Fashionable Font: The Rhetoric of Typography

typography fashion magazines

Unbelievable Fashion“ by Epilogue Imaging for Vogue UK December 2008

The term never judge a book by its cover certainly does not apply to fashion magazines. It is the very essence of deciding whether or not the model or celebrity suits your taste or, just as importantly, if the typography has enough visual texture, tone and personality to convince you to buy. Tapping into the visual rhetoric of typography in fashion magazines is an unexplored domain since typography is generally associated with technology and design. From accentuated serifs to creating a visual circus with words and characters, the aesthetics of typography are both innovative yet controlled in their nature.

Typography is the art or process of setting and arranging types. Typographers design fonts based on the general foundations of style, line length, size, color, shape and weight. Typefaces can be perceived as anything from feminine, elegant and graceful to urban, modern and dignified. This is because each typeface possesses a unique persona. From bases as thick as an elm tree to bodies as thin as a hair, one can achieve virtually any letter shape by subjecting the alphabet to architectural brilliance, tapering curves and exaggerated vertexes. Each individual stroke and sway of a typeface can convey a different emotion or feeling.

typography fashion magazines
Lettering by Pommel Lane

During Vogue’s era of hand-drawn covers, illustrators created lettering that complimented the style and character of their illustrations. According to graphic designer and writer J. Abbott Miller, “This ethic was carried over as Vogue made the transition into the photographic era: photographers and designers created ambitiously varied and inventive approaches that integrated letterforms as part of a total approach to design.” When looking at magazines from an aesthetic point of view, without a doubt the photography must harmonize with the typography and fonts. The character of the title’s typography must match the energy of the editorial or text that follows. A minimalist cover and photograph calls for classic and bold typography followed by small blocks of font. There is often a clash of tastes between too much white space and too much activity. Crowding the page with many different colors, details and words are uneasy on the eye. Instead of adding to the confusion, the unique lettering should act as a “typographic veil over photography” making it the “ideal overlay for photography.”

typography fashion magazines

Vogue adopted their ‘Bodoni’ logo in the late 1940’s

Although typographers are creative and visionary, the visual language of typography can be interpreted as an autocracy. In visual communication, the patterns of usage can become so obvious that they outline our understanding of typography and consumers’ subconscious decisions on purchases. As consumers who are constantly reading advertisements and seeing logos on TV and online, we have become conditioned to respond to certain typefaces. These fashionable typefaces have established themselves as luxurious and ingenious. Consumers are now trained to take out their wallets whenever they see a certain font.

typography fashion magazines

Old and New: YSL vs. Saint Laurent Paris

It’s no surprise that top name brands use similar fonts. Typfaces such as Helvetica, Futura and Optima are common among retail and high fashion brands. Many household beauty labels have monopolized the Optima font. Companies such as Almay, L’Oréal, Revlon, Cover Girl and Maybelline all brand themselves with this ‘feminine’ typeface. Brands that use Helvetica and its variations include: Saint Laurent, Comme des Garçons, HBA and Colette. Brands that use Futura and its variations include: Louis Vuitton, Supreme, and Nike. Here is a useful infographic that deciphers the fonts of many streetwear and high fashion brands.

typography fashion magazines

Typography made up of bobby pins: W August 2005

The science and beauty behind the art of type is fascinating. Like clockwork, graphic designers are creating typefaces for new magazine covers, editorials, logos and advertisements. It’s as if they are creating readable art. Just like the intricate production of a garment, the various forms of typography evoke the explicit process of creating a dress – the draping, folding, tailoring and cutting. Where designers have scissors and sewing needles, typographers have software, which allows them to emphasize and magnify typeface. Typography plays an important role in the fashion world. It is one of the most heavily critiqued aspects of a magazine cover apart from the choice of model. Some see typography as an important aspect of design and others as fancy fonts they can use on their PowerPoint. But to simply brush off typography as an unimportant and unfashionable facet of the artistic process of design is more offensive than using Comic Sans!

typography fashion magazines

Vogue France November 2011

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42 Comments

  1. barbara.aube@gmail.com
    November 17, 2016 / 8:57 PM

    very interesting read … type is very artistic and often very eye catching 🙂

    • tayloraube
      November 18, 2016 / 2:13 PM

      It’s such an interesting and unique way to present letters. I really do enjoy it 🙂

    • tayloraube
      November 18, 2016 / 2:25 PM

      Thank you! My favorite is the first image, it’s so fun and fantastical!

    • tayloraube
      November 18, 2016 / 3:08 PM

      Thank you so much! The visuals definitely help put everything into sense. I love flipping through magazines and seeing the title page of an editorial, the typography is always so cool.

  2. November 18, 2016 / 3:15 PM

    Such a great read! I am such a firm believer in photography must harmonize with the typography and fonts in a magazine! Vogue really is a work of art. Such a cool story.

