Plain Common Sense About Type

In 1922, Benjamin Sherbow, a “consultant in Typography” and the author of Making Type Work and Sherbow’s Type Charts, self-published Effective Type-use for Advertising. This was six years before W.A. Dwiggins’s Layout in Advertising and Jan Tschichold’s Die Neue Typographie, the two leading books on type use. Sherbow’s book is credited by “designers,” art directors, and type directors of the era for being a no-nonsense guide through the rights and wrongs of typographic text and display.

His writing is extremely accessible and his examples are easy to comprehend. Other than the arcane references to technologies and media no longer in service, Sherbow’s book could still be useful. Here’s what he says, in Twitter-esque short paragraphs about “What is Good Advertising Typography:”

The man who drives his cart through your street and yells “Strawberries! Strawberries!” does perfect advertising.

He gets the attention of potential buyers and tells them, understandably, good news of something to buy and he has the goods right there when and where desire is aroused: all this is merchandising at its best.

Advertising at its best is any means whereby large numbers of people can be told good news about something to buy. Advertising is simply a wholesale method of human communication.

Advertising typography is just ordinary common sense typography applied to advertising.

It is not something wildly and fiercely unique.

In fact, the general notion that advertising itself is a separate, special, peculiar, deeply mysterious thing is a vicious idea. That attitude toward advertising is what makes so many advertising efforts, both in conception and execution, pretty poor specimens

The best and wisest advertising men of my acquaintance strive with all their might for naturalness. They seek natural points of appeal, natural language in advertising, natural illustrations, natural comparisons and the atmosphere of every day life in all they do. . .

So type must be the clear, efficient conveyor of the advertising message. It must be simple and natural, no frills, no self consciousness, no “showing off” – just doing its duty.

In a nutshell, what is good advertising typography? It is typography that is supremely easy to read.

Here are some pages (click for larger version):

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Pingback: Rameez Nooruddin

  2. Compared to any recent issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, with its jam-packed marginless columns of type, the typography in this book is like a relaxing spa for the eyes.
    There’s just something about carefully-crafted hot-metal typography that resonates with me.
    Balanced design that’s focused on maximum readability and easy comprehension — right here is the perfect example of the cliche “less is more.”
    The book is in the public domain, and you can download a free PDF, Kindle, or other e-reader format of it at http://archive.org/details/cu31924030170744

  3. Really interesting! There seems to be a surge of “old” books and material making its way to the design world. It’s as if they’re saying “Hey! You designers are fucking stuff up! You’re breaking the rules before you’ve even learned them!”