Creative Cut: The Power of Type
The words you’re reading right now are printed in the New Baskerville typeface, at 11 points, with 12-point leading (spacing between lines). This point size and leading are considered just right for readability.
Cyrus Highsmith, a type designer at the Font Bureau in Boston, says New Baskerville is popular because its “transitional” look blends the loopy traces of handwriting with the cold geometry of modern type styles.
This font is a revival of a typeface originally drawn by English typesetter John Baskerville in the 18th century. Highsmith says Baskerville’s type looked crisper due to the paper he used. Some critics thought the font was too sharp and that people might go blind reading it, an extreme point on the spectrum of readers’ sensory reactions to typeface.
Many direct marketing experts advocate the other extreme: neutrality of type in the service of content.
Somewhere in between exists a double standard for “display” type and “text” type. The former, usually employed for headlines and short bursts, often permits more creative leeway. The latter is most associated with body copy, or paragraphs, where the eye must not be taxed and reading ease is the goal.
Headlines vs. Body Copy
Serif is the curlicue which creates a “harmony” of one letter with the next, recalling the idiosyncratic shape and feel of handwriting.
Sans (without) serif works fine for “shouting” a message, as in headlines, kickers and pull quotes, say the direct marketing gurus; but for “soft-spoken” body copy, serif is the way to go. Not having loops makes sans serif letters a uniform size, which translates to a harsher read.
Copy aficionada and creative director for Awards.com, Laurie Goodman, says the “little ‘tails’ at the ends of letters … create a little ‘cushion’ of white space around each letter, giving the eyes a rest.”