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Exercise 3.1: Type Samples

Updated: May 28, 2022

Part 3 has a focus on typography and image as key areas of book design. Working with typography is something that I have not heavily studied before, so I'm looking forward to being more informed with my future choices rather than only relying on instincts when I usually arrange type.

Identifying Serif or Sans- Serif

Exercise 1 began by asking me to find as many different examples of typefaces as I could, then to sort into serif and sans-serif groups. I still have my ever-useful stack of old magazines and newspapers that I use for collage exercises such as this, so most of my text examples came from the titles, headings and a few small paragraphs that I found there. I didn't want to rely on just those familiar sources, so I gathered some extra leaflets from local tourist information kiosks and online images from areas such as packaging, branding, film posters, book covers and signage. I ended up with a broad collection of examples and found it an easy process to sort them into groups to glue in my sketchbook.

I feel that the end result of these examples and the words that they say are not as important as the observations of trends that I noticed as I was sourcing them. At first, I found sans serif to be the more popular choice and easy to find as the lack of serif offers designers a modern, sleeker look rather than the traditional and established variations of serif fonts that I found more often in fashion / lifestyle magazines and newspapers. One interesting example of this division that I discovered was how the google Logo changed from serif to sans-serif in 2015, modernising it for the first time since its previous designs had used serif variations since 1998.

With that said, there also doesn't seem to be any hard rule for when to choose serif or sans serif for a particular product and both can be seen as appropriate in the same setting depending on the choice of the designer. In many magazines I even find combinations of both styles on the same, which help visually separate titles and headings from the main text body. What I think matters more than the presence or absence of serifs is the overall style of a font fitting the context of a setting, which is what I needed to look into next.


Classifying Type

As mentioned in the workbook, there are several different systems used to classify typefaces, but the seven listed from gave me a good structure to organise my own collections of fonts that I could find on my computer into the following categories:

Old Style | Modern | Square Serif | Sans Serif | Script | Blackletter | Decorative

In photoshop, I set up an A4 document where each typeface could follow a layout that I've seen be effective at showcasing its qualities on font websites. The overview for each typeface included the title, the alphabet in upper and lower cases, and numbers 1-9.

Sorting the fonts into categories to still turned out to be a manual process though. As the default listing of the fonts on my computer doesn't use the categories mentioned by the exercise, I had to learn the characteristics of a type by looking at the letterforms. Then I could now arrange them across one of the seven A4 sheets for each category. To completely fill out the sheets with strong range, I also sought out some additional examples I enabled from the adobe fonts service, or from free font websites.

Cutting sheets for making typeface swatch books.

When the sheets were finished, I printed them off to be trimmed and turned into swatch books using the same binding screws I previously used for a research task in Part 2 and I'm pleased with the results.

Having a digital database is useful in so many ways but lacks in ability to test the scale and legibility of type at different distances. With my typefaces now in an analogue form, I feel that I have a better reference on how a font could look in print, which is valuable information when designing future projects.


Examples and Uses

I was then asked to choose 5 examples of these typefaces to look at the best and worst uses for each. I found the website was a great resource here for finding existing examples of how a particular font is commonly used for in different medias. I used this to inform my own best and worst examples for each type using stock images, Photoshop and for the first time InDesign to experiment with existing layout templates.

1. Bickham Script

Existing examples and experiments using Bickham Script

Bickham script takes its name from George Bickham, an 18th century engraver who inspired the typeface designer Robert Lipton to develop the original digital version of a similar font that was released in 1996. Bickham lends itself best to feelings of elegance, sophistication and nostalgia, making it a popular choice for period pieces, classical posters, fashion design and signage for any establishment that wishes to advertise as high quality and class.

Although still effective in short paragraphs and descriptions, script fonts such as Bickham can fall short when used for the main body of a long piece of text. The overall decorative letters read well enough when used sparingly, but unless you are careful with the line spacing, overlapping swashed could make the results appear chaotic if used for magazine text blocks.

2. Baskerville Old Face

Existing examples and experiments using Baskerville Old Face

As the name suggests, Baskerville Old face is a versatile transitional old-style font adapted from the work of 18th century typographer John Baskerville. It's well renowned for its legibility, particularly at large sizes, making it useful for titles on advertising posters and book covers. It can comfortably sit as a text body as well and is clear and crisp enough to sometime be used as the main body of text in children's picture books.

The elegance and beauty of Baskerville Old face makes it a popular choice for books and magazines, but it can be distracting when used for business or scientific purposes where the information needs to be clear. An item such as a business report would benefit from a more modern sans serif font rather than one like Baskerville Old Face for example.

