Typeface Anatomy – Lisa Gaviglio

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

I chose to analyze the book cover for The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson. From the first glance you can see this cover is all about contrast with the divide down the middle, marking one half as yellow and the other as white. That contrast continues into the typography with the use of serif and san serif fonts. The left side uses the black serif font with all the letters reaching the same cap height removing the usual need for an x height. There are also no ascenders or descenders present with the text taking on a very uniform look. It appears to be in all capitals which usually means something is important. It would say that it is a more transitional serif with sharper letters and a higher contrast between thick and thin lines. With words such as test and Jon you can see the use of italics as well creating some subtle contrast within the left side itself. The use of this traditional font in correlation with the title would suggest that the left side is the normal side, the non-psychopath side that serves to enhance just how crazy the right side is. If this were a scientific experiment it would be the constant that all the other variables were measured against.  In relation to the title and what one can imagine the book to be about, the use of the plain black serif font seems to be appropriate. It gives a calming and professional effect. All very normal.

When mixing typefaces you want to create some contrast and using both a serif and sans serif font is a good way to do that. The right half of this book cover solely uses sans serif fonts but in different ways. The title of the book and the authors name uses a sans serif that is all chopped up creating that feeling of chaos that one might image a psychopath to cause or to feel.  The middle text uses a simple sans serif that all have the same cap height just like on the left side helping to tie the two of them together. It also seems to be a traditional sans serif font with its uniform upright letters. Using a sans serif and distorting it are appropriate uses of typography for what seems to be the more chaotic psychopathic side of the cover. It gives off a certain tension and contrast that would be lost if the serif font had continued throughout the whole cover.

Overall this typography does a good job separating the two sides but also uniting them at the same time. As far as unity goes the sans serifs with “the” (at the top), “A journey through the madness industry” (middle) and the extra text at the bottom help to join the two sides together. The fact that the serif font has the same cap height helps to create that transition over into sans serif fonts more smoothly like in the title. If it hadn’t appeared to be in all caps then the contrast in the title might have been too overwhelming. From my point of view this typography did a very good job at interpreting the title of the book.

This entry was posted in Fall 2014 Archive (338) and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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