Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Study In Serifs: Part 2

Recently I set some type for an inscription that was to be sandblasted into limestone.

The client was not conversant with typeface nomenclature, but told me that the setting supplied by the landscape architect was too “heavy and clunky.” 

On screen the PDF file looked all right, but when I magnified the type to its correct size (3-inch cap height) I could see that the serifs were squared off and the strokes of the characters too uniform.

The real problem here is that the drawing for the typeface was not optimized for display at extremely large sizes. Consequently the serifs, which at text size, seem sharp, are blunt at the large size. And the vertical strokes, which at text size seem crisp, are more like parallel bars at the larger size.

The concept of typeface families is a way of meliorating this problem, where the Thin, Extra Light and Light versions are intended for large display work. Unfortunately there was no adequate display version available.

I ended up suggesting Centaur as a replacement, as I thought that Centaur maintained the correct balance, between stressed strokes and bracketed serifs. Pictured below is the Centaur overlaid the supplied sample: Minion Pro.

An obvious choice might have been Trajan, but I was disinclined as that has become as ubiquitous as Palatino became in the 80s. Nevertheless I did review it, and thought that in this instance, the Centaur was superior.

Of course, my choice may not be a definitive solution. So I invite others to peruse their typeface collection and offer an alternative*.

*By the way, there is a difference between alternative and choice. And as a matter of fact I happen to have a poem on the subject.