A Bold New Masthead

NewPages reviewer David R. Matteri wrote in a review of Dogwood that editor Sonya Huber “aims to take this university magazine in a new direction.” Those were high compliments, given the fact that Dogwood had just returned from a year hiatus.

In addition to reconsidering and reordering the practicalities of our journal, Sonya and staff have also decided that our 10-year-old publication needed a facelift. I was in charge of major Dogwood surgery.

When I first started designing, I heard typeface and font being used interchangeably.

However, to sum it up, Typhophile user Norbert Florendo explained in an article:

Font is what you use, and typeface is what you see.

Typeface is a set of font family like Times New Roman, Arial, or Georgia. Font is the specification of a typeface (Arial in 12 pt).

Believe me, people take typefaces seriously. Yale University has its own website that discusses the reasoning and history of their typeface and the fonts that have been used for administration communication, school publications, college applications, etc.

As I was searching for a proper typeface for the literary journal, I had to question what statement does Dogwood want to make? In our mission statement, we wrote:

We are open to what you do with words and sentences as long as they feel like your own.

I knew then that we needed a typeface that is stable and sturdy, yet welcoming at the same time.

One change that a Dogwood reader will recognize right way is the capitalization of the first letter in our title. I’m not sure about the reasoning to use a lower case ‘d,’ and I never understood it. I didn’t think it came across as serious enough. Perhaps the previous editors were trying to make a statement, but I don’t think it’s necessary. We don’t want to seem like we are pushing something and being something that we are not.

In setting out to create the new Dogwood typeface, I had two options for typeface: serif or sans serif?

A serif is that detail you see at the end of letter strokes. If typeface does not include such details, it’s labeled a sans serif.

I started to think about the common typefaces that I’ve come across.

Times New Roman? As a serif typeface, it’s way too overdone. Arial? Something seems so lifeless about it. Comic sans? Please. Don’t even start with me.

I’ve also checked out the typefaces of notable publications in the literary world. For example, I looked at Creative Nonfictionand its use of a sans serif typeface. Capitalized titles make me cringe, but then I realized that Creative Nonfiction has the right to be obnoxious after so many years in business. The typeface boasts of an established print and online journal, which is something to talk about, especially in this economy.

From my experience, I’ve learned that some people don’t take sans serif types seriously. For me, I love sans serif characters because their appearances are so understated, which makes the whole look even more eye-catching.

I initially chose a serif typeface and the editors all thought: “Eh.” I mean, we’re not old. We can’t be old! We’re young compared to some publications, especially after our hiatus. No. The new typeface needed to exude sophistication, ingenuity, and most importantly, stability. We needed something to say:

We have finally arrived.

And so we chose, in a surprisingly painless process of elimination, ITC Avant Garde Gothic as our typeface for the cover.

This typeface is what’s also known as a geometric sans-serif because the “o” letters are circular and the stems of other letters are straight. We also considered the font to be modern, and the editors at Dogwood like to be hip and cool. Down with it.

Yes, Dogwood is here to stay.

Loan Le is one of three Dogwood managing editors. A third-year majoring in journalism and creative writing, Loan is also the executive editor of Fairfield University’s campus newspaper, The Mirror, which publishes weekly.

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