Garamond Type Specimen Poster

CDF Project 3 Process


To emphasizes and showcase Garamond’s unique history and qualities in a type specimen poster.

I began brainstorming by sketching out a few ideas on paper. I had already researched Garamond’s history from an earlier assignment and what stood out to me most was its legacy. It is a typeface that has stood the test of time. The initial letterform punches created by Claude Garamond in the 16th century had been constantly reincarnated over the course of its life. As it is one of the most ink-efficient typefaces for printing, Garamond will continue to live on and spew more offspring. I wanted to pay homage to that rich legacy in my poster.

My intial instincts led me to compile a list of Garamond’s children fonts. I noticed that many of them used Garamond in their names, such as Stempel Garamond and Monotype Garamond. Because these fonts are all named after Claude Garamond, I thought those font names would play well with the designer’s name. So, I only looked for the variations that were called something Garamond, in anticipation of laying out the somethings on top of one another, and finally on top of the word Claude (see pic).

In my research of Garamond’s history, I came across a paragraph that I felt really appreciated the time-honored quality of the typeface. “Garamond is Michelangelo’s David to the type world,” Meaningful Type writes. “It is a timeless masterpiece created by a classical craftsman and to this day is a cherished piece of history…[retracted]” This definitely stood out to me as something to include in my poster. I tried two different text layout of this quote in my sketchbook, before I was frustrated. My handwriting did not look like Garamond at all! I couldn’t replicate the finer details of the typeface and I felt that I wouldn’t be able to fairly judge these layouts. So I moved my brainstorming to Illustrator.

First things first, I digitalized what I like to call the Garamond Tower.

The leftmost prototype contains text from De Aetna, a 16th century book whose typeface inspired Claude Garamond’s own work.

Next, I played around with the text layout to see which would fit the Garamond Tower best. The tower required a lot of vertical space, eliminating the leftmost prototype. Between the two remaining, I liked the rightmost one best. I felt that the center prototype was too ordinary and forgettable while the rightmost prototype did a great job at accentuating the curvature of the g.

I added the Garamond Tower to that prototype. However, it created an large empty space on the lower right side of the page. It also felt unclear what each of the different words in the tower meant (see left pic).

So I added “Garamond” to each line, completing the names of the fonts. I choose a grey color for the entire thing to have it compete less with the title and paragraph above (see middle pic).

However, it still seemed a bit unclear why I placed a ton of different Garamond fonts on the page. If I wanted to emphasize the birth of new Garamond fonts over time, it made sense to put the dates in as well (see right pic). I renamed “Claude Garamond” to “Claude’s Garamond” and placed it in correct chronological order, with an italicized “Claude’s” to show that I was talking about the original designer, and not a font called Claude’s Garamond. The “15??” as the year invokes the sense of mystery behind the conception of the original typeface. To express Garamond’s immortality, I placed the timeline a bit past the bottom margins to create the illusion that the timeline continues.

Now for some color. I knew I wanted to use a darker color, as something bright and vivid would misrepresent Garamond’s role as a simple, no-frills typeface. An earthy brown complemented Garamond’s age very well. Having the brown vertical bar cut through the g and invert the colors further brought attention to the curves of the character. I also made all but the first “Garamond” texts in the timeline lighter than the surrounding text to less the visual load from all the repeating words.

I brought this version to the interim critique in class and received some valuable feedback. It seemed that a lot of people could not make the connection between the years and the different font versions. Also many people wished that I had shifted the timeline up, because it made the poster feel very bottom heavy. It also seemed rather unintentional.

I relied a lot on the paragraph text to explain the purpose of the timeline, but I realized that not everyone will read the small text so the timeline had to be able to stand on its own.

I made it my immediate goal to redesign the timeline so it was clearer. Using a combination of o’s and |’s, I created something that looked like a recognizable timeline. This made it clear that I wasn’t trying to emphasize one certain version of the typeface, but rather the evolution of the typeface over time. With the bottom of the timeline going off the page instead of the text, the issue of intention and balance had been addressed.

I struggled a bit with the placement of the character set. I decided to lay out the characters vertically to match the vertical flow of the timeline. However, all the vertical elements began to dominant the title and paragraph.

By shifting the orientation of the page, the vertical elements lost a lot of their power. Now there was also enough vertical space to bring back the large lowercase g. However, I couldn’t use the big g to be the first letter of “Garamond” without shifting a lot of weight to the left side of the page. So, I left it in the center but lowered its opacity, for it to act as a watermark. That meant I needed a different style for the “Garamond”. Smallcaps worked well with the brown color to add a hint of class.

The vertical character set did not work well with the new horizontally dominated layout. So instead, I reworked it into a neat grid, paying respect to the original square punches of Claude Garamond.

The timeline was standing on its own a lot better, but it still required people to read the dense paragraph to find out its purpose.

This version also felt really empty on the left side.

People are hesitant to read a block of text, so I solved two problems by splitting the paragraph. With the relevant parts on top of the timeline, it is now obvious where to look if someone were curious about the timeline.

With less text in the subheading, I could also use a complementary blue color to encourage people to read the part that speaks of Garamond’s legacy.

Each part of the original paragraph now has a greater chance of being read.

I balanced out the weight of the poster by shifting the center part to the left and adding some colored vertical bars to the left side. This is a reference to the color test patterns on printers, serving as a subtle nod to Garamond’s use in the printing industry.

Final Critique Feedback

There was not a lot of time left in the class period to discuss my piece, however people felt that my poster held an air of luxury. They also enjoyed the way I created the timeline using characters from the character set. One concern was that my poster could’ve been two separate posters, with the center and the right side having separate content.

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