Assignment 4 – Show Me Magazine Cover and Article

In addition to designing a font for use on the cover of a magazine called type the brief for this assignment was to write a short article for the magazine using a range of typefaces, with typographical illustrations, drawing on all I had learnt from this section of the course. The article needed to include sections on

  • What makes a typeface interesting
  • How a typeface is constructed
  • Question Marks

I then needed to produce a mock up of the magazine cover to show where and how the title font would appear along with other cover elements and produce a magazine article that is attractive and interesting enough for someone to want to pick it up to read.

I started by researching and making notes on some possible ideas to include in the article:

I then wrote a draft of my article.

How is a typeface constructed?

When we think about the construction of a typeface we can consider both the process of designing and developing a new font and also the specific physical characteristics and structures which form each of the glyphs.

Typeface design has been described as,

“the creation of a wonderful collection of letters, but not, as a collection of wonderful letters”.

Typefaces are generally constructed so that each glyph works successfully with every other and a designer will often begin with defining the form of the curves, the thickness of the stems and the structure of the underlying strokes that will form the skeleton of a typeface.

A typeface’s construction is influenced by the history of the language upon which it is based. The Latin alphabet is constructed primarily from geometric curves and straight lines wheras some arabic typefaces are constructed out of more continuous ‘squiggle’ strokes. The western typefaces are formed of individual letters which represent sounds whereas Eastern typography needs to allow for each character to have a unique meaning.

The Roman Inscription Capitals which formed the ancient Roman calligraphic script used to write Latin have a geometric construction with a square base which continues to influence the style of many modern western typeface capital letters.

The specific design of the letters of an alphabet, including the serif shape, the thickness, contrast and weight of the stroke, and the lengths of the descenders and ascenders can dramatically affect the overall impression and tone of the completed typeface. These are all things that need to be considered by the designer in the construction process so that the typeface developed is suitable for the use intended.

The process of constructing a modern digital typeface is generally carried out in two main stages. The first is the design phase and is, more often than not, still carried out on paper using ink. It is here that the designer will decide and develop the personality of the typeface and make important initial decisions about the anatomy of the typeface. A prototype of the typeface is worked on and specific letters are developed such as the capital ‘H’ and ‘O’ and the lowercase ‘n’, ‘p’, ‘d’, and ‘o’ to define the proportions of the font and set standards for the round and straight parts of the ascenders and decenders.

The second stage is digitising the design and composing databases of all the individual glyphs. Decisions about letter spacing and kerning are made once vector versions of the glyphs have been drawn.

What makes a typeface interesting?

What makes a typeface interesting is a complicated question to answer because what is of interest is very subjective to different people and in different contexts.

The Oxford dictionary definition of interesting is something “arousing curiosity or interest; holding or catching the attention” and typography is certainly seen plentifully throughout the design world in eye-catching, provovative, playful and imaginative ways.

The interest of a typeface is largely tied up in its aesthetics and the anatomical elements chosen in the construction process are a major part of this. The way that the letters of a typeface terminate is visually interesting and leads us to classify alphabet based fonts into two categories – serif and sans serif. Serif typefaces are often considered to be more traditional looking than the modern sans serifs.

In addition to the shape of the terminals and serifs the weight and style of fonts is of interest as it defines design variations within a typeface. The heaviness of each character determines the typeface’s weight, common versions being ‘light’, ‘book’, ‘demi’ and ‘bold’ and the styles such as ‘italic’, ‘underline’ and ‘subscript’ significantly affect its appearance.

The mood and purpose of a piece of typography can generate interest for it. The personality of the typeface defines our experience and passion for it and plays an important role in making text communications more effective, stimulating and persuasive. A unique typeface can set the personality of a entire brand or piece of written communication. It is interesting how a collection of strokes can envoke certain emotions and associations. The psychologist Aric Sigmen reported that,

“The choice of font serves as a form of social coding, classifying its users as, for example, garish and flamboyant versus understated and refined.”

