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Newspaper design

We relish the demands and discipline of newspaper design and in today’s fast changing media landscape a great looking, well crafted newspaper is more important than ever.

Moon Touch Down

Notebook: 16 March 2018 | TYPOGRAPHY | NEWSPAPERS

Spotted in a corridor at Sheffield Hallam University – the front page of a special colour supplement from The Yorkshire Post celebrating the first moon landing in 1969. My eye was caught by the odd mix of typography. The title or ‘masthead’, Moon Touch Down, is set in a typeface called Microgramma which became a favourite with graphic designers in the late 1960s and early 70s. It’s a geometric CAPS only sans-serif but with distinctive rounded corners, and its square shape allowed for it to be set with very tight letter and line spacing as is the case here – it captures perfectly the optimistic mood of this period in history.

The headline font for First Flag on the Moon, looks rather clumsy in comparison especially with its gappy word spacing. It’s typeset in Futura Bold Condensed (Italic) which has been a popular tabloid newspaper headline font for many years (and is still used today in the ugly looking Sun newspaper).

Microgramma was designed in 1952 by Aldo Novarese and Alessandro Butti. In 1962 Novarese re-worked it, adding in a lower case alphabet and condensed versions, and it was released as a new face called Eurostile which was taken up with equal enthusiasm. The geometric and space-age characteristics of both fonts made them popular for use in science fiction films – first in Kubrik’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and then in The Andromeda Strain, Alien, Moon and others, and in the TV shows, Star Trek and Gerry Andersen’s Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet. (You can read more about this here and here.)

Microgramma/Eurostyle on the language buttons on the space station in 2001: A Space Odyssey

For more examples of Microgramma and Eurostile in use take a look on the excellent Fonts in Use website. (I noticed that Microramma makes an appearance on the cover of a favourite record that I have in my collection – the Clash’s 10-inch EP from 1980, Black Market Clash, designed by Julian Balme and Paul Simonon and reproduced below.)

Microgramma Light in use top left on the Black Market Clash EP. (The picture is of musician and producer Don Letts at the Notting Hill Carnival in 1976. For more on Clash album cover art, follow this link)


A2Z+ book review

Above: Front and back covers of a school kit, USSR 1968 (Pollocks Toy Museum). From A2Z+ by Julian Rothenstein

Notebook 5 March 2018 | BOOK REVIEW: A2Z+ by Julian Rothenstein. Published by Laurence King, April 2018

Although we spend much of our day tapping away on a phone or keyboard the majority of us still pick up a pen and make marks on a piece of paper. It’s good to see that schoolchildren continue to scribble and doodle in the margins of their exercise books and make use of decorative titling and other flourishes on the covers of their notebooks and school diaries. When I was a teenager there was a fad for writing titles with extravagant bubble writing with one outline letter overlapping the next – almost like a graffiti tag. My take on this was to use drop-shadows, 3-D blocking or primitive serifs (see pics at end) based on typefaces such as Cooper Black or the slabs of Clarendon or Playbill. Reference material for my decorative titling would have been old press adverts, packaging or the Letraset catalogue (which my father used in his work) but if I’d had a copy of a new book called A2Z+, which is an archive of old lettering and type, I’d have been delighted – it would have been a brilliant resource to make use of. The picture below is from a chapter in the book called Signwriters’ Alphabets with examples from the early 1900s. These alphabets were made available as off-the-shelf models for sign writers and artists to use for shop fascias, fairground signs and so on.

A2Z+ is compiled and edited by Julian Rothenstein who has been squirrelling away old graphic ephemera for over 30 years. His new book is an off-beat collection that includes, not just type specimens and signwriters’ alphabets, but also optician’s old eye-charts, logotypes, sign language and semaphore alphabets, monograms, old book and magazine covers and many other items that he has gathered together from across the globe. Much of the book includes goodies from the first half of the 20th century and there is a chapter entitled Czech Graphic Modernism that features a splendid Constructivist jazz-age alphabet made up from letters that incorporate a dancer in a series of dynamic poses. I’ve picked out some of my favourite details from the book and they are shown below.

Above: Constructivist jazz-age alphabet with dancer, Czechoslovakia 1926

Julian Rothenstein is the founder and owner of Redstone Press who publish the annual Redstone Diary as well as many other publications which include Surrealist Games, The Playful Eye (An album of Visual Delight) and The Book of Shrigley (a collection of drawings by artist David Shrigley). One of Rothenstein’s earliest publications was Story Without Words & The Idea – two dramatic picture stories told in woodcuts by the Flemish illustrator Frans Masereel in the 1920s.

A2Z+ is published by Laurence King in conjunction with Redstone Press and costs £25. Laurence King publish many books on art, design and photography including the brilliant The Visual History of Type by Paul McNeil which I reviewed here last year. Two other indispensable LK publications for those specifically interested in magazine design and publishing are: Editorial Design by Caldwell and Zappaterra 2016 and So you want to publish a magazine by Angharad Lewis 2016.

Finally, here’s a few of the decorative titles from my school exercise books c1970:

Digging through the women’s magazine graveyard

Notebook: 23 February 2018 | MAGAZINES | TYPOGRAPHY | PHOTOGRAPHY

I’ve been reading Paul Gorman’s ‘The Story of The Face: The Magazine That Changed Culture‘ which was published late last year by Thames and Hudson. The Face (1980-2004) was the brainchild of Nick Logan who later went on to launch the men’s magazine Arena (1986-2009) but I’d forgotten that it was Logan’s company Wagadon that had also published a bold and eye-catching but short-lived women’s magazine called Frank (1997-1999). I still have copies of Frank sitting on my magazine shelves side-by-side with two other women’s magazines from around that same period: Bare and Nova (The Second Coming). They were all edgy, unconventional and good-lookers but sadly none of them lasted for more than a couple of years or so in their crowded marketplace. Here’s what I liked about their designs and why I’ve hung on to copies of these magazines for over 15 years.

Frank (1997-1999). Published by Wagadon

Frank was launched in October 1997 as a ‘provocative, challenging, intelligent and witty’ women’s magazine and it carried a lively mix of features aimed at a ’25-35-year-old stylish urban woman’. I remember the cover of the first issue very well with its striking photo of a startled model with an apple on her head. Like all good covers, the ingredients were simple: captivating picture, engaging headlines, snappy and contemporary masthead, well crafted typography and a minimal colour palette of red dress and red headlines contrasting with green apple and masthead. And its size helped set it apart from other magazines: they’d trimmed 10mm or so off the top which gave it a slightly squarer format and it felt good to handle. The December 1997 cover was equally gutsy with a fluorescent orange headline declaring it ‘The Lingerie Issue’ alongside a picture of a model in wooly thermal underwear. This confident style and left-field attitude continued inside with for instance: articles on New Labour and ‘Lads’ and a fashion story featuring a heavily pregnant model.

