TYPOGRAPHY in Fashion Magazines

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23/09/19 Design Reference this

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III Introduction IV Vogue

V Didot VI Bazaar VII Elle


cosmopolitian X Brackets etc XI Interview

XII References

“If you invent yourself, you love yourself. The idea of inventing yourself is creating the most ideal image that you could imagine.” 1

Richard Hell was referring to the constructs of fashion and how the 1980s New York punk scene, the clothing choices, DIY haircut and level of attiitude helped you clarify who you were to the world listening. Similarly, typography tells a story and expresses.

It is both invisible and seen by viewers. Just like in fashion, type surrounds us, and it is hard to ignore in everyday life. Fashion magazines have always been noticed for beautiful covers, harmonious layouts and luxury advertisements, fashionable fonts turned into stylish typography makes the image appear more high end.

A lot of popular fashion magazines use a standard serif font such as Didot or Bodoni. However more and more magazines are trying out new and exciting custom made fonts.

The last few years fashion magazines like Vogue, Elle, Bazaar, GQ and Cosmopolitan have all started using more exciting, intrequing typefaces, some even moving away from the normal traditional fonts.

When it comes to a typeface the proportion of the letters is one of the most important aspects, also the contrast between strokes and the serifs of the letters are what is needed to achieve the high fashion modern look. High contrast between the thick and the thin lines next to a beautiful model is the perfect formula for a timeless spread.

In making fashion magazine pages. Words like feminine,delicate, beautifuland

Elegant are used. Similarly, creative directors, art directors and clients often request type that is beautiful, delicate and feminine.

But what does that actually mean?

The majority of the time, these words are describing a high-contrast serif typeface, one that typically utilizes extremely thin stroke widths on the upstrokes and, by comparison, extremely thick stroke widths on the downstrokes. These words are describing ‘Didones’, which is a typeface that has the structure of Didot or Bodoni.


Didot regular

1 – Interview, Richard Hell & Lester Bangs, 1980s, Commarts.com


During the early years of the 20th century, magazine covers featured very little, if any, typography. A magazines logo or name wasn’t limited to a single typeface or a consistent size and placement on the cover, rules of typography didn’t apply.

2 It wasn’t until around 1945 that Vogue settled on the iconic font they use today for their magazine cover. Before this time, the “Vogue” title was displayed using a decorative font or stylized design that fit in with the cover theme of that week. Because this font is so recognizable, it can be partially covered by the cover’s art without loosing the magazines identity.

Even after settling on a font, Vogue still varies the color of their masthead month-to-month. Each Vogue cover typically features three different fonts; the masthead font, a bold, colored, sans-serif article title font, and  a neutral, serif font that is used for sub-headings. While these styles definitely vary issue to issue,

they are relatively consistent. As Vogue has developed and settled into its iconic style, their fonts and colors have grown and

adapted as well.

Vogue’s first few covers took a less 3

impactful approach to typography. The title launched in 1892 as a weekly for ‘high society New Yorkers’, to appeal to both male and female.

Each issue featured a handlettered logo created by the illustrator hired to do the feature drawing, allowing him to merge it perfectly with the cover’s style and feeling and become an integrated part of the composition.

A 1947 edition of Vogue shows an early appearance by the Didot typeface, although in a taller, more condensed version.

2 Vogue, April, 1940, nova1069.com

3 British Vogue, June 1, 1947, retro-housewife.com


‘Didot was developed by Firmin Didot in Paris in 1783’ 4

During the letterpress period, words were printed from movable metal type, meaning each word was composed of individual pieces. To create a new font involved not just the design but also a lengthy and laborious process of cutting the individual pieces for each letter.

Over time the Modern classic typefaces such as Didot or bodoni, having a high contrast between thick and thin strokes came to define typography in high-fashion magazines and advertisements.

Didot, first appeared onto the cover of Vogue as a permanent part of the fashion magazine in 1955. The hairline strokes ensures that Didone typefaces gloss gently over bold photographs, the thicker strokes keep the text legible without appearing too bulky. (its rare that heavy type for fashion content is ever used).

Vogue still went back and forth with logo typefaces right up until the mid-1950s, jumping from serif to sans-serif and back again, and still mixing in scripts along with illustrative, photographic letters. By 1955, the all uppercase Didot logo settled in to stay; with minor tweaks ever since, it remains a constant presence.

