Easy to Select Type When You Understand Grouping

  • Confusion of type faces today makes it difficult to select good ones
  • Simple classification method will clear the air for puzzled printers
  • Here are good suggestions for learning type categories with examples

During the last few months, discussion in these columns has centered on aspects of type selection for the average commer­cial composing room. Actual type selec­tion is concerned with many variables­ practical, economic, and personal. There­ fore, a study of the major groups of type will simplify the task of decision making.

The general headings under which type may be grouped are as follows: black let­ter, roman, sans serif, script-cursive, deco­rative, and initials and ornaments.

The term black letter is used to describe the types based upon the gothic manu­script letter first made into type by Guten­berg. In the United States, this design is also called text letter and—more frequently—Old English.

Roman From Italian Manuscript

“Roman” as used here is descriptive of the roman form of letter developed from the Italian manuscript. It first reached per­fection as type with the designs of Nicho­las Jenson in 1470, and then passed through varying phases of development in France, Holland, and England, reach­ ing the fullest stage with the types of Bodoni in Italy in the ‘late eighteenth cen­tury. Generally, these romans are sepa­rated by typographers into three groups: old style, transitional, and modern.

Sans serif refers to the whole group of types which lack serif structure and are rather monotone, although this feature varies from type to type. Those types which in America are called gothic are listed in this category.

Cursive-script types are those designed on various styles of writing, themselves the product of the writing tool, such as the broad pen, the graver, and brush. Script types, loosely termed, are those which have joining characters, cursive being the name given to similar letters, the characters of which are separate. (Edi­tor’s note: Some so-called scripts, how­ ever, do not join and some so-called cur­sives do.)

Decorative is all-encompassing. In this report, it is used to denote types which are primarily for display, exempting bold­ face versions of standard types.

Within the range of this listing, the present-day printer has a tremendous choice of types. It is now our job to deter­ mine exactly which ones he needs.

Modern printers have very little use for a black letter, but it is still a type of obli­gation in the composition of theological printing, and in the setting of certificates, resolutions, and diplomas.

There are quite a few designs available, but my selection would be Goudy Text, a Monotype face, in the following point sizes: 18, 24, 30, and 36. Goudy designed a series of initials for this face, called Lombardic Initials. Their purchase is op­tional, but they spice up the stern lines of the black letter and are in popular favor.

Another black letter in common use is Cloister Black, available from ATF and Monotype. This is an excellent face, but I give preference to Goudy Text as its narrow angular form appears to be closest to the original.

It is in the roman category that the printer has the widest choice. The decision to buy only one or two faces is a contro­versial issue. In practice, personal likes and dislikes are such a strong factor that most printers will probably purchase more than one variety . In any instance, the se­lection should still take into account avail­ ability and use.

My choice for a roman is Garamond. The reasons for such a selection are varied.

The type is universally used and recog­nized, and is available from all foundries and machine companies. Of all the old­style types, Garamond is most at home on different paper stocks. It stands up quite well in printing by all processes. Equally important, it has an excellent boldface.

Garamond Based on Two Sources

Garamond types are modeled upon two sources. One source is the type of Claude Garamond as shown in the famous Ege­nolff-Berner specimen of 1592. The sec­ond source is the type of Jean Jannon. Cut about 1620, it became the inspiration for Morris Benton of American Type Found­ers who designed a Garamond in 1914, and thus began the current revival of the face.

The Garamonds following the Benton pattern are Garamond No. 3 of Linotype (THE INLAND PRINTER is set in this face), American Garamond of Monotype, Inter­ type Garamond, and Goudy’s Garamont, also a Monotype face.

The 1592 specimen produced revivals by Ludlow and Linotype which differ noticeably from the Jannon revivals. Some care should, then, be taken to see that ma­ chine and single type versions match properly.

If this is to be the principal roman type in the shop, it will be necessary to have a wide range of sizes. I suggest, therefore, the series 6- to 48-point, perhaps leaving out the 42-point. Italic should follow in the same range, and small caps from 8- to 14-point. The boldface series may begin at 10-point-although an 8-point may be hand y from time to time-and go up to 60- or 72-point. The latter sizes will be good for signs and posters. The boldface italic should range from 10- to 36-point.

