Post-Pagination Era News Fonts p. 76

By: MARK FITZGERALD TWO DECADES after computer front-end systems opened up a whole new world of typefaces, newspapers find themselves increasingly frustrated about font choices: Like your mother's refrigerator, there's a lot of food ? but nothing to eat.
"There's a definite lack of good text fonts out there for the newspaper industry," said Lucy LaCava, a Montreal-based newspaper design consultant.
One big problem has been that fonts designed for metal or for laser often simply do not seem right when run on offset-printed newspapers, especially papers that are only incompletely paginated.
Newspaper designers find themselves continually required to tweak fonts to get acceptable readability from such popular typefaces as Times Roman.
"Fonts designed for books or computers have fit problems," said Sam Berlow of the Boston-based Font Bureau. "There are problems with smudging. There might be some rounds that are no so round."
After facing this problem time and again, David Berlow of the Font Bureau and newspaper designer Roger Black approached the Poynter Institute about designing a new font specifically for the needs of newspapers.
The result is the Poynter Fonts, a series of text fonts that borrow from 16th century Dutch typefaces and solve a late 20th century problem.
The key to the Poynter Font solution: Fonts come in four weights ? but while the weights change, the widths do not. As a result, a paper printing directly to negatives for advance pages can use one weight of the font, while using a lighter version for pages that are still pasted up, which typically increases dot gain and therefore the weight of the type.
And since all the weights have the same character width, text could be moved from section to section regardless of the method used to prepare negatives.
That was an immediate attraction to the Ottawa (Ontario) Citizen, which was searching for a new font as part of its redesign.
"Having four different weights with one width lets us customize which way we wanted a page to look," said Carl Neustaedter, the Citizen's director of design.
The Citizen had been using the Nimrod font since narrowing its web width more than a year ago.
"It's an excellent font, but we were, in my opinion anyway, printing it too light," Neustaedter said. "The Poynter Font with a heavier weight holds up much better."
Southam, the Citizen's owner, sees another potential for the Poynter Fonts, he added.
"We're hoping to do a lot of page-sharing in the chain, and since no paper's reproduction system is exactly the same, one paper could use weight number 2 and we could use weight number 3 and it would look uniform," Neustaedter said.
The Citizen adopted the Poynter Fonts in its redesign while the fonts were still in beta testing. Even now, the paper is running agate fonts that still have not shipped, Neustaedter said. (Poynter Gothic Agate is to ship by the end of this month, while display fonts are expected to be complete in December.)
Similarly, the Detroit News adopted Poynter Fonts in the redesign it initiated as it went to full pagination in May.
The paper's previous font, New Century Schoolbook, was "limited" and had a heavy look on the page, said Chris Kozlowski, assistant managing editor for graphic and design.
"It's been a dramatic change," Kozlowski said of the Poynter Fonts. "It's reduced the density of the pages so the content stands out."
What reader reaction the paper has received is mostly split, he said. Of the approximately 65 calls, about 25 did not like it and 20 did. The rest had reproduction complaints that were not really related to the typeface.
One woman, for instance, complained the classified ads were harder to read. Those fonts, however, have not yet been changed.
Kozlowski and other graphics people are big fans of the font's look.
"It's a very interesting looking face," he said.
Consultant LaCava ? who used Poynter Fonts on the redesigns of two Southam papers, the Citizen and the Vancouver Sun, calls it "a beautifully cut font
. . . with classic qualities."
In fact, she suggested, it's too good for some papers: "I don't see it being used for all Southam papers, because it has a very elegant look that would not be appropriate for all markets."
Font Bureau type designer Tobias Frere-Jones borrowed the proportions of the typeface from the work of 16th century Dutch printer Hendrik van den Keere, whose work is preserved in a series of steel punches in an Antwerp, Belgium, museum.
These typefaces are considered ancestors of Times Roman, the popular newspaper, magazine and book face.
Poynter Fonts are jointly marketed by the Poynter Institute and the Font Bureau, 175 Newbury Street, Boston, Mass. 02116-2835 (phone: 617/423-8770). The firm maintains a Web site at
?( Front pages of the Detroit News, before redesign (left) and after, using the new Poynter Fonts) [Photo & Caption]

?( E&P Web Site:
?(copyaright: Editor & Publisher June 21, 1997)


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