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Favorite Fonts
by Allan Haley

Osborne’s typeface choices for Kettle Brand chip packaging were about giving the design personality. “Our goals were to simplify the package’s main display panel to as few words as possible, emphasizing the chip flavor name and enhancing shelf presence. We did this by using an array of full-bleed, solid color blocks for Kettle’s wide variety of chip flavors. The redesign’s success greatly depended on the choice of display typeface. We used Typeika, an easy to read casual serif in upper- and lowercase, which is slightly munched up—perfect for a bag of potato chips!”

Adams, however, cautions about using distinctive typefaces, “a typeface is like a hair style. If you stay with something classic and simple, you will look good. If you go down the path of trendy, groovy or extreme, you will be embarrassed when you see photos years later.”

Most designers have the classics firmly embedded in their hearts and their hard drives, but what motivates the purchase of new designs? Several factors, which often include the design of the numerals.

Werner often buys out of ennui or exploration. “It’s not unusual for me to license a new font often out of boredom with my current library of fonts. I recently licensed several new ones just because they had interesting numerals. The search for the perfect condensed and extended san serif fonts also entices me to license a new font with high hopes that it will be ‘The Answer.’ I’m still looking.”

Werner just completed the design of a children’s book in which the numbers play an important design role. “We wanted to utilize a broad variety of numerals that would express a particular fact about an insect and could be visually incorporated into the illustration of it,” she recalls. “In addition to facts about insects involving copious numbers, our goal was to demonstrate to young readers that a 2 is always a 2, no matter what typeface it is set in. In our research, we came to the conclusion that some typeface designers must become bored by the time they get to the numerals—the designs often look generic, as if they were simply picked up from another font. Of course there are exceptions, such as the new Eames font by House Industries. It’s an essential typeface if you like numerals.”

Adams also believes in the power of numbers. “We recently completed a magazine for Cedars-Sinai and used Firmin Didot as the display face for one spread. It’s such a beautiful design that it can stand alone and have power. On another spread, we used a redrawing of a Victorian typeface for the numerals 24. This decorative font adds tradition and optimism.”

Rouemy tends to be cautious in her choice of typefaces, although seductive numerals can also easily push her over the edge. “When a project calls for a typeface that I don’t have, I will hesitate, and hesitate some more, but I eventually purchase it. Sometimes I license a font because I have fallen in love with the design, and intend to make good on my investment in the future. Presently, I’m in the process of licensing a font from Germany. (Payment is a little difficult because the foundry does not accept credit cards and it costs an additional $45 for a wire transfer.) But I have to have that font, because its numbers are beauteous. And one day soon, I know I will design something killer using them.”

A recently designed self-promotion piece is a perfect example of Rouemy’s choosing fonts based on specific characters. “It all started with the quirky ‘k’ in Baroque Text,” she explains. “My goal was to create something memorable—something elegant yet playful, say something passionate yet light-hearted and showcase my obsession with type. That ‘k’ became the foundation of the design. Combining eight fonts in a 3" X 8" rectangle was no easy feat. I aimed to create a striking texture, and the mix of mostly blackletter fonts and weave of letterforms allowed me to do so. Baroque Text, Ambroise Std, a slightly modified Neue Fraktur Extra-bold, Semilla, a modified Kanzlei, Didot Display Light, Beaufort Extended Heavy and a modified leaf detail from Druckschrift-Initialen adorns the page. I also created the rules with swash elements from Baroque Text.”

Favorites are almost always subjective. The preferred typefaces of an 18th-century printer, politician and inventor; or a 20th-century writer, or even a handful of 21st-century, award-winning designers may or may not be the right choices for any given project. The thinking behind the graphic designers’ selections, however, is valuable advice. These are far more important to consider than whether Garamond or National is their typeface of choice—and each of them would make the same point. CA Haley
Allan Haley ( is a storyteller and a consultant with expertise in fonts, font technology, type and typographic communication. He held the position of director of words and letters at Monotype for fifteen years and has six books and hundreds of articles to his credit. He is a past president of the Type Directors Club and was executive vice president of International Typeface Corporation.