Ask H&FJ: Fonts for Financials

Typefaces: Sentinel and Gotham

Annual reports offer designers a marvelous opportunity to strut their stuff. In the hands of a thoughtful typographer, a dense volume of technical text can become warm and welcoming, its changing rhythm of introductions, statements, analyses, and disclosures calling for a beautiful typographic system to help organize the text. Financial data can be uniquely satisfying to design, offering an irresistible opportunity to work with large type families in intricate ways. There are tables both long and short, as well as charts, graphs, and diagrams, all studded with headings, footnotes, and legends that defy even the most ingenious grid.

Each of these details places a special burden on the fonts, making it especially important to choose the right palette up front. We’ve gathered some thoughts about choosing fonts for annual reports for our Techniques library, here you’ll find four things to think about when considering a typeface — and a collection of font families specifically designed to meet these unique challenges.

High Scores for Service and Style

Typeface: Whitney Medium

With the arrival of a new year comes a new Zagat Survey, and with this year’s edition comes a special typographic surprise: a complete redesign using our Whitney family. The indomitable Zagat team has given the fonts one of their most rigorous workouts ever, using Whitney’s many special features to excellent advantage — here’s some of what’s inside.

Typeface: Whitney Book (including Numerics)

Pocket guides have an especially compelling need to keep page count low and legibility high, making Whitney’s compact forms a good match for the project. In its pro edition, Whitney contains a set of even-width tabular figures, which the Zagat team used for this very clear and sensible wine vintage chart, above.

Typeface: Whitney Index Black Round Medium

Since guidebooks feature both maps and numbered lists, a set of numbered indices is often useful. Here, Zagat’s heavily-automated pagination system is able to call upon the pre-built Whitney Index font, rather than demanding the intervention of a designer for every single table. (If you’ve ever tried to make numbers in circles yourself, you know how treacherous they can be — especially when lists spill over into double digits!)

Typeface: Whitney Light and Bold

Newsprint is an appropriate choice for a pocket guide, since it helps reduce both weight and cost, but it’s an especially hostile environment for typography. To survive newsprint, letterforms need to have clear gestures and open apertures, to prevent their forms from clogging up at small sizes. And because type on newsprint can gain weight unpredictably, sans serifs with a broad range of weights are especially useful. Whitney has six weights, each of which makes an appearance somewhere in the 2008 guide. —JH

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