Field Notes Week 4: Typography

The Los Angeles Times is a traditional newspaper that, aesthetically, may be compared to the New York Times. With a traditional newspaper style often comes a serif typeface used throughout the publication and in this case, it’s completely true. As far as typography goes, this Los Angeles Times entry will not be too exciting. Throughout the newspaper’s various typographical elements, no sans serif typeface is used anywhere. Every single word written in the print product is a simple serif typeface—body copy, headlines, captions, display text, jump and continuation lines—everything. The only type that doesn’t appear to be a traditional serif typeface is the nameplate, which is in an Old English typeface spread out across the top.

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Body Copy, Bylines, some Display Type and Captions

The body copy, captions and some display type are all the same typeface. I wasn’t able to identify this typeface’s name but it’s comparable to a wider Times New Roman and is tightly kerned and leaded (this is true for captions too). Deks are equally as kerned but have greater leading—the lines breath a bit more than the body copy. As far as body copy, this is a strong choice for this type of newspaper that has a broad audience. It’s simple, predictable, aids readability and keeps one’s eye moving along the print product quickly and efficiently. There are no distractions.

The bylines are in small caps but appear to be in the same type as the rest of the body copy. All continuation lines, jump lines and captions are in this exact typeface. The continuation lines are in regular font, though in some places they’re bolded; I can’t pick up on a definite pattern but smaller stories that jump seem to have the bolded continuation line. The first word or two of the captions are upper case and bolded to cue the reader of the initial caption details.

The photo credit lines are in small caps with the “Los Angeles Times” title next to it; both elements are in the same type as the rest of these elements are in a “regular” font (not bolded). It’s difficult to discern any differences in these elements because the variations are so slight. These element styles are repeated throughout the paper, creating patterns and dependable visual cues. The most significant visual cues are not the typefaces themselves but the size the type is in. The headlines are largest followed by a dek roughly half the size. The bylines, body copy and captions are all around the same size, creating a visual rhythm that readers understand.

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Headlines, Deks and some Display Copy

All headlines appear to be a slightly different serif than the body copy, but not overwhelmingly different. The headlines and deks are the same typefaces and seem to be Times New Roman (a normal non-wide version) or something very similar. They’re never bolded or italic, always normal. This typeface (headlines and deks) is taller and “leaner” than the body copy. Definite guidelines are evident as I look through issues. The top headline is always the largest and it descends from there. The middle headline(s) shrink and the bottom headlines shrink even more. Each headline range, if you will, seems to be reduced by about a third from the largest size. Promo headlines look identical to the body copy except are bolded in medium-size type.

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The combination of an Old English nameplate and an entirely serif-typed newspaper promotes a historic feeling of traditionalism, seriousness and trust, one might even say. A strictly serif-typed product says, “we’re not messing around.” Newspaper’s roots are in the earliest days of newsprint when life was simple and news didn’t spread until the papers were delivered to people’s doorsteps. It was manually produced, coming in fresh black and white ink. There’s a connotation residing in this appearance of a newspaper; an old-fashioned, nonconforming, straight news reporting publication that can be trusted because it remains rooted in traditionalism. This piece of history connects to these kinds of newspapers now that many newspapers are modernizing and deviating from what newspapers used to look like.

colleenlowery