‘Through thick

and thin’

5 Abbott Miller 2007


Didot regular

4   Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. 1905, New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.

5  Autumn 2007, Through thick and thin: fashion and type, Abbott Miller, Charles Deberney

A. M. Cassandre, eyemagazine


Harper’s Bazaar, a fashion magazine which also uses Didot.

Bazaar commissioned Didot typeface   in   1992,   and   fifteen   years    later,  they’re still winning awards with it. Bazaar won ASME Best Cover of 2007, which included six covers that feature typography.


The influential magazine that  Liz  Tilberis  and Fabien Baron face-lifted in 1992 has secured a place as one of the most significant re-designs in the modern history of fashion magazine covers. It debuted with the iconic cover that ASME lists as one of the top ten covers in magazine history, memorable not only for its striking portrait of Linda Evangelista, but for its classic, simple typography. On the whole cover, just a single headline reading “Enter the Era of Elegance” had a place on the page, which is a bold move when normally the contents is mostly spilled all over a fashion magazines cover.

It’s a given that this same strategy is still serving Bazaar after all these years, and it speaks to the strength of the magazine’s editorial vision and the thought that went into its typography and without it, this would just be a boring cover.

5 The November 1950 (left) and September 1958 (right) issues of Harper’s Bazaar display art director Alexey Brodovitch’s bold compositions overlaid with the Didot masthead that he first introduced in the late 1930s.

4 – Issue winter, November 1950 and September 1958, Bazaar magazine.

5 – Type in culture, Elizabeth Carey Smith, commarts.com, 2011


A cover for Elle’s 2016 Women in Hollywood issue features the magazine’s compressed Didone masthead, which contrasts with the condensed bold sans serif letterforms underneath.

Speaking exclusively to The Drum, Curtis – who describes herself as a “real Elle woman” – explained how she is steering a visual and editorial overhaul of the 32- year old magazine that promises to be more “bold, brave and authentic”; ideals she believes the “nervous” publishing industry has lost sight of. 7

Elle Canada Magazine

“I was recently asked to develop a ribbon style script typeface  for  the April  edition of Canadian women’s fashion journal Elle Canada. It’s their largest issue yet and marks their 10th Anniversary so they wanted a typeface that was from white ribbon and was festive, feminine and elegant.”

6 https://www.elle.com/uk/

7 magculture, Jeremy Leslie, 14 march 2013

8 https://www.lukelucas.com/Elle-Canada-Magazine, march 2011


Didone is a genre of serif typeface that emerged in the 18th century and was the standard style of general-purpose printing during the nineteenth. A didone is characterized by Narrow and unbracketed serifs. The serifs have a nearly consistant width along the length.

Its almost certain that Vogue magazine started the history of Didones in high- fashion magazines. From a typography design perspective, Didones connection with  fashion  is  particularly  supported  by  Alexey  Brodovitch’s  art  direction    of Harper’s Bazaar, which used Didot exclusively and deliberately.

It really wasn’t until the 1950s that Didones stayed put in fashion magazines. Still, somewhere along the way, high-contrast Didones became the primary typographic language used to showcase fashion.

However, almost simultaneously, geometric sans serifs appeared alongside these Didones. Typefaces like Futura marked a spirit of European modernism, futurism and universalism. The impetus for sans serifs and derivative lettering must have come, at least in part, from the brand marks of fashion labels themselves.


Jacob smiths type project that demonstrates the key differences between Didot and Bodoni, the leading Didone type styles.

9 Jacob smith, Didot research, October 28 2014, jacobsmithdesign.com


Interview with Luke Hayman, Re-designer of cosmo magazine. 10

What for you are the key features of the new-look magazine?

I think the fonts are always a core part of any magazine. We usually use a couple of families but for Cosmo we used four. The spirit needed to be young and lively so for text we used Parry which has chunky serifs, almost typewriter like. The sans we used is Helsinki which like Parry has a bold character across a lot of weights. We deliberately stayed away from overly-refined, pretty and elegant fonts.

The colour palette is bold, feminine but not too sweet and girly. And we added some graphic bars that have an irregular width – we called them chopsticks. There are wiggly rules and captions in thin bars and these were placed off the grid at angles all with the intention of feeling immediate, casual and spontaneous.

