Wired – Typography

Wired very much has the reputation for combining modern and classic design, and a lot of it is a result of its typography. After undergoing a redesign in 2013 under former design director Claudia de Almeida, Wired began writing its heads in a sleek serif typeface called Ambroise that uses thick and thin strokes, while its decks (which are right below them) are in the sans serif typeface Tungsten that complements the serif. The letters of Tungsten have rounded square edges, which, to me, makes it look like a novelty typeface, but not very blatantly. Square letters, in general, are also very tech-y, which definitely fits in with the identity of Wired as a magazine. The serif typeface used for the body copy is called Exchange and was originally designed for The Wall Street Journal. The juxtaposition of the serif and sans serif really does enforce Wired’s brand of new, but classic.

The heads and decks are also all the same size across the Alpha section, which contains the FOB stories. (Literally, all the same size.) I like the typeface and size style methods Wired uses because it strengthens the identity of a section as a whole and allows for consistency, though with different designs.

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I also find it interesting that its body copy is all in serif, but in the Alpha articles, the few words are in a small caps serif typeface. This is interesting to me because most magazines — at least, from what I’ve noticed — either won’t employ any techniques to indicate the start of an article, or they will use a drop cap, which is definitely a lot more common. I think this is interesting because it’s a more subtle way of letting the reader know where to look first, while at the same time not being so “in-your-face” about it. It serves its purpose.

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The cutlines and sidebars, pretty much anything that is not normal body copy, all use a sans serif typeface that is different from the deck typeface in the sense that it looks more like the traditional sans serif. Since this type of copy is smaller, is not of a normal narratice structure and includes blurbs, lists, or labels, it makes sense to have it be cleaner so that it’s easier the reader to look through.

However, this is different for some of the more serious and longer feature stories. In some cases, pull quotes will stick to the serif typeface instead of going to sans serif. I think this works because it carries a different tone from san serif, more of a sophisticated but not narcissistic.

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One of my favorite parts about Wired is the innovative ways the magazine uses typography in its design and incorporating it with other elements of art. In this one instance, Wired decided to play with typography on an illustration, which in theory is a very good idea. But in this particular case on a story called “War of the Words,” the word “War” is played up huge and is right in the center of the illustration.

On screen, this probably looks amazing and works well. But what the editors may have forgotten is that the magazine centerfold makes it so that sometimes you can’t see all the way to where the two pages connect. It kind of sucks because in theory it was such an interesting and creative way to use typography, but forgetting to think about how it would really look on print really affects the way a reader will see the story’s design, because in this case, you can barely even see the letter “a.” And because Ambroise is already such a stylized typeface, the letter “w” doesn’t even look like a “w” at first. Only until you see the silhouette of the letter “r” all the way to the right will you realize that this is meant to spell “war.”

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