Thus the printer will have available an excellent roman in the important varia­tions and sizes. This type can be used upon a wide range of printing. It is obvious, however, that no printer will remain happy with only one family of roman types at his command. He will want to add to his resources from time to time.

Bodoni would undoubtedly be a good choice for a second roman, as it also has universality and combines well with many interesting variants for display purposes, such as Ultra Bodoni, Corvinus, and Onyx.

Further acquisitions will depend on the individual. However, type should be pur­chased as part of an over-all scheme. This will avoid an unhappy mixture of styles, none of which would be complete enough to enable the printer to plan a coherent typographic design.

Probably the best-selling type over the past 50 years has been Copperplate Goth­ic. Most printers have learned to depend upon it for a wide variety of job printing requirements.

The best feature of the copperplates is the size range, such as four sizes of 6- point, each with a common alignment, and the same feature in 12- and IS-point. The squared-off form, called Bank Gothic and Stationer’s Gothic, have the same fea­ture also.

I will suggest that only the 6-point grouping be purchased. Printers conscious of good typographic design have over­come a dependence on the copperplates by judicious use of small caps, but for such standardized jobs as professional business cards and statements, the size selection in the gothic is a help in rapid composition. However, for all other use of the sans serif form, I would choose from the well-de­signed contemporary form which began with the Futura types.

Futura, designed in 1925 by the late Paul Renner, helped to bring about the sans serif renaissance of the last 30 years. For display printing, the sans serifs are used the most, although typographers have occasionally forecast a return to roman types.

When the modern sans serif trend be­gan, all the American manufacturers pro­duced individual sans serifs, but the de­mand for the Futura pattern was so strong that similar types were developed.

ATF and Linotype offer the Spartan series; Monotype, the Twentieth Century family; Intertype, Futura itself in matrix form, and Ludlow, the Tempo group de­ signed by R. Hunter Middleton. The orig­inal Futura itself is imported from Ger­many by Bauer Alphabets, Inc.

Next to Cheltenham, the sans serifs make up the largest of the type families, being available in as many as six different weights; in addition, there are set width variations from condensed to extended. Unfortunately, the term “weight” is com­ plicated, as the weight described as bold by one manufacturer is called heavy by another and demibold by still another.

The printer must decide which particu­lar design meets his needs and must stay with it. Which weights to purchase and in what size range are difficult facts to fore­ cast without knowing in detail the kind of printing to be produced. The bold face is probably best for heads and display, but the medium or “book” is most legible in text matter of booklets, folders, catalogs, etc.

I would suggest a range of 6- to 24-point in the medium, and 12- to 36-point in the bold. Naturally, the other sizes would be filled in as the need arose.

The currently popular wide gothics and wide square serif types point up the con­tinuing problem of keeping up with the trends. Unless the printer is catering to specific customers who wish to use these types, he had better hold off and adopt the policy of buying an occasional line if necessary. The extended types are particularly costly, and, as is the case with many ad­vertising faces, they may not survive.

In the script-cursive category, unless the printer is specializing in social print­ ing, individuality reigns supreme. Every type foundry has produced a large variety of scripts, based upon every style of letter­ing. The printer should make a selection here, but with some degree of caution.

Acceptance of a script should not be based solely upon its current popularity, but upon its good design. The size range need not be large, 18- to 36-point being most widely used, unless the printer ex­pects to produce social printing, in which case it will be necessary to go down to 12- and 14-point.

Every commercial printer occasionally needs the decorative type for a specialized job. Again, this is an individual selection, with a wide variety from which to choose. The size range need not be wide, generally 18- or 24-point to 36-point.

The selection of ornaments, or “ding­bats,” is probably simpler than it was 20 years ago. The use of type ornaments has declined, owing no doubt to the demand for more production from the compositor.

Nevertheless, there is still a tremendous variety offered, particularly in Monotype, and the printer may choose according to his desires. It is to be hoped that the use of ornaments will not die out altogether, since they lend an artistic touch that only the printer can supply.

The problems of selecting the type for the commercial plant are quite varied. While the job can be done on the per­sonal basis of likes and dislikes, it is best to look at the situation from the long-term view and to analyze carefully typographic needs before making the final selection.

This article first appeared in the February 1957 issue of The Inland Printer.

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