The choice of fonts for the magazine was a curious mix of the stylish sans Avenir, Helvetica Rounded and a feminine and flamboyant serif which I think is called Kumlien – but they all seemed to work well together. The Art Director was Jason Shulman (who had previously worked at Harpers and Queen and The Sunday Telegraph magazine) but he only lasted three or four issues and his early departure heralded a less than successful redesign which may have been prompted by the magazine’s sales figures being much lower than what the management had hoped for. In an effort to turn sales around, Wagadon’s owner Nick Logan decided to make Frank more mainstream but as soon as it lost its edginess, it lost its sense of direction – it was design and editing by committee – never a good combination. The magazine hobbled on until its closure in autumn 1999. Those early issues had promised so much but a lack of investment from its owners and the loss of its sense of direction coincided with a downturn in Wagadon’s fortunes with both Arena and The Face, and the plug was pulled.

The deputy editor of Frank was Lisa Markwell who went on to edit The Independent on Sunday and she gives a very good account of the birth and short life of Frank in this fascinating article for The Independent in 1999.

Bare (2000-2001). Published by John Brown

In 1992 I took up the position of Art Director with Summerhouse Publishing, a fledgling contract magazine publisher (with Saab and Renault magazines under its belt) based in Norfolk. Helen Gilburt and myself moved from London to a house with a large overgrown Victorian walled garden which we set about redeveloping in our spare time. My visual gardening bible and inspiration was a stylish and glossy new magazine called Gardens Illustrated which was full of beautiful photography – a bit like World of Interiors mag but for those who enjoyed gardens. It was published by John Brown (the founder of John Brown Publishing, now John Brown Media) and the Art Director was Brown’s wife Claudia Zeff. Seven years later in autumn 2000 John Brown launched Bare, a similarly stylish title with Zeff as Creative Director and a young New Zealander, Kirsten Willey as Art Director (Interestingly, the John Brown Group Creative Director at the time was Jeremy Leslie – now owner of MagCulture). Bare was a health and well-being magazine for those women who had ‘traded in the chardonnay and Marlboro Lights for grapefruit and yoga‘. Whereas Gardens Illustrated was all luscious pictures and classic serif based typography, Bare was luscious pictures and pared back sans-serif typography – lots of Helvetica Light and cool oceans of white space. It was a bi-monthly and edited by Ilse Crawford who had been the launch editor of Elle Decoration. I have three of just six issues that were ever published. I don’t think I ever read any of the articles but instead I wallowed in the minimal design and enjoyed looking at the pictures.



In 2001 John Brown decided to sell off his consumer titles and focus instead on the more fruitful contract publishing side of his business. Gardens Illustrated was bought by BBC magazines (who made it more mainstream and consequently it lost some of its style. It is still going strong and now owned by Immediate Media who also publish Radio Times) but I believe that John Brown failed to find a buyer for Bare – which had proved to be just too cool and niche, and with sales at a low, the magazine was closed with the last issue appearing in August 2001. (John Brown’s eclectic cluster of other consumer titles – Viz, Fortean Times and Bizarre were sold to James Brown, the former editor of lad’s mag Loaded).

Nova (The Second Coming, 2000-2001). Published by IPC

In March 1965, as Britain emerged from the dark days of winter (marked by the death and funeral of Winston Churchill in the January), the first issue of an outspoken and visually brilliant women’s magazine Nova was published. It was to capture the optimism and energy of the swinging sixties and it became compulsive reading for many women (and men) who were ‘not only interested in fashion but also politically, socially and sexually aware‘  – and for the next ten years it shone out for the quality of its writing, design and imagery. Its art directors included Harry Peccinotti, Derek Birdsall and of course David Hillman who later went on to design Le Matin de Paris and The Guardian newspapers.



Powerful words, design and photography in the original Nova magazine from the 60s and 70s

Sadly the 1970s recession and poor sales forced IPC, Nova’s owners, to cease publication in 1975. However, 25 years later in June 2000 a new Nova – a mk II or Second Coming – was born and it was positioned to be as bold and as edgy as the original. The design reflected some of the ingredients of the mk I version with the chunky, tightly set, all caps, 60s typeface Compacta Black being used for headlines on the more outspoken features. And the handrawn masthead¹ hinted at the original ‘blobby’ masthead typeface which had been set in Windsor Extra Bold Condensed. Din Light was mixed in to add style and remind readers that Nova mk II might have picked up on the best of the original but it had its feet firmly set in the new millennium. Pictures were captivating with a good dose of black and white gutsy reportage mixed in with fashion shots with attitude and lots of cutting-edge illustration. The design was by Gerard Saint and Big-Active who had already made their mark with fashion magazine Scene, the design² of which was almost a precursor of what was to come at Nova.

Nova Mk II: born 2000, died 2001



With just three or four issues published and sales lower than expected, Gerard Saint and editor Deborah Bee (who like Saint, had come from Scene) came to blows with the IPC bosses and they were both replaced, with the IPC management declaring that the magazine had been ‘too edgy’… Nova struggled on but failed to carve its niche in the marketplace – whereas its predecessor had found rich, fertile ground in the 1960s, by the year 2000, the women’s magazine sector was saturated with titles, and Nova Mk II folded in mid 2001. Some commentators felt that IPC didn’t give it long enough to make its mark and that it should have been even edgier and more groundbreaking like the original (the covers never had the attention grabbing, questioning ideas-based headline and imagery of their predecessors), while others said that Nova should never have relaunched and that society had moved on. Maybe IPC should have learnt from Frank’s failure just six months earlier…

If you want to read more about Nova Mk II’s short life, take a look at Gerard Saint’s own account (reproduced below) or click on ‘Brand Failures‘ or Lisa Markwell’s (see Frank above) old article from the Independent. And for more on Gerard Saint and Big-Active, here is a 2010 article from Eye magazine.

Now all we have left are the bones of Nova, Frank and Bare to pick over (scattered amongst the dusty and faded remains of many, many other magazines that have come and gone across the years). But these three edgy women’s mags still look good today and they will remain on my shelves for inspiration and as a reminder of times gone by and of the creative energies of their makers.

¹ The new Nova logo was hand drawn by Gerard Saint and has more recently been ‘adapted’ by fashion brand Very and by Huck magazine.

²Big-Active’s Scene magazine made use of the font Clearface set with super tight letter spacing that echoed the typography of the late 60s and early 1970s.

