Magazines Register

More Than a Font: The Ins and Outs of Magazine Typography

Most people in the publishing industry believe deeply that words matter. This extends not only to vocabulary choices, sentence structure, and overall content, but also to how words are physically presented on the page — the width of each stroke, the kerning of the letters — anything and everything that contributes to the reader experience.

Not surprisingly, there is great attention paid to choosing the right font. Let’s look at some current trends in magazine typography.

To serif or not to serif

There are two basic types of fonts: serif and sans serif. A serif font (Times New Roman being the most common) has “feet” at the end of each stroke. A sans serif does not.

For years, the consensus has been that a serif font is significantly easier to read. But recently, the U.S. Department of State caused quite a stir when it declared Calibri (a sans serif font) will now be its official font. Why would such an official office as the U.S. State Department choose a font as casual as Calibri?

In corporate settings, designers have traditionally chosen serif fonts because they are easier to read and, thus, more professional. But typographers pointed out our bias toward serif fonts is misinformed. Legibility is not so much a matter of which font you choose, but on what medium you choose to read it.

When you’re reading on screen, it’s easier to read a sans-serif font. And in light of modern digital reading habits, it makes sense why the State Department made such a seemingly dramatic design change.

Playful pairings

Allow yourself to get creative with font choices — you don’t always have to stick to just one! Consider pairing a delicate font set with a bold, sturdy one or even a serif combined with a sans serif.

A current trend in typography places retro or nostalgic fonts next to clean, crisp modern styles. This is a great way to give a nod to the past while elevating your design and keeping it current.

Diverse voices

What’s often forgotten is that the designers who created the fonts are just as interesting as the font choices themselves. There is an entire history of typography, and it is fascinating to learn how the artform has developed over time. But as with so much in history, many designers of color were left out of the story.

It’s time for us to take a deeper look at the history of typography. Consider championing the work of current designers of color, and entertain ways to diversify your publication — even down to the very fonts you choose.

Best practices

Now that we’ve discussed current trends in legibility, font pairings, and diversity in the world of typography, let’s address best practices in choosing fonts.

  1. Do your homework. There are plenty of resources listing the best fonts, creative font pairings, and more. Take a look at how other publications use fonts to fit their overall tones, themes, and designs.
  2. Think about your audience. Are they nostalgic for 1980s video games? Then choosing a font reminiscent of an 8-bit design might be fun. Choose a font that will speak specifically to your target audience.
  3. Align your font with your message. Fonts should enhance your overall design and theme, not conflict with it. If you are a wine magazine, choose a font that is clean and sophisticated. If you write travel content, select a font that feels dreamy and adventurous.

Ultimately, have fun researching and finding the right font for you. Be mindful of which fonts have serifs and which don’t. Get creative when combining fonts. And always be intentional in including a myriad of voices in your beautifully designed publication.

Contact your Sheridan representative or visit our contact page to ask how we can help you streamline your publishing processes, reduce costs, and keep up with changes in print and publishing strategies.

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