Font in Design

The Alembic identity

Identity, Consumer
From Communication Arts

When restaurateur Dave McLean described his project, design firm Nothing: Something: NY saw in his vision an atmosphere of gritty, bluesy cool; an intimate, rough-hewn yet sophisticated bar and small-plates restaurant. While researching old mercantile crates and register receipts, they found gorgeous accidental patterns among the many stamps, stickers and various ID ephemera: ambivalent placement, curious numbers, compartmentalized information, intersecting layered labels, torn forms. Wanting to create an identity that would interact with the customer over the duration of their experience, they built a variety of character-defining statements into the logo which are presented in stages using the various signs, menus, coasters and matchbooks. Although tuned-in to the accidents of design, especially those design collisions that occur over time, it was only when the studio added their distinctly playful combination of language and process that the work took on its uniquely modern sensibility.

Kevin Landwehr, creative director; Kevin Landwehr/Devin Becker, designers; Teddy Telles, design photography.

www.nothingsomethi ...

Font and Typeface

Back in the days when all typefaces were made of little pieces of metal that had to be arranged one character at a time in a big tray for use in a printing press, the word font referred to one specific style of type in a single size. 12-point Times New Roman and 72-point Times New Roman were two completely different fonts, one small, one large. Today, a font is a computer file stored on our computers. If you have the font Times New Roman you can make it most any size from a tiny 4-points to a huge 400-points. Font and typeface once meant two different things. Now they are interchangeable terms.In typography, serifs are semi-structural details on the ends of some of the strokes that make up letters and symbols. A typeface that has serifs is called a serif typeface (or seriffed typeface).

A typeface without serifs is called sans serif, from the French sans, meaning “without”. Some typography sources refer to sans-serif typefaces as "grotesque" or "Gothic," and serif types as "Roman."

Old Style

Old style or humanist typefaces date back to 1465, and are characterized by a diagonal stress (the thinnest parts of letters are at an angle rather than at the top and bottom), subtle differences between thick and thin lines (low line contrast), and excellent readability. Old style typefaces are reminiscent of the humanist calligraphy from which their forms were derived.

It has been said that the angled stressing of old style faces generates diagonal lock, which, when combined with their bracketed serifs creates detailed, positive word-pictures for ease of reading. However, this theory is mostly contradicted by the paraellel letterwise recognition model, which is widely accepted by cognitive psychologists who study reading.

Old style faces are sub-divided into Venetian and Aldine or Garalde. Examples of old style typefaces include Venetian, Garamond and Palatino. A sample of Garamond:


Transitional or baroque serif typefaces first appeared in the mid-18th century. They are among the most common, including such widespread typefaces as New Times Roman (below) and Baskerville. They are in between modern and old style, thus the name "transitional." Differences between thick and thin lines are more pronounced than they are in old style, but they are still less dramatic than they are in modern serif fonts.


Modern or Didone serif typefaces, which first emerged in the late 18th century, are characterized by extreme contrast between thick and thin lines. Modern typefaces have a vertical stress, long and fine serifs, with minimal brackets. Serifs tend to be very thin and vertical lines are very heavy. Most modern fonts are less readable than transitional or old style serif typefaces. Common examples include Bodoni (below), Century Schoolbook, and Computer Modern.