Marrying Types: All in the Family
My "Marrying Types" series looks at which typefaces blend well with which others and why. But in the mix-and-match debate, it's easy to overlook the innumerable collections of faces that were designed from the get-go to work together: typeface families. So let's consider a singularly successful single-family effort, Marjorie Spiegelman's original design for Macworld magazine (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Macworld's original cover design—like its interior—was an all-Garamond affair. The logo is in ITC Garamond Book, with its sublines in bold. The bold "Laser!" is followed by book italic, and the titles at the bottom are also bold. Click the image below to see a larger version.
Spiegelman's earlier work on sister publication PCWorld (1983) demonstrated two things: A computer magazine could have a classy, high-tone look, and a single four-member typeface family—Jan Tschichold's Sabon, in this case—could be leveraged to produce a sweeping array of typographic effects.
With Macworld (1984), Spiegelman gave herself the luxury of working with a larger family, ITC Garamond, although she chose to use only three weights—light, book, and bold—and their italic complements. The entire ITC Garamond family is shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2. The entire ITC Garamond family now numbers 22. Of the 16 available when Spiegelman designed Macworld, she opted to use only six.
A typical blend of Garamond faces in a simple Macworld text setting is shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3. These short product listings start in 12-point book italic before stepping down to 10-point book for the addresses. The product names are in 10-point bold, whose color echoes the 12-point type, creating a balanced whole. The descriptive text is set in 10-point light. Click the image below to see a larger version.
Spiegelman's choice of typeface family wasn't arbitrary; for its corporate identity, Apple had selected a customized version of ITC Garamond—a slightly condensed version of Garamond Light—that it still uses today.
One reason Spiegelman could do so much with apparently so little is the rigorousness of her page grids, whose Swiss emphasis on proportion, consistency, and ample use of white space created a canvas on which the type could dominate. The layout was designed from scratch to lead the reader's eye through the page, so there was no need for typographic histrionics or gimmicky contrasts between various text elements. The display type didn't decorate the page, it was an integral part of the text and—as importantly—the flow of the text.
Interestingly, Spiegelman opted not to use the seemingly logical weight—Garamond Book—for the main text. Instead, she chose Garamond Light, using Garamond Book for titles and reserving Bold only for running heads, sidebar titles, subheads, illustration call-outs, and the like. Except on the cover, Garamond Bold never appeared larger than 20-point anywhere in the magazine.
This "shift to the light" gave Macworld a particular elegance, distinguishing it from the dense, tech-manual look that tried to lend gravity to other computer magazines of the time. Like PCWorld before it, Macworld had the typographic refinement of a coffee-table book.
The editorial content of Macworld was divided between columns/departments (commentary, short product reviews, etc.) and feature sections containing longer articles. Each of these sections opened with a major article that had a distinct look: two 19-pica rag-right text columns, always headed by either 54- or 84-point Garamond Book titles. Despite these prescriptions, the layout of every lead feature's opening spread was unique, as shown in Figure 4. The text throughout the magazine was set in 10-point on 11 points of lead.
Figure 4. This opening feature spread has no text-sized type at all, with the article opening in 18/22 and reading straight through into the normal-sized text on the following pages. Spiegelman's text is always there to be read, not just admired. Click the image below to see a larger version.
The rest of the magazine's text was set in three 15-pica columns. The departments had a structured, consistent layout with typographic proportions reminiscent of an academic journal: sedate 42-point titles, 18-point italic sublines, and three 15-pica-wide columns set ragged right, as shown in Figure 5.
Figure 5. In this typical editor's column, the display type is sedate but large enough to offer the typographic center of gravity the page needs. The eye immediately discerns the path through the page and the structure of the information on it. Click the image below to see a larger version.
For minor features, the display type was much chunkier at 54-point, giving it a clear identity distinct from other three-column matter in the magazine. The text's hangline on the opener was the same as in departments, but features always opened on a spread, and this along with the larger type created the unmistakable impression of the article's place in the informational hierarchy of Macworld.
Because of the ample white space in the page layouts, there's breathing space for the contrasts in type texture to do their work, and although the color differences between the predominant typefaces are not great (Spiegelman never used Ultra Bold), modest variations in weight and point size create a clear visual roadmap of the reader. It's apparent at a glance how all the parts of the page relate to each other. In this relaxed graphic environment, the ragged-bottom setting creates an informal rhythm that belies the strictness of the underlying page grid. Nothing here happens by whimsy, but the text never feels stiff.
The key to the success of this design, I think, is the balance between text and white space on each page, as you can see in Figure 6. When white space is squeezed out of a layout, the graphic distinction between members of a single typeface family may be insufficient, and the page can go gray. The signposts that clarify the structure of the page become less distinct. In such crowded environs, contrasting type from another family—a sans serif, in particular—may save the day.
Figure 6. Designers don't always have the freedom to luxuriate in so much white space, but the openness of a page like this—a sidebar—places the type on a pedestal where it can be both admired and easily and pleasurably read. Click the image below to see a larger version.
Sidenote: At this time, Macworld's type was set on IBM PCs, using hand-coded WordStar files as a front end for a CCI minicomputer-driven offsite typesetting system. All the type was set in galley format and pasted up by hand. Macworld wasn't set on a Mac until at least a year after another sister publication (the now-defunct Publish!) pioneered Mac-based page layout for high-resolution output in 1986.
Today, it's unusual to see entire advertisements, much less entire magazines, set in a single typeface family—neither Macworld nor PCWorld do it anymore—even though families were created about 100 years ago just for this purpose. Although we've moved past the three-ring typographic circuses of the recent past, the use of highly contrasting typefaces has become almost de rigueur. It's usually perfectly justified—it's what we're accustomed to seeing, in fact—but often it's simply a shortcut to visual dynamism, a gimmick, that may not be in the best interests of the text.
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