Newspapers offer the designer a great example of how to use text efficiently and without fuss. One of the most important elements of newspaper design is typeface selection. How do newspapers use typefaces and how can you learn from them?
While the tone, style and content of newspapers can vary from title to title, the typographical principles used generally remain the same. Whether it's a quality broadsheet or a mass-market tabloid, titles will generally only use one or two typefaces for their entire range of content, be it news, sport, lifestyle articles, reviews or even the horoscope. If you're designing a newspaper, think carefully about your typography choices. Choosing a font family is the most important stylistic choice you can make. Text, after all, is the main focus of the newspaper.
Typefaces for body text
As this will make up the bulk of the newspaper, it's important to choose something that is clear and legible at small sizes. Serif fonts are the best choice for body copy, as they are easy to read at small sizes and in large chunks.
It's no accident that Times New Roman is often the default font in print design software. It makes large passages of text easy to read, but can look a little dowdy when used in headlines and boxouts.
Century Old Style also has a classic newspaper feel, but is perhaps a little less ubiquitous than Times. While not installed as standard in Windows, it is easily available from many type foundries.
Typefaces for headlines
Newspapers rely on headlines to catch readers' attention and to guide them around the paper. This doesn't mean that you should choose something flashy. Look for something strong and versatile, that will enhance the banner text rather than detract from it.
Franklin Gothic is a strong, sans-serif typeface that has a variety of weights installed by default with Windows. The rounded curves and strong letter forms make it an ideal choice for a tabloid-style newspaper.
While broadsheets often use one typeface exclusively, it's worth considering a specialist serif headline font such as Palatino. While it is a flexible typeface with a variety of uses, it's wide character width can create white-space 'rivers' in body copy and may suit your needs for a classic, authoritative headline typeface.
While newspaper design has it's well-established conventions, there's nothing to say that you can't experiment a little. If you're looking for a more contemporary feel, try less obvious typefaces. Slab fonts such as Rockwell can lend weight to your headlines, while modern typefaces like Decima can give a contemporary edge to the classic newspaper format.
As with all print design, it's best to see your choices on paper before making a commitment. Print a variety of text sizes and weights in their proper context before settling on a type strategy. Remember that clarity and legibility are paramount. When in doubt, go with what's easy to read. Newspapers are about relating information to the reader – not hiding it behind snazzy design tricks.