Many designers use decoration to add interest to a typeface – words, sentences or individual letters can be adorned with outline, shadows, pictures and texture to enhance their visual interest. The development of specific decorative fonts became popular in the 19th century and are often artistic and eye-catching in style.

Question Marks 

The Question Mark is a universally recognised symbol with mysterious origins. It is one of the most familiar punctuation marks, in both western and arabic languages, and is used to indicate a question or to express doubt or uncertainty about something.

There is an Ancient Egypian myth pertaining to the origin of the question mark which relates to the mythical cat Bastet, the goddess of the home and its protector. It is said that when the cat is curious, the position of its tail looks like a question mark and when its angry it straightens to an exclamation mark.

The second tale of the question mark’s origin hails from Rome where it is suggested that it originated from the Latin word qvaestio, meaning question. This word was reportedly abbreviated to qo and eventually, a capital “Q” was written over the “o”, and it formed one letter which eventually morphed into the modern day symbol.

In reality, punctuation in written text wasn’t widely used until the middle ages when Latin texts started to spread all over Europe. Prior to this, speech was a much more popular way of spreading information and punctuation was unnecessary.

An English Scholor named Alcuin of York who lived in France in the 8th century created the punctus interrogativus to signal inflection at the end of a clause and his symbol was then chosen to represent the interrogative by scholors in Paris in the 13th century when they decided to standardise punctuation. By this time it had been inverted and had morphed into what we would today recognise as the question mark.

My article turned out to be quite comprehensive so I decided that I would use a two-page spread layout. I wanted to include an illustration which visually explained some of the concepts I had introduced in the article and decided to design the title of the page to include details of typeface anatomy.

Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 09.25.34

I split the layout of the page into three parts, one for each section of the article, and chose a colour scheme of three colours which would simultaneously define and unify the individual elements. My choice of colours were quite playful and bold as I want them to be visually stimulating and attract attention to the article. I designed a background image for the section of the article called ‘What makes a typeface interesting’ in Illustrator using letters from a variety of typefaces in my computer’s font library.

Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 09.26.23.png

I chose the typeface ‘Avenir’ and used two fonts for my headings and body text of the article. The heading is Avenir Heavy set at 30pt type and 32pt leading. The body text is Avenir Book set at 10pt type and 12pt leading. I chose Avenir as I wanted a modern looking sans serif typeface. In drawing the typeface the designer Adrian Frutiger looked to both the past and the future for inspiration. His goal was to reinterpret the geometric sans serif designs of the early part of the 20th century in a typeface that would portend aesthetics of the 21st century. This appealed to me for this project as the article was focussing on typefaces which is a topic with a long tradition and history but also a dynamic and progressive presence in the future.

When I put all the elements of my page together I felt the final design was attractive and I hoped would engage the audience to read articles.

Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 09.37.48

Before starting work on the design for the cover of the magazine I collected a few examples of existing magazines which either were about typography or used typography on their covers.

I wanted the design of my cover to reflect the theme of construction that runs through both the font I have designed for the title and also the article above. I had an idea of incorporating the image of children’s alphabet construction blocks. I also found a great image on Pinterest of some metal typeface blocks and some typesetting tools that I thought could work well with the design.

I then developed some of my ideas further in Illustrator

I wasn’t entirely convinced with these three. I liked the simplicity of the first design but was concerned it looked amateurish with the white background. I couldn’t think of a suitable background colour that would work well with all the different colours of the alphabet blocks. I really liked the magnifying glass in the second design but I didn’t feel that it gave the right overall impression of what the magazine was about. It felt a bit more like it could have been the cover of a woodworking magazine.

I did a further sketch of how I could possibly combine some of the stronger elements of my first ideas into a new layout.


I chose to use the same colours on the cover of the magazine as in the article. I layered a textured paper pattern behind the teal background colour to add some depth to the design and tie in with the themes of type and printing. In addition to my own font design I also used the Avenir typeface. The photo I have used could be replaced with any suitable image relating to typesetting. My final design is

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 15.53.20


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