Big-Active’s Gerard Saint talks about the Nova (Mk II)/IPC mismatch

“I think the major factor that contributed to things not working out for the new Nova was that IPC were simply not the right publisher. They had acquired the rights to the title and were looking for reason to relaunch – they were obviously aware of what we (Big-Active) were trying to do with Scene hence them approaching Deborah and myself. And for our part, at the time we’d felt we’d taken Scene as far as we could – we’d achieved a level of respect and credibility – but we wanted the opportunity to play to a bigger audience.

In hindsight, I think sadly Nova was a contender for being the right magazine brand for the time – but a victim of being wedded to the wrong publisher. IPC did of course have clout and were very successful with a very wide range of titles, but in truth they had no experience of working with a fashion title with higher aspirations. And in this respect we (and they) were worlds apart. For us it was going to be all about being creative and directional – courting the international fashion brands as this is where we’d hoped the solid advertising revenue would have been expected to come from. However the most successful female title they had at the time was Marie Claire (which of course they were doing really well with) – but it was only part of the audience we had hoped to reach. They knew how to sell Marie Claire, but they just didn’t fully understand the culture we hoped to set up around Nova.

After a very supportive start in the development stages it became clear to us after launching that IPC assumed the two titles could sit side by side for them – using the same advertising sales and promo teams. Unfortunately these people didn’t really get what we were trying to aspire to. As a consequence there were a great many things that we did that really put their noses out of joint – as they felt the fashion presentation was uncomfortable for many of their clients i.e shooting a fashion story in a nudist camp with real nudists as models for instance… that, and the lack of girlie features. It all was just a step too far for IPC. They simply hoped to sell space to the same clients and advertisers as Marie Claire. This goes a long way to explaining why they eventually tried to dumb down the creativity under Jeremy Langmead (no disrespect to him) (ed’s note: Langmead was the replacement editor for Deborah Bee). Maybe it would have been different with a more supportive publisher – who was a better fit in terms of vision and fashion credentials – but in any case the plug was pulled before the title had time to develop to it’s full potential.

Despite all of this, in many ways we were confident that we were on to the right thing. It’s not any secret that our competition was initially rattled. Condé Nast actively tried to ‘dissuade’ creative agencies from allowing their photographers and fashion people to work for us and threats along the lines of – if you work for Nova we might have to re-think booking you for Vogue assignments were not unusual at the time. This encouraged Debs and I as we’d put in a great deal of effort into courting a very loyal team right from the start – Venetia Scott and Jurgen Teller to name but a couple – and it was these creative people that Deborah and I didn’t want to compromise. When the knives came out we all knew it was time to walk. There was no other choice.

I’m glad to have played part in the escapade but the world keeps turning and I’d say that despite everything the title still has it’s credibility intact. The original of course was a true trail blazer – we just hoped at the time that we could do it justice in a different era. Sadly the second coming of Nova was never given the opportunity to fully flower and deliver its full potential.”

Gerard Saint, March 2018




An olfactory excursion, part 1: Uncle Ernie

Notebook: 31 January 2018 | SMELL

Forgive my self indulgence as I put all thoughts of editorial design temporarily to one side, close the lid on my laptop, throw open the window and sniff in the air. Today I detect an overriding but comforting smell of woodsmoke from a neighbouring chimney pot and a background tang of tarry smelling pig manure from a far-off farmer’s field. And every now and again I catch the delicate and ethereal fragrance of the winter-flowering Sweet Box shrub (Sarcococca Confusa) quietly doing its thing at the end of the drive. It’s a heady but rather delicious mix. It’s time now, for me to step back 36 years and more, on the first of a two-part journey about our underused sense of smell.

My great-uncle Ernest Paul was a chemist, botanist and plant hunter. He worked in Bristol at Wills tobacco and lived on the coast at Clevedon in Somerset. As a small child I remember his garden being awash with greenery and exotic plants which must have benefited from the warmth of the Gulf Stream pushing its way up the Bristol Channel.

Uncle Ernie enjoyed writing to his great nieces and nephews and one day in the late 1960s a shoe-box sized package arrived for my sister. It was carefully wrapped in brown paper and secured with string and the contents had been protected with tissue paper and straw. Uncle Ernie had an interest in perfumery and once the box had been unwrapped, it revealed its treasure: phials and small bottles, each one containing a perfume ingredient and each methodically numbered to be cross referenced to sheets of writing paper covered with Uncle Ernie’s detailed and spidery handwritten notes. There was labdanum, sandalwood, Oil of Bergamot, ambergris, olibanum, myrrh, spikenard and many other exotic sounding ingredients that Uncle Ernie had collected on his travels across Europe and the Middle East. One-by-one, my sister and myself carefully removed the stoppers and caps, gingerly sniffed the contents of each phial and found ourselves transported to far-off places. Many of the perfume ingredients had an unfamiliar but attractive and mysterious scent and a couple were deliciously intoxicating – but there was one phial that we approached with extreme caution… Uncle Ernie’s notes stated: ‘CIVET: A secretion produced by the Abyssinian Civet Cat. Concentrated it is an abominable smell but in minute quantities it gives (an aromatic) note to oversweet perfumes’ Blimey… I guess we must have unscrewed the cap, reeled back in shock and then screwed the cap tightly back on…

Uncle Ernie’s phials were returned to their box and carefully packed away in a dark place and the perfume ingredients sat sleeping and inert for the next 10 or 12 years. Then in 1980-1982 I found myself studying a graphics MA at The Royal College of Art and part of the course was the writing of a thesis on an aspect of art and design. Digging around for a topic, I remembered Uncle Ernie’s box of goodies and I was also very aware of how long forgotten aromas could drift past on the wind and trigger powerful emotions and memories inside myself and I certainly had favourite smells that reminded me of a time and place from long ago. It felt like a rich hunting ground for research and so I decided to ignore the visual arts and focus instead on our sense of smell – the most mysterious and least understood of the five senses. My thesis would touch not only on perfumery but on whether artists and designers had made use of this sense in their artwork and designs.

My great-uncle’s trove of perfume ingredients became the starting point for my thesis. My sister retrieved the box from its dark hiding place and in I plunged nose first. I was surprised and delighted to discover that most of the ingredients smelt as pungent and mysterious as they had 12 years previously. And now, another 35 years on, I’ve been carefully through Uncle Ernie’s collection again and I have transcribed and catalogued his notes. In the intervening years I was probably guilty of not replacing some of the stoppers – the genie was out of the bottle and some of the precious ingredients have evaporated forever. The phial marked ‘Civet’ no longer smells of rotten meat – which is probably a good thing. The fragrance of each of the individual ingredients have mingled together and the box has take on a heady overall smell. If I was a perfumer I’d probably be able to match this combined scent to a very particular perfume but with my limited knowledge the best I can do is say that the smell of the box is musky and oriental and has something of the mystery of Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue or Après L’Ondée about it.

