• PrintMag

You’re Stuck on a Desert Island With One Typeface…

Back in 1991, PRINT’s former sister publication HOW asked 11 prominent designers the following: If you had to live with one, and only one, typeface for the rest of your life, which one would it be?

As the magazine noted at the time, “Their responses reflect a variety of typeface preferences, and also reveal how much they differ in their approach when faced with a hypothetical design scenario.”

Paula Scher, Louise Fili, Milton Glaser and eight others weigh in below.

“Simonzini Garamond, also known as Italian Garamond. Hands down, it’s my favorite face. I have some others that I like but that’s one that I’ve used for years. … It’s a classic, old-style, very elegant face. It’s beautiful, versatile and also very readable. There’s a tremendous amount of elegance to it but it’s not elaborately styled. It stacks well as a Roman and it’s probably one of the prettiest italics around. Garamond 3 is its most popular modern version.” —John Waters

Garamond 3

“Presuming there would be no one to communicate with, I would work on my handwriting. I feel that at some point in art school I lost the ability to write legibly. My mother has beautiful handwriting. I would take a sample of her writing, study it and carefully practice it over and over again until I learned to write as she does.” —Rudy VanderLans

“Although we use a lot of Bodoni, if I had to pick one typeface it would be the older cuts of Garamond or, for the Mac, Adobe Garamond. I hate ITC Garamond. It’s not a very readable face because the ascenders and descenders are so short as compared with the x-height. It appears too dense; it’s also very hard-edged. The old style of Garamond is very human. It’s a classic typeface and very readable.” —Bob Wages

Adobe Garamond

“If I’m communicating with others it would be the original Caslon because English is my nature language and Caslon is the core typeface of the English language. Every language has its basic typeface. For example, French would be Garamond, Italian would be Bodoni, Dutch is Jansen. Maybe America’s core typeface is Trade Gothic. In any case, if you grow up in a certain culture and communication and language are part of it, the typeface should be too. Caslon goes perfectly with everything, from Shakespeare to Martin Amis. And it’s funky enough to never get tiresome. It doesn’t have boring, Germanic repetition.” —Roger Black

Adobe Caslon

“I did a similar feature to this about 10 years ago. What I was trying to find out at the time was how many people would choose hot-metal typefaces over computer-set type. Almost everybody with a really good type reputation picked typefaces that were metal. And I would do the same thing. With me it would be a choice of either Centaur, because it’s a personal favorite, or Times Roman. Times Roman is a nice, boring choice but it’s so workman-like. You can use it for almost anything. It’s easily the most functional and versatile typeface designed in the 20th century.” —Dugald Stermer


“Futura. It’s the typographical equivalent to the basic black dress.” —Louise Fili


“A pen. I would draw my own typefaces. There are so many of them and I like so many, I would make up my own characters. I would communicate by sending letters in a bottle or sand writing.” —Rick Valicenti

“My choice of typeface would be Times Roman. Times Roman has classical proportions and it is readable.” —Milton Glaser

Times Roman

“I would choose Bodoni Book. In the end it’s the only one you would need. It looks good in text, headlines, caps, lowercase. It’s the ‘poifect’ face!” —Paula Scher

Bodoni Book

“Garamond 3, because of its classic beauty and because it comes in a range of weights including a beautiful italic. The variety of weights and the amount of large and small caps allow for a maximum number of applications.” —Woody Pirtle

Garamond 3

“If I were on an island with mountains I would choose Buster. From a mountaintop it would look interesting, and I don’t think I would get tired of it. It’s not that readable so I would be dealing with form, shape and dimension rather than the literal message. If the island was flat I would choose Croissant because it’s so funky and bad—it would be a continual challenge to do something with it. Also, it reminds me of food. I would have it printed on oatmeal paper and I could always eat it if the design failed. If I had only Helvetica to use I would try to find a way to kill myself … it’s my third choice if I literally wanted to die from ennui.” —Primo Angeli



Art direction: Carole Winters. Click to enlarge.

#MiltonGlaser #WoodyPirtle #rudyvanderlans #JohnWaters #BobWages #PrimoAngeli #DugaldStermer #typography #PaulaScher #RickValicenti #louisefili #RogerBlack