Brianna Williams – Field Notes: Typography & Language


ESSENCE uses two typefaces inside the magazine, and on the cover, besides the logo typeface. For headlines, pull quotes and display copy, they use a typeface called, Lust. For body copy, pull quotes (too) and other text, they use a typeface called, Gotham, which has an extensive font family of bold, italics, thin, medium, etc.

The typeface Lust is a cursive typeface with serifs. It suggests elegance, but with a modern flair. It’s not a stuffy type of cursive typeface; it’s fresher and more fun. Gotham is a clean, sans serif typeface that’s rounder and a bit wider than your traditional Helvetica or Arial. It says ‘I’m sophisticated and fresh.’

ESSENCE uses the different weights of Gotham to show hierarchy of importance of text. Bold with a higher point number is used to show what to look at first, and thin in a smaller point number is to show what to look at last. The magazine uses typefaces as a design element (sometimes), but mostly uses it to complement the images in the magazine.


ESSENCE conveys a tone of the intimate, conversational black “girlfriend.” Their slogan is “fierce, fun and fabulous,” which I think translates in to the language. The language is sassy, fun and down-to-earth.

Headlines are usually short and usually play off something that the story is about. For the cover stories, the headlines usually play off something about the cover star, or what they’re doing, such as starring in a new movie. The decks are usually around one to two sentences for shorter stories, and three for long features. Decks are usually more straightforward when summarizing more about the story. The headline is really where the playful language comes in. Pull quotes are never attributed, unless more than one person is being interviewed. They are usually the quotes that stand out from what the interviewee said, and they usually are insightful or attitude driven.

Bylines and credit lines are straightforward and just state who the story is written by, pictures styled by, and who the photos are by. Department names are usually straightforward: beauty, health, etc.