There is one perfume ingredient in the collection that still smells astonishing. In the 1950s or 60s, Uncle Ernie must have visited the rose fields of Kazanlak in Bulgaria where they grow a very fragrant crimson rose (General Jacqueminot) which is used to produce rose oil known as Otto (or Attar) of Roses. As Ernie describes it, ‘tons of rose petals only yield a few drops of the distilled essential oil’. He came away with a small painted wooden screw-top cask (pictured below right) and within it is a tiny glass phial containing the precious oil. I unscrew the phial, sniff, gasp with delight and then quickly screw it tight again for fear of letting too many of the precious odour molecules escape. The smell is exquisite and still has the pungency of when the oil was first bottled.

I insert the phial back into the cask, return it to the box and place the box back into the cupboard.

Ernest Paul 1899-1974

Coming up soon…

An Olfactory Excursion, part 2: My RCA thesis and ‘Smelly Telly’. How the research for my RCA thesis about smell led to my final-year major design project – a three-dimensional display explaining how odour television could work


Busy week for news design geek

Notebook: 21 January 2018 | NEWSPAPERS

It’s been a busy week for a news design enthusiast like myself – digesting and enjoying the new-look Guardian and Observer newspapers (and website) whose re-designs have been prompted by their switch from their unique Berliner size to tabloid, to save money. And this coincided with me running a newspaper design project for students on the NUA Design for Publishing course in Norwich. Here was my week…

Sunday 14 January: Scouring the internet and Twitter, I catch my first glimpse of the re-designed Guardian. Gone is the familiar white-out-of-blue, slab-serif masthead, and in its place is a black-on-white, two-deck arrangement set in a new, sharply chiselled typeface. It’s looking good…

Monday 15 Jan: More sharp looking pages surface on social media. I hurry to the newsagent to grab a copy but can’t see it and worry that they’ve sold out. Hold on, there it is. Sub-consciously I must have been looking for the old blue title. I study the cover and ponder if the masthead needs to be 5 or 10mm bigger just so that it pops out more. Back home I look at it in more detail – I like it very much. It still feels like The Guardian even though it’s much smaller. They’ve split it into three parts: News and sport, Journal (Opinions and ideas) and the old G2 (features and Arts). G2 is a bold and busy, primary-coloured centre section with drop caps, pull-out quotes and side bars that all provide multiple entry-points for the reader and good use is made of the flexible 10-column grid that allows for narrow columns that carry captions and other snatches of info. Likewise the sports section at the back bristles with colour, energy and useful infographics. There’s plenty of reviews and debate that pops up on Twitter as the day progresses including this good summary from my fellow Sheffield Hallam journalism and design lecturer Arlene Lawler. And here, Magculture’s Jeremy Leslie gets to chat with the Guardian’s in-house designers Alex Breuer and Chris Clarke and they explain why it wasn’t a case of simply shrinking down the old design.

The Guardian’s weekday package: News and sport, The Journal and G2

Tuesday 16 Jan: My second of three day’s of newspaper design teaching at Norwich University of the Arts. On the train I catch up on more Guardian reviews including one from GQ mag by Matt Kelly, editor of the New European. Interestingly the New European (which is produced in Norwich by Archant) used to be Berliner size and was printed on The Guardian‘s old Berliner press but recently went tabloid itself. Kelly says that since they made this switch their sales have increased by 15%! How you explain this, I don’t know, but maybe The Guardian will see a similar pick-up. Kelly points out that, “as trades go, that of newspaper designer is right up their with blacksmith…” and he’s not wrong – there aren’t many newspaper designers around, and there never has been, even in the days before digital. So why do we bother to teach newspaper design to graphic design students at Norwich? The answer is that it teaches them a huge amount in a short space of time; not just about using grids and fine typographic detail, but about picture use – commissioning, selection and editing – which plays such a big part in effective visual journalism and storytelling. Up in Norwich I chat with the students and other lecturers about the new look Guardian. It’s a thumbs-up all around, although there is a feeling that they could have been even bolder with their front page in order to attract a younger audience…

Wednesday 17 Jan: I notice that Wednesday’s Guardian has the masthead pushed to the top of the page with the teasers along the bottom – which demonstrates the front page versatility that Alex Breuer and Chris Clarke were after. I’m in London for the day and after a meeting in the City I wander through the Barbican to Clerkenwell to visit the MagCulture shop. I come away with a cluster of good-lookers: Mold magazine, the brilliant California Sunday mag, Pulp journal and The Modernist. I meet Simon Esterson (creative director of Eye magazine and creator of last year’s successful Sunday Times re-design) for a cup of tea and we chat about The Guardian. Simon declares the new look a success although he’s not so keen on the stacked masthead and, like the students at NUA, wonders whether the front page could have been a bit more adventurous. We are both keen to see how the bigger Saturday edition looks.

Friday 19 Jan: I’m back up in Norwich for my final day with the Design for Publishing students. Their task has been to re-design pages 1-3 of The Sunday Times (NUA have a longstanding tie in with the ST who take students on work experience each year). We’ve encouraged the students to think of themselves as typical readers that the ST want to attract i.e. a younger audience (who are used to consuming their news digitally through social media and who find a newspaper quite alien), to replace the older readers who are toppling off the end. The students have experimented with various new formats: tall and skinny, short and fat, A4 and tabloid as well. All of the young designers have embraced the complex challenges that newspaper design brings and have got to grips with the attention to typographic detail that is needed and that newspapers such as The Guardian value so highly and do so well. Some of the students’ design solutions from this year and 2016/2017 are shown below. The students now move on to produce related digital news design solutions for phone, tablet, laptop and desktop.



Sunday Times front page re-designs by NUA Design for Publishing students

Saturday 20 Jan: The weekend edition of The Guardian is a goodie. The black-on-white masthead has been replaced with a white version on a large pink panel highlighting the five ‘magazines’ now to be found inside and each at a new and different size. I’m especially taken with the clarity of design and squarer format of Feast, the new food supplement – lots of enticing pictures and delicious bands of white space. And the old Berliner book Review section has morphed into a stylish, stapled magazine that reminds me of Penguin’s brilliant The Happy Reader mag. Both Feast and Review are very well printed, a real pleasure to handle and consequently feel quite collectable. There’s a lively Travel section and the Weekend mag has had a tweak. The only disappointment for me is their listings mag, The Guide, which feels trashy and throwaway. But overall it’s a big success. It’s nice to see that The Guardian is still championing illustration and seeing its value as part of the storytelling process – I counted 19 separate illustrations in the Saturday edition as well as lots of useful infographics.