3. American Typewriter

Existing examples and experiments using ITC American Typewriter

Created in 1973, American typewriter is one of many fonts designed to emulate the same lettering style of traditional slab serif typewriters. Its retro image is synonymous with an academic record keeping and office environments and lends well to images that match this theme. The proportional letterforms and rounded ends to the serifs also set it apart from a true monotype typewriter font, making it a friendlier candidate for use in advertising and graphic design without appearing too cold and clinical.

The rounded edges to the serifs on American Typewriter help it appear softer than other slab serifs, but industrial typewriter fonts don't usually lend themselves to being set against natural environments. This can look jarring against natural vistas and environments, although if used with as a juxtaposition, they can make an appropriate statement about the balance between nature and industry in some cases.

4. Broadway

Created in 1927, the Broadway font has since become one of the most popular art deco typefaces used to represent media that refers to the same era it was created in. It can commonly be seen on the front of jazz posters and album covers with a resurgence in the golden age of Hollywood filmmaking. The combinations of bold and thick shapes and thin lines in each of the letter forms make it most useful for dramatic titles over informative subtitles or paragraphs of text.

The specificity of the decorative style of Broadway does unfortunately lock it into a specific atmosphere. In retro-futuristic examples science fiction, Broadway looks very fitting, but becomes out of place against media that doesn't have any contextual connections to the 1920's. The sleek look of modern mobile phone advertising is one place where Broadway could distract from the message of a product that wants to be forward thinking and simple.

5. Helvetica

Designed in 1956 as a sans serif typeface, Helvetica quickly became a cornerstone of Swiss modernist design and typography. The letterforms are bold and distinctive with an even line thickness, making it a popular choice for countless uses the world over. The ease of use and legibility of Helvetica lends itself as a particularly popular choice for signage and is strongly favoured for warnings, labels and company wordmarks.

Helvetica falls short in its legibility when used in large bodies of small text where the words can become less distinguishable as a whole. This issue is particularly prevalent in digital publishing and web design where the compression of pixels distorts Helvetica much more than other similar fonts such as Arial.

The ubiquity of a typeface can easily lead to its downfall in the world of visual design. Along with Helvetica, several other fonts have suffered unpopularity due to overuse, such as the now infamous Comic Sans and Papyrus. Nothing is inherently wrong with any of these fonts as each have their own merits, but they should still be used with consideration when appropriate rather than as a default setting to fill the gap on a drop-down list.


Tracing Examples

I was asked trace some of the letterforms to get a feel for how they have been constructed, so I printed and annotated a semi random alphabet of assortment of letters in my sketchbook using my new font library. I chose some in lower case and some in upper, depending on what caught my interest as I looked through my font swatch books.

I annotated some of the features of the letterforms and labelled the feelings they created using descriptive words, then traced the outlines of each letter in fine liner before I filled in the shapes using graphite.

This process gave me a new respect for how difficult it must be for designers to create a typeface that looks unique while sharing a consistent visual language between each letter design. It must be tricky to balance artistic flair while legibility so ensure that everything reads well, especially when designing a font to complement a specific context. The variation of line thickness and shapes from just this small, traced selection shows some of the subtlety involved in giving a font personality.


This research will feed into part of my assignment for this section, so I will keep in mind how I can present the concepts of good and bad typography as I progress into looking at layouts. Initially at this stage I'm drawn to the idea of opposites for each book. I could potentially have the two booklets visually linked as reflections of each other, with themes such as heaven and hell etc. I'll keep notes on this in my sketchbook as I progress to refer back to later on.



Berry, J.D. (2016) Creating Bickham Script At: (Accessed 01/08/2021)

Carson, N. (2018) 5 fonts we love to hate (but maybe shouldn't) At: (Accessed 01/08/2021)

Fonts In Use (2021) Baskerville Old Face At: (Accessed 01/08/2021)

Fonts In Use (2021) Bickham Script At: (Accessed 01/08/2021)

Fonts In Use (2021) Broadway At: (Accessed 01/08/2021)

Fonts In Use (2021) Helvetica At: (Accessed 01/08/2021)

Fonts In Use (2021) ITC American Typewriter At: (Accessed 01/08/2021)

Hollander, J. (2015) Why Is Google's New Logo Sans Serif? At: (Accessed 01/08/2021)

Microsoft (2020) Baskerville Old Face font family At: (Accessed 01/08/2021)

Wikipedia (2021) American Typewriter At: (Accessed 01/08/2021)

Wikipedia (2021) Broadway (Typeface) At: (Accessed 01/08/2021)

Wikipedia (2021) Helvetica At: (Accessed 01/08/2021)


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