Type Anatomy: Kathleen Zimmerman

A prohibition leaflet. Pullman Council for Social Betterment. Prohibition leaflets, ca. 1936. Gift of C.M. Brewster, 1956. Washington State University Library.

I was drawn to this type because it is about Pullman and because it uses both serif and san-serif fonts. This prohibition leaflet was made in 1936 by the Pullman Council for Social Betterment. It was printed with type rather than handwritten. You can see how the ink didn’t completely cover each of the letters so there are some spots that show the paper; this gives the text a handmade feeling even though it was printed. When you zoom-in on the text you can even see where the ink was smudged across the words “some people”.  





A close up of the bold text.

First, I want to discuss the bold, san-serif font that is at the top and bottom of the leaflet. With this font there is a mix of both uppercase and lower-case letters and completely uppercase words. Some of the words are also smaller than others. This brings attention to certain words and decreases attention to others. Although the letters do look like a solid block, there is some detail. On almost each letter there is a small line that almost gives the letters a three-dimensional feel. As I mentioned, the letters are san-serif but there is some elegance to them. The F is angled as well as the tail of the u, the tops of the l’s, the beginning of the m etc. Although I wouldn’t consider these serifs, they do add a different dimension. The bottom of the Q in Liquor is the only descender in the san-serif font. This Q was interesting because it didn’t have a design that was regular to the rest of the type. The curve of the descender was not a straight line cutting across the O-shape like we would expect, but rather an elegant curve which contrasts with the thick, upright, bold, font.

A close up of the serif text.

Secondly, the smaller letters are more normal in regards to set width and have well defined serifs. They match the larger letters in regards to the thin line making them look slightly three-dimensional. The x-height of the letters is all very regular except for the cross bar in the capital A which sits lower than the x-height. There is much more contrast in the serif font compared to the san-serif font which didn’t have any contrast. At first I though that these fonts were geometric/organic, but after reviewing, I now think the represent a humanist/organic feel.  The letters are rounded or, in regards to the capital A, cut off at the top so it is not a triangle (which would be more representative of a geometric A). There are angles and the O’s are not perfect circles.

This leaflet draws viewer’s gaze immediately because of the drastic contrast in text size. With the contrast of bold, large letters and small, serif letters, the viewers eyes have a to be drawn to and a place to rest.

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