The Guardian’s weekend package

On Saturday evening I get my first peek of the re-designed Observer front page. Just like its sister title, The Observer has been reduced in size from Berliner to tabloid. I reserve judgement until I have a printed copy in my hand…

Sunday 19 Jan: We live on the Norfolk/Suffolk border and so our village shop sells both the Eastern Daily Press (from Norwich) and the East Anglian Daily Times (from Ipswich). These local daily papers are stacked side by side on the shop counter and I notice that they both carry the same story and use pretty much the same headlines and pictures (as well as similar designs¹). This is not unusual because they are owned and published by the same media company, Archant (where I worked for many years as creative director of their customer magazine division). The regional press have suffered from declining sales and closures even more so than the national press, so the sharing of content, resources and staff between titles has become common place in order to cut costs – the trouble is, they run the risk of diluting the finished product.

Regional newspapers, the EDP and the EADT share content and resources to keep costs down

The Observer has been re-designed by Creative Director Lynsey Irvine and her design team. Rather than just taking the design of the new look Guardian and slapping an Observer masthead across the top, they have gone for their own design which is understandable – they may be part of the same group but they are still completely different newspapers. So instead of using Guardian Headline (the Guardian’s new font that has replaced Guardian Egyptian – designed and supplied by Commercial Type), they have opted for a similar bold and sharply chiselled serif font called Sole² from the Italian font supplier Cast. The new design is a big improvement on the old. The previous somewhat clumsy mix of sans, slab and serif fonts have been replaced with Sole in a mixture of weights – so we have ballsy, bold headlines for Sport, a medium weight for news and a lighter, more refined weight for The New Review section. While the rest of The Observer has shrunk in size, the magazine has grown bigger, uses a jolly colour palette of reds, pinks and oranges and feels nicer to read and handle as opposed to its pinched predecessor. Today’s issue also comes with their Food Monthly mag and this one just happens to be their 200th issue and is packed full of great portrait photography (apart from a disappointing cover featuring a very ordinary picture of Nigella Lawson).

The new package from The Observer

So no more Berliner-sized Guardian or Observer. Readers and designers will mourn its unique size and the iconic Guardian design by Mark Porter, (much imitated by other newspapers¹ in just the same way that David Hillman’s previous design had been) but they will quickly welcome the smaller size and new design. Back in 2005 The Guardian group spent £50m on the new Berliner presses but for much of the day, those presses just sat idle. By moving to tabloid, they can outsource the print which should allow them to save millions of pounds per year.

Meanwhile the Sunday Times, and Telegraph, remain as broadsheets and while they continue to sell plenty of advertising (the ST is always packed full of adverts) they are unlikely to move to tabloid for fear of upsetting their existing but ageing and gradually declining readership. Maybe one day they’ll change to a smaller format and adopt a fresh new design that will attract younger readers back to print – or they may abandon print altogether, in favour of a digital future – but let’s hope not.

You can read more about the newspaper design project that 2nd year Design for Publishing students carry out at NUA in my article ‘Wrestling with a broadsheet’ that I wrote this time last year. And here you will find a very comprehensive review of The Guardian re-design including an interview with Alex Breuer and Chris Clarke that appeared in Creative Review.


¹Commercial Type’s Guardian Egyptian font was designed in 2004-2005 for the new Berliner-sized Guardian. Its strong slab-serif design was available in a good range of weights and soon became popular. It was adopted by other newspapers and publications including a large number of Archant regional papers such as the EDP and EADT as pictured above.

²The Sole typeface works very well in Pulp magazine (by Italian paper manufacturer Fedrigoni) designed by Holly Catford and Simon Esterson. You can see more of Pulp here





NYT mag masthead mash-up

Notebook: 12 January 2018 | MAGAZINES | PHOTOGRAPHY

Some of the best looking and most effective magazine covers are a bit like the best of the old print adverts with a ‘less is more’ approach that uses just a couple of simple ingredients: a strong image and a well written cover line. The designer and editor work as a closely knit team in much the same way that a designer and copywriter might do in an ad’ agency. Think back to the well known George Lois Esquire covers from the 1960s and compare them with the famous Volkswagen adverts from the same period, or a Nova cover with the Saatchi pregnant man a decade later, and you’ll see what I mean.


In the 1960s and 70s I enjoyed the advert-like covers of Drive, The Sunday Times and Nova magazines and in the 1980s it was Time Out mag that hooked me in with its simple but striking covers.


These days it’s the covers that pop up each week on Twitter from The New York Times Magazine that enthuse me. They are often simple but beautiful arrangements of type and picture that rarely ‘shout’ at you but always draw you in (below right or below bottom on phone).


The creative team behind The New York Times Magazine are Design Director Gail Bichler and Art Director Matt Willey together with Director of Photography Kathy Ryan and Editor Jack Silverstein (plus their designers, picture editors and journalists) and their collaboration is key to the magazine’s success. It needs Ryan and the picture desk to source and commission all the exceptional imagery, Silverstein and the sub-editors to write the powerful copy and headlines and then Bichler, Willey and the other designers to pull it all together and work their design magic. Pictures are often left to ‘do the talking’, with simple, pared back typography and smaller headlines (see above) helping to give the words almost more presence. (See my post The NYT mag – less is more from January last year).

The NYT Magazine is the supplement to the weekend newspaper and as such, it has the freedom for its covers to be more adventurous than a consumer magazine or newsstand title. They are able to use just one coverline to promote the cover story rather than having to flood the cover with numerous headlines to vie for a shopper’s attention. And they are free to run unconventional cover pictures and obliterate parts of the masthead. Of course many consumer magazines run for instance, cut-outs of a celebrity that mask a portion of their magazine’s title – and these mags can get away with this because the masthead is so well known and is still recognisable.

However, The NYT Magazine take this one step further and recent issues (as well as some older issues) have featured the headlines actually running over or across parts of the magazine’s title. This overlaying of headline over masthead is never done as a gimmick but is done to make full use of that rectangular area of paper allowing type to be pushed out to the edges of the page to open up delicious voids of space. In the careful hands of Bichler and Willey it all adds to the potency of the cover. Take a look at the examples below.


Week after week The NYT Magazine dazzles us with its covers which never look tired or repetitive. I look forward to seeing more pop up each week on Twitter throughout 2018.

You can enjoy looking at two archives of back issues. The first is from the NYT themselves and links through to their digital editions and goes back to 2013. The other is from coverjunkie and goes back even further.

