Scavenging for Graphics: Count The Typefaces

October 10, 2012

Above: Two product boxes from a different era.

Maybe after grunge design took hold in the 1990s all bets were off, but I still like to keep the number of typefaces used in a design to a minimum. (Sort of like working with a limited palette when painting. I suspect a trend is showing in my working method. I'm relieved we're seeing more spare and tailored treatments again, especially in magazine design.)

Oddly, in graphics like these from a different era I find myself often charmed by the hedonistic abandon with which the desiger splashed typefaces across the packaging. It then becomes yet another clue to placing the item in time. And I guess it also appeals to me as a reminder that tastes change and we all need to keep on our toes and step back for a moment and analyze what we are doing.

How many typefaces do you see on the Post Toasties box? (Or the Rolled Oats?) And when you do find a new typeface there (in plain sight) how many fonts can you see from that typeface—different ways has it been used (outline, italic, bold)?

Marvelous? Or not?

I think it is fun. And it reminds me of a set designer's gaffe in an old television production of a Dorothy L. Sayers book. They used the wrong cigarette ad—using one with colors from a different time period than the action of the show. 

Yes, this stuff does matter to some people. I'm not even a little apologetic or embarrassed that I am one of those people. But then, as I said, I think it is fun.

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