Field Notes: Typography

The Washington Post (WP) uses various typefaces for different parts and sections of the publication.

Headlines use a custom typeface of Postoni. This is a variant of Bodoni. The WP also uses this typeface for some drop caps. For some of the decks, Postoni is used in a italicized form.

Captions use a bolded Postoni typeface. This connects the captions to the headlines.

The WP does a good job helping readers distinguish more important pieces of the publication from less important ones. Headlines use a typeface that grabs the readers attention. Because of its boldness and its size, the reader is able to establish that these are very important pieces of the “article puzzle.” Captions for pictures use the same typeface as the headlines and this connects the two. The WP makes sure headlines are not missed. They stand out from everything else on the page. It is easy for the readers’ eyes to go from headline to headline because of the size and weight of the letters. Captions are also another part that sticks out to the readers.

Body copy in The WP uses a typeface known as Miller Daily Three.

Bylines also use this Miller Daily Three typeface, but bylines are in small caps and are much bolder than the body copy.

The body copy for The WP, mostly in the main section, uses a very “newsy” typeface. This Miller Daily Three typeface is very classic and gives the newspaper a serious look. This typeface contributes to the reputation of the publication. The articles are given a little more credibility, in a sense, because the typeface is not too ornamented or decorated. In the readers’ minds, the typeface allows the article to be read easily. A more embellished type may detour from this ease of read.

Section flags use a variation of the Postoni typeface. Italic Postoni and Postoni Titling are used for these flags.

Section heads use a typeface of Big Figgins.

For section heads, The WP gets a little more creative. The Big Figgins typeface uses a “fancier” serif font. The serifs are longer and more drawn out. Some of the letters have more curves and make the typeface “more fun” than the classic typeface used in the body copy. Also, the weight is heavier in this typeface. Sections flags stand out more. This allows readers to know exactly what they are reading and what the subject of the articles will be about. The typeface used for the section titles gives a sense of less serious information. Compared to articles on politics and world news, articles about style and critic reviews are less important. By using a more upbeat and less classic typeface, The WP shows this.

Credit lines, as well as promos and body copy in various special sections use a typeface of ITC Franklin.

Also with the promos and some of the body copy in special sections, a san-serif typeface is used. ITC Franklin gives a sense of less serious information. The typeface is lighter in weight and uses thin characters. This is a cue to readers that the information is less serious and is sort of a break from the more “newsy” articles in the rest of the publication.

Overall the typefaces used in The WP serve as visual cues to readers. Serious/Newsy articles use more serious/classic typefaces, while less important articles use typefaces that are more “fun” and less stern. The publication establishes hierarchy through the use of typefaces. By distingusihing this among the various articles and stories, The WP provides readers with news and information of all kinds, and it is easy for the reader to tell the difference.

[source: New Faces In Washington by Kent Law]