Typography

The Atlantic magazine has been redesigned eight times over 151 years. And with that, there have been several changes in the typefaces used for specific elements of the magazine. The most recent evolution of the magazine uses a typeface that is inspired by 18th century Bodoni in oblique font. According to Pentagram, “it featured an italic A that was distinctive and perfectly captured the idiosyncratic character of the magazine.” The nameplate features the word “Atlantic” much larger than the word “the” to accentuate the importance of the title. It is also large enough to span the majority of the cover. The size difference points out the most important part of the page; this draws the reader’s eye to the title and the brand name. The size as well as the unique and identifiable typeface also allow it to be viewed from a distance on a newsstand.

The front cover offers two types of fonts: Mercury, a serif, and Titling Gothic, a sans serif. They are both used in different weights depending on the headline and the deck design that the designer was going for. The mixture of the two gives a fresh and younger feel to the magazine, but also reflects on its classic and lengthy history as a respected publication.

cover

The two fonts on the cover are part of the same family as those used in the rest of the publication as well, which gives consistency to it. Titles and most drop caps utilize Titling Gothic, seemingly because it is very strong and captures the attention of the reader quickly. The body copy is Mercury, and variety is added to the page with the use of the various fonts that the typeface offers. The use of the different fonts within the same family visually breaks up long-form text with pull quotes and facts to give the reader a pause from the vast amounts of text, especially considering well and feature stories. Each article begins with a large drop cap, and then subsequent graphs use smaller ones. This also shifts the visual load from heavy body text with variety in type size. Unfortunately, there is not much variety within the body copy other than the drop caps and quotes. There is no major experimentation with the typographic parameters, and the text is mainly set up in column format.

Usually, especially in the latest issues of the publication, only one type family is used per article, and it is the weight that gives the text visual variety.

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Occasionally, both typefaces are used in one article. It can have an interesting upbeat and fresh view on a classic look,

Good use:

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but sometimes the weight of the sans serif interferes with the elegance of the serif one, overpowering it and drowning the Mercury out.

Not as good use:

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Typographically, the most visually interesting feature in the January/February 2015 issue is the treatment of a pull quote on page 55: 

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The thickening gradient of the font as the lines go left to right is visually unique, and is a successful aesthetic for the reader.

Overall, the strongest aspect of typography is their choice of typefaces and the way they used them. The weakest point is their lack of willingness to experiment and think outside of the box in terms of position and size of text, particularly headlines and decks. However, the publication could have stuck to a more conservative typography to appeal to their older readers and adhere to their typographic norm. 

jayeharris