Radio Times covers from the late 70s/early 80s

Notebook: 8 January 2018 | MAGAZINES | ILLUSTRATION

I’ve unearthed a bunch of old Radio Times covers that I saved from the late 1970s and early 1980s. I was a graphic design student at the time at Lanchester Polytechnic (Coventry) and then the Royal College of Art, and like many students, I would hang on to any odd bits of print graphics that I liked and tape them into a scrapbook. These simple but striking Radio Times covers (shown below) have stood the test of time well and are dated only by their white borders¹ and single cover line and picture².

The Radio Times was art directed at the time by David Driver (1969-1981) who transformed the magazine from being a rather worthy, old fashioned ‘journal’ into a captivating and beautifully designed publication. Driver had a real grasp for visual journalism and he commissioned some of the best illustrators, photographers and information designers of the day. The Radio Times had always had a history of making use of top quality black and white line illustration³ dotted within its listings pages but with the advent of better printing facilities and higher quality paper, David Driver was able to use beautiful 4-colour illustration (and photography) on the front cover and in other parts of the magazine.

My small collection is shown below and is just a tiny, tiny example of the huge body of work that Driver and his team produced week-in, week-out at the Radio Times. (A couple of them are from 1982-83 so would have been produced post David Driver – but they follow the same style)I’ve added in four classic Driver covers taken from the design blog of Mike Dempsey – and for a real insight into David Driver’s time at the Radio Times, I urge you to read Mike Dempsey’s excellent article from his Graphic Journey blog – which as you’ll see, created a lively debate comparing the design of the RT in the 1970s with how it looks today. David Driver went on to become head of Design at The Times newspaper and Mike Dempsey looks at that period of his career here.


Note the last couple of covers drawn by George Hardie. One is in black and white on newsprint: I believe that it was produced when there was a problem at the printworks – maybe a strike or a paper shortage. More on George Hardie here.

Covers by Peter Brookes/Nigel Holmes, Ralph Steadman, Frank Bellamy and Adrian George, all reproduced from Mike Dempsey’s Graphic Journey blog.


¹These days Radio Times covers are full bleed but I think I’m right in saying that back in the 1970s, the printing technology, and the fact that the covers were regionalised and printed independently to the main mag, meant that they were unable to print right up to the edges of the paper. However, the resulting white border helped give the RT its distinctive identity and set it apart from ITV’s TV Times.

²In the 1970s there were only two TV listings magazines: the Radio Times which carried the BBC listings and the TV Times which carried the ITV (and later Channel 4) listings – and newspapers were not allowed to print 7-day listings. Consequently these two magazines had a monopoly on the market and huge circulations as a result. However, in 1991 with the de-regulation of TV listings, many new listings magazines entered the market, and finding themselves up against this competition, the Radio Times abandoned its more stylish thought-provoking covers with a single cover line, in favour of celebrity driven covers with multi cover lines very much in the style of the other listings magazines.


Two recent, much more commercially driven covers from the last five years. The second of the two from 2016 is illustrated by RT stalwart Bill Sanderson. These days it is rare for the Radio Times to use a cover illustration apart from for their Christmas specials. I believe that the current art director is Shem Law.

³Since its earliest days in 1923, top artists have graced the pages of the Radio Times with their illustrations: Edward Ardizzone, Eric Fraser, Mervyn Peake, Ronald Searle, James Boswell and more recently in David Driver’s time: Frank Bellamy, Adrian George, Ralph Steadman, Peter Brookes, Tony Meeuwissen, Brian Grimwood, Bill Sanderson, George Hardie, Nigel Holmes and many others. The art of the Radio Times has been celebrated over the years and in 1981 the V&A hosted an exhibition of original illustration from 1923 to the then present day, and then in 2013 on the 90th anniversary of the magazine, the BBC produced a commemorative book. More here.

Exhibition catalogue from the V&A’s The Art of the Radio Times 1981. Cover illustration by Eric Fraser

Line drawings by Edward Ardizzone and James Boswell from mid 20th century editions

Part of the RT’s clean, distinctive look was down to its use of the bold sans-serif typeface Franklin Gothic for its main headlines and listings page programme titles. The magazine would have been a familiar ‘old friend’ to millions of readers – not just for its use of pictures but for its quiet typography which readers would only have been aware of on a subliminal level. For more on the Franklin Gothic font, take a look at my post on its use as the headline face in Architect’s Journal, Time Out and Campaign magazines here.

The TV programme times and titles were set in Franklin Gothic Heavy – a typeface that would have become a familiar but nameless friend to millions of Radio Times‘ readers


Stuffed in amongst my Radio Times covers I found four old adverts for Robinson’s Lemon Barley Water. I think they may have been Radio Times centre spreads, saved at the same time that I collected the covers. Each advert is a series of puzzles beautifully illustrated by Tony Meeuwissen and designed to keep the cold or flu sufferer occupied while they were convalescing in bed. I have no idea who the designer or advertising agency was but I believe that the typeface is ITC Bookman used with the popular ‘close-but-not-touching’ letter spacing of the day. Its a shame that they don’t make print ads like this any more!

Tony Meeuwissen was a popular choice with David Driver for Radio Times covers and a couple of Meeuwissen’s RT covers are pictured below together with some familiar book jackets and other illustrations.

Above: Meeuwissen’s Robinson’s Barley Water adverts from the late 1970s

Above: Three Meeuwissen book jackets that will be familiar to many older graphic designers


David Driver’s first Radio Times Christmas special cover illustrated by Meeuwissen in 1969 and his 1981 Christmas Cover

Tony Meeuwissen is still beavering away today and can be contacted through Folio Art Illustration Agency.




Notebook: 13 December 2018 | ILLUSTRATION

We are creatures of habit. Our routines give our lives order and help keep us sane in this mad world. My mother Nesta always had coffee at 11 and dinner on the table by 1pm and everyday she would make dad a bowl of Bird’s custard to have with his pudding. Mum made her custard with a large spoonful of syrup: this was a hangover from the war when sugar was rationed – but it made the best custard ever and dad and myself would fight over who could scrape out the bowl.

In about 2009 my niece, and Nesta’s granddaughter, Bridie Cheeseman, captured Nesta preparing her dinner, in a series of delicate paintings as part of a school art project. They are reproduced below.

Bridie now works as an illustrator and you can see more of her work at and on my blog.

In memory of my mother Nesta. 19.12.1923 – 13.12.2014

A History of Fish in the Home

Notebook: 4 November 2017 | ILLUSTRATION

I like fish. I like the way they look, I like the way they move and I like to eat them.

