Typography – Tone of voice

Craig Nugent
Monday, February 1st, 2010

A key function of typography is to convey tone of voice. In this article I will take a brief look at a very complex and interesting subject.

Tone of voice relies on a variety of factors; not least of which is context. However typefaces divorced from a particular context, can never the less reveal themselves to be more or less appropriate for the task at hand.

Okay, so a simple expression of affection; which of the following typefaces is best suited to the purpose?

A brief evaluation

ImpactLooks like a newspaper headline, suggesting there may be a bitter irony lurking beneath the words. Not a contender.

Academy EngravedAn inscriptional font, appears pompous, overblown, theatrical. Not a contender.

Arial Prosaic, perfunctory, default. Not a good choice.

Perpetua The best suited so far; simple elegant, unaffected. Good choice.

Pump Demi BoldNot worthy of consideration for this task. Does’nt even begin to express the copy. Bad choice.

CambriaThough heavier in weight per point size in comparison with Perpetua, would be a decent choice; even better if the tracking was fixed. Decent choice.

Monotype Corsiva A cursive font reflecting the writing style of late Renaissance Humanist diarists. Not a good font for the task, appears self conscious and affected.

Freestyle scriptThis font signifies* a handwriting style. In this case the font is the message. Self referential: not good for expressing anything in particular, apart from making a  noise in a design layout. Not a good choice.

Typeface choice is important. The wrong choice of typeface can destabilise meaning and intention. This is what makes typography on the web so difficult: we only have a handful of fonts to play with.

*Barthes, Roland, Mythologies. London, 1982.

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