphrase Sig Sigue Sputnik Summit is BMX, it’s large mobile phones, its summer at the beach and ice creams in the part. It’s jolly and bouncy, selling children’s clothing at a department store and featuring on baby grows, spelling out Baby. It’s on the side of the container for an inflatable paddling pool. Yet for all its possible gaudy used I love the use of colour that helps to accent its form. I’d use it.


Web Font.

The following are examples of Fixed Width, Techno and Pixel font all stylised to a computer style look or designed for font use.

Fixed Width example; Futurist Fixed Width (

This Sans Serif based type is simple in its construction and exceptionally easy on the eye. It would work well for use on a news type feed or providing keep information, such as technical details.

Futurist Fixed

Techno Style example; Quantum (

I can imagine this heading up a lifestyle based forum in the early 2000’s before moving into the dark world of corporate advertising on a webpage for minor engineering components. Here it would be used to try to make a needle bearing exciting and dangerous. Or perhaps a straight to DVD pulp sci-fi spy film that would have a cult following. For all that its fun and I’ll be honest whilst I wouldn’t use it to illuminate Tess of the d’urbervilles, it would find its way into use with the Stephen Cole novel. 


Pixel Font example; Chesstype (

If I were to be commissioned to produce a KS2 and 3 STEM microsite, without a doubt this is the Type I’d use; legible, fun and techno-esque it also says I’m about technology so I am technological. It couldn’t be used as the main text, but as a headliner and drop text its definitely got potential. Also it makes me smile.

Chess type

Research – Vernacular Typography


The Ultimate in Vernacular?

One of the great things about photography is that the opportunity to capture anything of note, or tweaks your interest is easy to capture.

With Typography it seems to have found me more so than I it. Moments where the design, colour, and arrangement of wording stand out from the often formulaic approach of DTP fonts and arrangements. It’s free-flowing form, either in handwritten market signage or beautifully intricate corporate Coats of Arms.

Type’d in Stone

The forms in which Typography can appear is beyond assumed conventions of ink on paper. There are wonderful Victorian expressions in stone and marble, heavy Serif fonts leaping out and declaring a buildings intention. Each carving as individual as the craftsman who made them. Their often very ornate nature draws in the viewer to consider these carvings as more than mere words.

The golden age of signwriting 

As the mechanical age drew in to view the dawn of the signwriter emerged, and I for one am glad they went for it. From steam engines to locomotives they had this knack of being able to turn sheets of plain glass and painted wood and metal into something beautiful.

The golden age of signwriting #2

It always seemed to have a regional lilt and soon developed into creating striking signage for local town corporations, locomotive nameplates (Check out the history of Gill Sans) and private individuals. Their art still exists thank goodness.

Contemporary Trends

Today we live in a highly visual world and the place of typography is still that of top dog. With the advent of Adobes Illustrator and Indesign along with Affinity Designer and Publisher, typography has become often too sophisticated, with the art being swallowed by the gimmick.

I often see what photographers refer to as ‘over-processing’ with the pattern more important than the type and message. From simple handwritten market stand labels to old school shop labelling, the messages are still out there and arrangements are not contrived or pretentious. In these instances, the art has been to produce a clean and simple type and succeed in doing so.


My personal favourite; the acme of the signwriters art. 

Exercise: A Typographic Jigsaw Puzzle

Font Sampler

The completed piece; A wonderful feeling of satisfaction

This exercise was a great practical experience that really introduced me to the idea of looking more closely at how a font is designed; the subtle differences, the small details and, the delicate strokes.

All are combined to provide the reader with a type, Baskerville, that flows seamlessly. That was until I got my greasy mitts on it. Joking aside this was a great opportunity to learn a little more about the type and its construction as well as create a rather beautiful looking font using tracing paper,  a 3H pencil and time.

My initial thoughts are below:

Research Point: Fonts

The four magazines: L to R – Airline World, Country Living, Italeri 2017 Review and Vogue.

So a quick research task on identifying fonts using Seeking to push myself a little I went all out and chose four magazines to play with:

  • Airliner World July 2018
  • Country Living Feb 2015
  • Italeri Preview 2017
  • Vogue Feb 2018

Quite an eclectic mix, but they give me a great range of fonts to explore and try and identify.

So first up, Airliner World.

Airliner World July 2018 #2.jpg

Aside from using at least five different fonts on the front cover, which is an interesting approach, so in an attempt to identify the highlighted example I set forth with my first search. In the interests of science, I’ll also time these searches.

Font Result: FF TradeMarker Fat – Definitely not that

Time: 2:58

So that was a bit of a failure. Let’s see how I get on with Country Living, focusing on the Spring Fair font.

Font Result: FF Angkoon Bold – Definitely not that.

Time: 2:12

Okay, thus far it’s not looking great for and to add insult to injury the magazine publishers, Key and Hearst, haven’t shared there font types. Hopefully, the Italians at Italeri are on the case. In this instance, I’m looking at the Fat Face font of The Colosseum. 

Font Result: ITC Franklin Narrow – Positive result

Time: 7:41

Okay, that took a little longer than expected, but we got there in the end, just as I was giving up hope with the software. So finally lets see how it gets on with Vogue. In this instance I’m going to try it with the words Zania Miuccia. The wone thing I’ve noticed with is that that it doesn’t differentiate between Fat Face and other types of font, which I find a little odd.

Font Result: Monotype Baskerville

Time: 4:43

Well I’d say is six of one and half a dozen of the other. The repetitive questions it asks aren’t perhaps the most helpful, but for a free resource you can’t knock it.