Nigel Bents likes fish too. He’s an artist and in 1982 he produced a lithograph entitled A History of Fish in the Home. His print is a ‘montage’ of collected 1950s images of fish from old magazines, books, other printed ephemera and ceramics. I loved his print (pictured below), bought a copy from him and it has hung on our kitchen wall for the last 35 years or so.

Nigel described the background and inspiration for his artwork and his continuing love for fishy things:

I love fish and I loved 1950’s homes, hence the 1951 Antelope Ernest Race chairs abounding in the print. I was in my mid twenties, doing a postgraduate fine art printmaking course at Central School of Art; I spent two happy years doing 8-colour offset lithographs, gradually building up the colours from lighter to darker. I got the images from design annuals, old mags, comics, MAD books and my own fish ceramic bits and bobs; the top half of the image is the dining room, the bottom the kitchen. I would photocopy all the images down to a similar size and then trace off the images onto kodatrace or tracing paper stencils, which were then exposed onto photo-sensitive litho plates. The lower image of Esther Williams, and the aproned figure drawn by another student at Central, Herbert Maly, are the only two adults in the image. I always liked the ‘hollywood happy couple’ images I grew up with. At the time I would have been obsessed with Doris Day, and frequented 50s clubs at the time to look for someone who looked like her.

I collected 50s stuff incessantly in those days. It’s so much easier – and cleaner – nowadays online. We spent years piecing together how it all linked together. Hindsight and the internet have made it much more simple now; you can be an expert without being obsessive. But I still love it all. Fish, the 1950s and Print.

Fish are just great. I love a kipper for breakfast and had skate and chips yesterday on the seafront at Shoreham. Best fish meals would be the ones in the Cap Mesquida restaurant in Menorca two years ago and my most memorable fish would be plaice in breadcrumbs with chips in D & H Evans with my mum and sister in the early 60s.

Nigel Bents is represented by the Peter Harrington Gallery in London and you can see more of Nigel’s work on their website. Nigel currently works as a senior lecturer running the first year of the BA Graphic Design at Chelsea College of Art & Design.

We have a collection of fishy items dotted around our house in Norfolk including a splendid fish weathervane created by my brother-in-law Robin Cheeseman. A small selection are shown below.

‘The Visual History of Type’ reviewed

Notebook: 2 October 2017 | BOOK REVIEW | TYPOGRAPHY

The Visual History of Type by Paul McNeil. Published by Laurence King 2017

Wow! What a fantastic book this is. The legendary Dutch designer and typographer Wim Crouwel has described it as, ‘amazing, overwhelming, stunning’ and ‘wonderful’ and he’s not wrong. It is an essential record of every major typeface created since the development of printing with moveable type in the 1450s and it is well designed, easy to navigate and beautiful to look at. I couldn’t put it down.

As a graphic design student in the late 1970s, my knowledge and understanding of type was built on what I gleaned from the Letraset catalogue, fusty old art college library books (apart from Sutton and Bertram’s rather good Atlas of Typeforms first published in 1968) and what I saw around me in print. These days, students can raid the internet for information but they will still welcome Paul McNeil’s book, which I’m sure will become the definitive reference guide for students, professionals and anyone else with an interest in type.

Rather than organise the typefaces into categories they have been arranged chronologically which puts them into their historical context and makes it much easier to follow how the design of type has developed. Each typeface is given a spread and a date top right reminds the reader of where they are in time. (In my head I’d always pictured Claude Garamond in a curly powdered wig and thought of his type as being a product of the 18th century but I was reminded that he cut his elegant Roman typeface 250 years earlier in about 1538!) Key information such as type style, designer, year of creation, foundry, country of origin and typefaces with similar characteristics, are all presented in a side panel together with four or so paragraphs of text explaining the history and development. Each spread is illustrated with the foundries’ or printers’ original type specimens – which are often beautiful artefacts in their own right such as the wonderful example shown below from c1585 which displays a typeface crafted by Hendrik van den Keere, a Flemish punch cutter who worked alongside Christophe Plantin. (Note the large x-height and sharp contrasting strokes, which are almost a taster of designs that were to follow over 200 years later with faces such as Fry’s Baskerville or Scotch Roman.)

Van Den Keere’s Roman c1570

Early chapters follow the development of book faces – there’s Gutenberg’s Bastarda (1455) designed to look like German blackletter scripts and Jenson (1470), the first of the Roman types that followed the style of Italian manuscripts. It was interesting to discover that when the Protestant Reformation swept across Germany in the 1500s, Protestant propaganda was deliberately printed using Fraktur – a blackletter type, whereas Catholic views were printed in Latin in Roman types – this must be one of the earliest examples of type design being used to help sell a message.

Caslon c1725

Fast forward to the 1800s and the book looks at the explosion in the use of display types designed to be used as headlines in big sizes on posters and advertising. There’s Thorne’s Fat Face (1806), Thorowgood’s Egyptian (1821) and Figgin’s Sans Serif (1832: the very first sans available in caps only) plus the quirky Italian (1821) and French Antique (1862) – some of the first display types to defy convention by making the thin strokes fat and the fat strokes thin*.

Italian 1821

In the same year that Vincent Figgins released his sans serif, William Thorowgood produced his own version – a condensed sans with lower case drawn in one size only. It was called Thorowgood’s Grotesque (1832), with the word ‘grotesque’ probably used to describe the boldness and perceived ugliness that some viewed it with.

Thorowgood’s Grotesque 1832

The German type foundries picked up the sans serif baton with the introduction of Breite Grotesk (1890) and Aksidenz Grotesk (1898) which came in a full range of weights and styles. In the USA Morris Fuller Benton developed a number of different sans serif types including good old Franklin Gothic in 1904 (which continues to be a bestseller today and has been a familiar part of my own life having grown up with The Radio Times, Time Out and Campaign magazines – all of which have made use of this enduring typeface – more here).

Franklin Gothic 1904

McNeil’s book is stuffed full of visual and historical goodies and looking through the 1900-1950s chapter I am reminded of the huge number of geometric sans serif faces that were produced in the first half of the 20th century and that captured this Modern age – Erbar Grotesk (1922), Futura (1927), Kabel (1927), Nobel (1929) and the lesser known Metro (1930) designed by William Dwiggins for Linotype in the USA. Metro‘s capital letters follow the fashion of the hard geometric sans but the lower case have a warmer and more human character that give a nod towards the ‘humanist’ sans that would make their appearance in the latter half of the 20th century such as Syntax (1969) and Frutiger (1976).

Metro 1930

(It would be fascinating to chart the development of the sans serif style by plotting an axis with ‘Geometric’ sans serifs at one end, ‘Humanist’ sans at the other and everything in between depending on their characteristics. So Futura and co. would go on one end, Frutiger at the other and then the likes of Metro, Gill, Avenir, Gotham and LL Brown dropped somewhere in the middle. If you then add in the ‘Humanist’ sans serifs on another axis you’d end up with a fascinating diagram – in fact I’m sure someone must have done this exercise already!).

