Field Notes | The New York Times Magazine | Week 4—Typography

The New York Times Magazine uses all custom typefaces, which were drawn by Henrik Kubel of A2-Type. The nameplate was redrawn in 2015 by legendary type designer Matthew Carter. The three main typefaces are called Proto Grotesk, NYT Mag Sans and NYT Mag Serif.

For body copy the magazine uses NYT Mag Serif, which is a serif typeface with minimal stroke variation for easy reading at long lengths. For most of the headlines and display type, including feature stories, they use an extremely heavy slab serif typeface. For some headlines for feature stories, they use NYT Mag Sans or Proto Grotesk. There are also certain instances when the magazine uses hand lettering rather than a fully rendered typeface. For cutlines, the magazine uses a combination of NYT Mag Sans and NYT Mag Serif that is italicized. For feature stories, the bylines are usually set in the same typeface as the display type.


For the covers, the type is usually set using varying scale and placement. It often is in a seemingly random, but purposeful pattern. This leaves the reader captivated, but trusting in the boldness of this approach. The thick, ultra-condensed slab serif is a dominating typeface that is used to add depth to the page. It immediately grabs the reader’s eye no matter where it’s placed. This allows the designers to get creative with the grid without losing a sense of hierarchy. For regular sections, the headline, cutline and body copy are all really consistent. The reader knows what to expect when turning the page. For the feature stories, the type treatments are all completely unique. In a sense, all rules go out the window as type is placed on its side and becomes as much a part of the visual identity of the package as the art itself.

NYT Mag Sans is clean and legible, but can be playful based on the treatment. When one of the feature stories used this as the typeface, it completely altered the vibe based on the way it was set. NYT Mag Serif is reliable, legible and gives a sense of comfort. There is nothing crazy about this typeface, but it is beautiful and easy to read. Finally, there is the thick, condensed slab serif. This is the typeface I have qualms with because it is really hard to read against harsh colors like red because the counters are almost completely lost. This leads to a feeling of an unnecessarily crowded typeset. I think there should be variations in this typeface that accounts for more ink to bleed because right now, there are times it looks like a single huge line of black.