    Xoxo Amber

    • tayloraube
      November 18, 2016 / 3:21 PM

      It’s crazy how automated we are to recognize certain fonts! The typography really adds so much flare and appeal to magazines, it’s become it’s own domain within the industry!

  3. November 18, 2016 / 3:18 PM

    Super interesting! I’m huge on fonts when I’m creating collateral, invites, etc. for work so the thought process behind why fashion brands choose what they do is so cool! Hope you have a fabulous weekend, girlie!

    xox,
    Kristin

    • tayloraube
      November 18, 2016 / 3:22 PM

      Fonts are so fun! I always try to play around with them on my front page. Typography can make a simple word such as “pretty” be represented in so many more descriptive ways!

  4. Vanessa
    November 18, 2016 / 3:20 PM

    It’s crazy how much typography affects the visuals and triggers subliminal stimuli. Great read!

    Vanessa | http://www.vanessarenae.com

    • tayloraube
      November 18, 2016 / 3:23 PM

      Isn’t it so crazy to see what brands have the same fonts?! I love the psychology behind this subject!

  5. Nataly
    November 18, 2016 / 3:28 PM

    I studied typography in college. It is so interesting! What a great post!

    -Nataly

    • tayloraube
      November 18, 2016 / 3:31 PM

      That is so awesome! I’d love to see your work.

  6. November 18, 2016 / 3:32 PM

    I literally love different fonts so this was really interesting! You’re too smart for your own good! Xo

    • tayloraube
      November 18, 2016 / 3:39 PM

      I wish I could just download all of the fancy fonts and use them for my blog! Thank you so much Nicole 🙂

  7. November 18, 2016 / 3:51 PM

    Such an interesting article! I have always been fascinated with typography and this article explains exactly why it is so fascinating.

    • tayloraube
      November 18, 2016 / 4:00 PM

      Thank you April! I’m so glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  8. November 18, 2016 / 4:22 PM

    Fonts and typography is so fascinating!! I love this kind of art. I really enjoyed this post love! XO

    • tayloraube
      November 18, 2016 / 4:38 PM

      Thanks so much ruthie!

  9. November 18, 2016 / 4:47 PM

    This is such a great post! I am always so interesting in different fonts! My sister in law is a graphic designer and typography is her jam!
    xo Jessica
    http://www.whatsfordinneresq.com

    • tayloraube
      November 18, 2016 / 5:09 PM

      Give me all of the fonts!! They are so fun 🙂

  10. November 18, 2016 / 5:57 PM

    Different fonts are so fun! Thanks so much for sharing!

    • tayloraube
      November 18, 2016 / 6:37 PM

      I love playing around with them for my website! Thank you so much 🙂

  11. Nina
    November 18, 2016 / 6:39 PM

    This is so interesting! I love seeing how beautiful and creative people can be with typography and design.

    xx Nina
    http://www.theHSSfeed.com

    • tayloraube
      November 18, 2016 / 6:59 PM

      Same here! It would be really interesting to see the process of how designers create these fonts!

  12. November 18, 2016 / 9:27 PM

    Ah this is so great! Thanks for sahring such a unique and fresh take on typography! This post is so wonderful, keep it up 🙂

    xo, L
    livingincolorblog.com
    @livingincolorstyle

    • tayloraube
      November 18, 2016 / 9:29 PM

      Thank you so much for your kind words!

    • tayloraube
      November 19, 2016 / 1:04 PM

      Isn’t it such a fun aspect of design? There are so many fonts out there and they are all so incredibly different!

  13. Maria
    November 19, 2016 / 4:47 AM

    Fonts are my fav! This was such an interesting peiece to read!

    • tayloraube
      November 19, 2016 / 1:04 PM

      Thank you so much for stopping by!

  14. November 19, 2016 / 1:51 PM

    What a great post! I love typogrophy and its so interesting to see how other brands use it.

    • tayloraube
      November 19, 2016 / 2:14 PM

      Thanks so much for reading 🙂

  15. November 20, 2016 / 3:55 AM

    Such a pretty and super interesting post! Never thought about the behind the scenes details much so this was really informative m.

    • tayloraube
      November 20, 2016 / 8:57 PM

      Thank you so much! I really enjoyed researching and writing it!

  16. Kristina
    November 20, 2016 / 3:16 PM

    So interesting- a lot goes into picking a typeface and logo for a company!

    xo, Kristina
    Medicine & Manicures

    • tayloraube
      November 20, 2016 / 8:57 PM

      Isn’t it crazy!? I love fonts, I feel like it would take me so long to decide on a good one for my brand.

  17. November 20, 2016 / 9:31 PM

    Such an interesting read, thanks for sharing!

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