I have a favourite chapter: 1950-1980. Here are the typefaces of my youth. Many of these faces have long since disappeared from use (phew…) as they literally followed the fashions of the day – there is Artone (1968) with its huge bell-bottomed serifs and the space age Data 70 (Letraset 1970).

Artone 1968

Letraset’s Data 70

I was disappointed, or maybe not, that the swirling 60s Art Nouveau revivalist typefaces Arnold Bocklin and Davida are not featured in the book! A couple of beauties from the 1960s that capture that swinging, optimistic Mad Men moment are the Italian designed Eurostyle (1962) and Olivetti’s Quadrato (1963) designed for their Valentine typewriter – a funky, lightweight, portable, personal accessory – the laptop of its day. Quadrato had a radical, squarer and more expanded letterform compared to traditional typewriter faces. Another 60s classic that originated in Italy was Forma. It was designed by Aldo Novarise in 1968 and was a beautiful variant of Helvetica but with a larger x-height and a warmer feel. It has enjoyed a recent revival in the Asian Tatler magazine.

Eurostyle 1962

Forma 1968

The New York based International Typeface Corporation (ITC) and their designers Herb Lublin, Ed Benguiat, Tony Stan and others, had a huge influence on graphic design in the 1970s and the book displays delicious type specimens from ITC’s U&lc magazine – there’s Avant Garde (1970), American Typewriter and Lublin Graph (1974), ITC Garamond (1975), ITC Eras (1976) (pictured below) and Benguiat Gothic (1979). Their photoset type allowed designers to have individual letters set very closely together and with tight leading and this became the fashion for headlines in magazines and print advertising.

ITC Eras 1976

Some of these 1970s typefaces, we loved to hate, but there’s no denying the mark that they made. One that has been much derided (but is absent from McNeil’s book) was the hugely popular Souvenir which was originally cut in 1914 but redesigned by Ed Benguiat and re-issued by ITC in 1971. (I remember a typography tutor at college trying to persuade me to use it for a project. I wisely opted for Gill Sans instead.)

Come the late 1980s and we’d thrown out our sheets of Letraset and photosetting was on the wane as desktop publishing raced in. Now we had digital typefaces designed specifically for use on the Apple Mac and many classic faces were digitised for use with the new technology. Font Bureau was one of the new digital type foundries that had sprung up and their type specimens, reproduced in the book, are some of the most attractive such as Belizio (1989) a Clarendon style slab serif (pictured below), and Miller (1997) a re-working of Scotch Roman (1812) that has since become a very popular newspaper font.

Belizio 1989

Until I read the book I hadn’t clocked that a large number of very attractive digital-age, serif ‘book’ faces have originated in the Netherlands and their finely crafted type specimens are a delight to pore over: FF Scala (1991), Collis and DTL Documenta (1993), Capitolium (1998) and Dolly (2001).

Scala 1991

Capitolium 1998

Other choice typefaces and spreads from this period are:

Paul Ellian’s Found Fount (1989) based on his collection of discarded objects found in the street

Suburban (1993), one of my favourite typefaces from Rudy Vanderlans and Zuzanna Licko. The Emigre foundry produced many innovative faces that fully embraced the new Macintosh technology. (Read more about the recent Emigre exhibition at the University of Reading here)

Farao (1998), a quirky Clarendon type slab serif from the Storm Type Foundry in the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic appears to have a tradition of intriguing and slightly odd type design and in the book you will find, for instance, Pressing Antiqua (1925), Tyfa (1960), and Storm Type’s Serapion (1998)

Paul McNeil’s final chapter 2000- brings us bang up-to-date with key typefaces from the new millennium – web fonts, re-cuts of old classics and new designs created for specific magazines and newspapers that have quickly become established classics in their own right and adopted by all (Gotham for GQ, Archer for Martha Stewart’s Living and Guardian Egyptian).

Archer 2003

Designers continue to develop the sans serif form in various ways. The powerful NB Grotesk (2008) from the Neubau design collective in Germany has been designed systematically, using an algorithmic process which gives it a raw strength combined with a slightly naive characteristic. LL Brown (2011) is a monoline geometric Swiss face very much in the style of Futura but with delicate tweaks here and there that inject it with a friendly warmth.

NB Grotesk 2008

LL Brown 2011

Other new sans serif faces carefully mix in slightly jarring characters that give the face an edginess – such as the squared off strokes in Euclid Flex (2012), the introduction of the odd archaic letterform in Doctrine (2013) or KLF Kade (2011), an innovative sans based on the lettering found on old Dutch sailing craft.

Doctrine 2013

KLF Kade 2011

The book runs to over 650 pages with 350 illustrations and it took Paul McNeil over seven years to complete. McNeil is a typographer and graphic designer and he works in partnership with Hamish Muir (formerly co-founder of 8vo) as MuirMcNeil. He also teaches as a Senior Lecturer in Typography at the London College of Communication and while working with students on a daily basis, he became increasingly aware of their comparative lack of knowledge of the history of type and this, together with the absence of any definitive publication on type history, prompted McNeil to research and write the book. The result is wonderful and if you love typefaces, you’ll love this book. If you know little about them but need to know more, then this is the book to invest in. It’s designed as a reference book to dip in and out of. I dipped in but I couldn’t put it down, read it from cover to cover and re-surfaced late in the day, wiser and inspired by the creative brilliance of the contents.

Further reading

An interview by FormFiftyFive with Paul McNeil

An article about Paul McNeil and Hamish Muir in Eye magazine no. 84. MuirMcNeil created the 8,000 different covers for the latest issue.

*Reverse contrast typefaces

As an aside, it is interesting to track, via the book, the development of those quirky typefaces that have a deliberate weird looking imbalance due to their horizontal strokes being thicker than the vertical strokes – the so called ‘reverse-contrast’ typefaces. So we can start with the display faces mentioned above – Italian and French Antique and then in 1890 we have the first(?) text face – Blackfriars Roman – that takes this path. In the 1960s there is Antique Olive and in 1973, the wacky display face Sintex. FF Balance in 1993 has echoes of Antique Olive, and Elephant from 1995 is full of clunky but charming irregularities. Typefaces with a horizontal stress are oddities and there are too many for Paul McNeil to cover in his book – others not mentioned include a jolly script  Crayonette from 1906, Signo  a contemporary sans from 2014 and Nordvesta recently released reverse-contrast serif in a range of weights from the Monokrom foundry in Norway.