We also worked with photography director Liane Radel to evolve the photography. We wanted the spontaneity to come across with more aggressive cropping and a graphic pop sensibility.

How does a design process differ for a publication that has a relatively short shelf-life such as Cosmo?

This redesign embraces the fact that for a lot of the audience Cosmo is a quick read. These women have many other choices for spending their time so the editor was very clear about making the pages feel light and approachable.

We reduced text significantly on many pages and avoided long blocks of grey text. Display copy, sub heads, pull quotes, captions and web touts were deployed to provide multiple entry points.’


10 Luke Hayman, cosmopolitian re-design, Itsnicethat.com, Words by Rob Alderson, Tuesday 03 January 2012

11 Cosmopolitan Magazine Redesigns, December 8, 2011, article written by Terri Stone


Yes, even brackets have a role in fashion magazines. Most of the time they are used for decoration. It focuses the reader on the content and creates a seductive, original typographic composition.

Ampersands have long been the character in a typeface which is used to showcase the design of the symbol, just for decoration. There arent many occasions when an ampersand is required, and when it is its offen missed on the page as it is so small.

An end mark is a small graphic element found at the end of an article, chapter or story.

It sends a message, “that’s it, there isn’t anymore”8. End marks are often used in

magazines, newsletters and journals, where long or complicated articles normally run onto several pages, but they are also seen being used in books, short information pieces, or on blogs. Anywhere a graphic element could signal to the reader that they have come to “the end”.

An end mark is often seen as a simple shape such as circle or a square, a decorative swirl, or a customized personal element, such as a brand logo.

Any sort of symbol, or image can be used as a mark, but when scaled down complicated designs don’t have the same impact, which is why magazines normally keep it as a simple shape or flourish. End marks are normally consistent within a fashion magazine, so the readers can identify that it is “the end”.


A new revolution of type inspired by the fashion in the City of Light like the city it’s named after, is elegant, vibrant, and full of life. Influenced by the Parisian fashion runways, its sleek and stylish design offers styles in different weights: Regular and Bold with 4 styles per weight. In addition to upper and lowercase letters, this luxurious family boasts stunning numerals and symbols that rely on a strong mix of complementary high contrast line strokes. This gives the perfect balance to each form. This typeface is ideal for headlines in fashion publications or luxury brands. Paris Typeface utilizes the traditional Latin letterforms and refashions them with innovative shapes that create a typeface as classic as the city it honors.”

12 Paris typeface, 2017, Moshik nadav typography, https://moshik.net


Cactus magazine is an independent title that pushes the boundaries of what a fashion magazine can consist of. Cactus magazine is a fashion-themed photography publication, quirky is the best word to describe it. weighing one kilo and containing 200 pages of surrealist goodness.

Here are the following questions that got send via email to Cactus magazines in house graphic designer,

Valeria Peschechera, a reply has yet to come.

How important do you think typography is to Cactus magazine?

How did you decide on the typeface for the cover?

There isn’t a vast amount of type in Cactus magazine, is this for a specific reason?

The typefaces are very modern and sleek, do you think this will change in the future?


15 Cactus magazine winter spread, Grace Wang photography, December 2016


1 Interview, Richard Hell & Lester Bangs, 1980s, Commarts.com

2 Vogue, April, 1940, nova1069.com

3 British Vogue, June 1, 1947, retro-housewife.com

4 Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. 1905, New International Encyclopedia, Dodd, Mead.

5 Autumn 2007, Through thick and thin: fashion and type, Abbott Miller, Charles Deberney, eyemagazine.

6 https://www.elle.com/uk/

7 magculture, Jeremy Leslie, 14 march 2013

8 https://www.lukelucas.com/Elle-Canada-Magazine, march 2011

9 Jacob smith, Didot research, October 28 2014, jacobsmithdesign.com

10 Luke Hayman, cosmopolitian re-design, Itsnicethat.com, Words by Rob Alderson, Tuesday 03 January 2012

11 Cosmopolitan Magazine Redesigns, December 8, 2011, article written by Terri Stone

12 Paris typeface, 2017, Moshik nadav typography, https://moshik.net

13 Cactus magazine winter cover, Grace Wang, December 2016

14 Cactus magazine logo, http://www.cactusdigitale.com, 2012

15 Cactus magazine winter spread, Grace Wang photography, December 2016

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