Type Specimen

We have recently been given a project to create a type specimen poster based on a font provided to us. I was given Franklin Gothic and therefore before even considering designing the poster I began to do some research.

The typeface was designed by a man named Morris Fuller Benton for the American Type Founders in 1902. Morris Fuller Benton was an American typeface designer who headed the design department of the American Type Founders and was chief type designer from 1900 to 1937. He is known to have designed many typefaces, including reviving historical models such as ATF Bodoni. He added new weights to existing faces such as Goudy Old Style and designed original typefaces such as Franklin Gothic. Benton named the typeface Franklin Gothic after the respected Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin Gothic is a realist sans serif font and was likely influenced by early German sans serif fonts. It is distinguishable by its unique weight and character heights and also due to the letters, g, Q and a. It was considered one of the most popular typefaces of its time and was designed to use on post war publications. Nonetheless, it remained popular and was used for many publications, but during the 1950s it lost its popularity to rising European fonts such as Helvetica and Univers. During the 1980s The International Typeface Cooperation decided to slim the font in order to create a modern style that would be more effective for advertising and printing. From then on its popularity grew once again and it is now one of the most widely used fonts.

Franklin Gothic can be found in many examples in todays society. Although it was originally designed to be used on post war publications it has since gone on to be used in many advertisements and newspaper headlines. Some of the most famous places to find Franklin Gothic include Lady Gaga’s new album ‘The Fame Monster’, The Dark Night film title, Cosmopolitan and even in the Starbucks logo. Furthermore, in 1964 the Museum of Modern Art of New York adopted Franklin Gothic as its official typeface. This has now been embedded into the museum’s identity. It is used so widely as it is able to cover a high range of tasks.

Having strong background knowledge on the typeface itself will help to give an indication on what may work best for the font in the specimen and also for the content of the paragraphs. However, I also need to do research on type specimens and posters in general to gain further understanding and also inspiration for my own design.

I find these to be some of my favourite type specimens. I prefer the designs that do not overtake the page, I feel the use and consideration of negative space helps to build the specimen and to catch the viewers attention allowing them to be drawn in. I also like the geometric style of some of the specimens as I feel it adds to the typeface itself – I feel that my given typeface has a structured style that adopts a bold heading feel to it. It is very dramatic in a sense. Furthermore I do like the use of designing the specimen on a diagonal angle, such as the Futura poster, I think it gives it a slightly different element and makes the content a little more exciting to read.

In addition to looking at type specimens I have also looked at typographic posters to again gain further inspiration. I personally prefer the symmetrical designs, particularly for this context as I feel the Franklin Gothic typeface would work stronger in a symmetrical layout due to its overall style as a typeface.  I also like how on some of the posters there is one element that stands out to the viewer, which may not reveal what it is about until the individual comes closer to read. It is about capturing an audience’s attention. However, I also like the bottom centre and bottom right posters as they convey a sense of depth through the placement of the letterforms, I also feel that that works for the top left poster through the use of greyscale and I think that this is something I could embed within my own design and is something I would like to try for myself.

One of my favourites from the examples above is the centre top image. It is looking at Helvetica but I like the way the title has been broken up. It pushes it typographically and makes it more interesting on the eye. I also think that there is a great strength in the hierarchy of the page. The eye goes from the number 1 to the title and follows down the page from that. I also think that the use of negative space helps with that. It has been well considered and strengthens the design overall. There is a slow pace to it that doesn’t feel rushed or overwhelming. Another of my favourites is the top right image. I like the distortion of the type. It feels slightly overwhelming when you first look at it, but there is a structure in place that helps direct the eye to the smaller paragraphs of text. What I like most however is its playfulness and the consideration to the space on the page.

Having gathered a lot of information and research, I now feel I am position to move on and complete some initial sketches of designs, referring to what I have researched.

I like quite a lot of elements from the various designs and feel that a number of them do have potential, therefore I will take them on to screen and begin to design on In Design. It is from this that I will be able to gain a better idea of what seems to work and what doesn’t.

In addition to that, I will bring forward the action point I stated in my Roald Dahl poster design which was to create a few different examples to ensure that I have fully explored my designs and exhausted all avenues in order to create the poster I can.

I have therefore brought six of my designs on to the screen in order to see what works best and how they would work. I personally feel that the bottom three images are the strongest due to the layout. Furthermore, I think that trying to use one letterform to fit the entire page is too much and does not allow for any room for any of the other elements and would make it confusing to read, causing it to become illegible. Perhaps if we were allowed to use colour, this might not be the case, but that is not the given brief. I do think that some work is needed on the bottom three designs, but so far I do think that they work the best.

I am generally pleased with all three of these designs and I am unsure which poster stands out. I like the centre image with all the different letters and numbers emerging form the centre and in greyscale as that gives the design an element of depth and layers, allowing the ‘g’ to stand out and pop on the page. I like the third image as it is angled an a diagonal position. I like the use of lines as it helps to give the poster structure, they help to direct the viewers eye around the page and with the use of hierarchy, help direct the eye on where to look first etc. Finally I like the first image as the centre element grabs the viewer’s attention immediately and draws in the audience to explore the remainder of the poster, however I do question whether there is a little too much going on or whether it simply lacks a certain something.

As I was uncertain I decided to invert the colours to see whether that would have an impact or strengthen any of the designs. To be honest I felt that all three posters lacked the same power as the previous posters. They seem flat and are dull to look at in my opinion and therefore I quickly dismissed them.

I went back to the previous three designs and printed proofs to stick on the wall, I asked my peers and also my lecturer David for advice and opinions. It quickly became apparent that the diagonal layout was the favourite and after listening to the advice given, I could see the potential. I felt much more confident in my decision, but still felt more could be done to improve the overall design and add an extra something to bring the overall design to life.

I added elements from one of the other designs as many thought that that was also a strong design. I am much happier with these designs as I think that through adding more letters behind the ‘g’ adds dimension to the page and gives it more depth. I also find that replacing the white line with the typeface’s designer is a creative alternative and helps to give more room on the page, whilst keeping the structure. Furthermore, I think that the poster is evenly weighted on both sides. However, I am unsure whether to replace the second white line with the date the typeface was created as you can see in the second image. I do feel it helps to keep the balance, but I question whether it works as well as ‘Morris Fuller Benton’.


This is the final design I chose to go with. I went with this because I liked the overall layout and how all of the elements work together. I like how the 1902 and Morris Fuller Benton act as lines to help separate and structure the overall page. I do think however that my example image of ‘The Dark Knight’ is too small and is difficult to see on the page. I am also unhappy about my first paragraph due to the 1902 seems to stick out at the end and looks a little strange.

Overall, I am pleased with my design as I do think it looks quite clean and easy to read, with there being a focus on the typeface itself. I think that this has been a good project to really get our feet grounded into the fundamentals of typography and I feel I have learnt a lot from doing it. I have thoroughly enjoyed completing this and I have learnt a host of new skills that will put me in good stead for future projects.













Author: marislathamgraphics

I am a student at Cardiff Metropolitan University studying BA Hons Graphic Communication.

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