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Help & FAQ · Fonts

What is the Readability Series?

For more than a decade, the Readability Series of typefaces has been part of Font Bureau’s commitment to the needs of our clients and a response to emerging trends and print technologies. Now, with another wave of technological change and evolving trends, not just in print media, but also online typography and mobile web use, it makes sense for the typefaces of the Readability Series to migrate to our Retail Library for the same licensing options and affordable price.

From Readability to Retail

The new Retail versions are not substantially changed from the original versions in the Readability Library, and character sets may vary between families; but we’ve taken advantage of the OpenType format to merge small capitals and alternate figure styles and improve access to stylistic alternates, where applicable.

In cases where an original text series was graded, the Retail version represents what we consider to be the standard, multi-purpose grade. (For those customers who still require multiple grades for print media, the original Readability fonts are still available for license. Please contact us directly for ordering information.)

Readability Typefaces

In the weeks to come, we will be in the process of migrating the Readability Series to our Retail Library. These typeface families include:

<W> = Also available as web fonts on Webtype..

If you don’t see the Readability typeface you’re looking for available online yet, or don’t see what you need, give us a call at 617-423-8770 or send an email to info@fontbureau.com. We can still offer you the new Retail licensing options and prices.

Background

For those interested in the background of the Readability Series, you can download the archived Readability Specimen (PDF, 3 MB) and read the brief below:

Readability of newspaper text types has proven a perennial challenge to both type designers and newspaper designers as changes in styles, tastes, and technologies have evolved from the last century to the present day. While everything from good writing to the skilled use of paper, ink, press speed, and pressure have a great deal to do with the readability of a newspaper, there is still the fundamental challenge of how to best create, select, and compose the type itself.

When The Poynter Institute for Media Studies held conferences on the topic of newspaper readability in 1990 and 1994, it brought together many outstanding newspaper designers and type designers to study and address the specific issues of newspaper typography. Those conferences determined that, although there were some papers that would always prefer using their own custom fonts, the majority of newspapers would gladly change to anything that was proven better than what they were currently using.

In 1997 Font Bureau and The Poynter Institute jointly initiated a project to design and broadly offer a new text family. They took their cues from the legendary Legibility Group of newspaper faces developed by Mergenthaler Linotype under the direction of Chauncey H. Griffith, director of typographic development there from 1915 to 1950.

In 1935, Griffith compensated for printing inconsistency by designing multiple versions of the seminal news text face Excelsior - new typefaces in fact, one lighter and one darker - to appear the same under different press conditions.

Paragon was designed as a slightly lighter Excelsior to counteract the effects of rotogravure and the heavier inking required by tabloids and others to carry a page loaded with large images or heavy display advertising. Opticon, on the other hand, was designed as a slightly bolder Excelsior intended for papers that printed on hard, less absorbent Scandinavian newsprint, or that under-inked the page to maintain shadow detail in halftones. The three typefaces all shared identical character widths. When each was properly used in its intended context, text would appear equivalent to normal Excelsior.

Font Bureau revived this approach in 1997 by developing four carefully weighted grades of Poynter Oldstyle Text, the first of our Readability text faces. Grades are slightly lighter or heavier versions of a typeface, designed to compensate for platemaking and printing techniques that flood or starve the typographic image. Where changes in platemaking, printing, or paper add or subtract weight from text in a section of a major newspaper, the effect can be compensated by moving down or up a grade. The subtle grading system can be used by designers to precision-tune their papers - either to keep the overall color of the text consistent between sections printed on different presses or to satisfy a personal preference for lighter or darker pages of text.

Many newspapers joined in the effort to test this first text family, ensuring that Font Bureau's new design would be a clear improvement and versatile enough to cover the technical needs of many newspapers. Newspapers ecstatically took to this first offering and spurred the development of four other graded news text faces - Bureau Roman, Miller Daily, Quiosco, and Zócalo Text. Font Bureau expanded the program beyond just eminently readable text types to offer additional families of particular value to newspapers seeking standout display styles and clear, flexible agate faces.

That is our Readability Series.

For more information please email info@fontbureau.com.

Page last updated: April 2012