Didot: Characteristics, Personality, Rhythm & Flow

9/25/2020: Part 1 Essay

  • Create a list of adjectives that describe your typeface.
  • Use that list to develop a narrative and sequence to introduce selected typeface and family.
  • Write a 1–2 page essay that highlights the unique characteristics and personality of selected typeface — in the context of its use and relation to its larger family (if applicable).
  • Then create a 50–65 word brief statement that encapsulates what was learned from the essay.
  • Name of typeface + family
  • Name of designer(s), country of origin, and date of design
  • Type classification, expressive qualities, personality
  • Description of visual characteristics of family
  • List or description of various weights + slants of the family

Initial Research:

Types of Type Classifications:

  • Old Style: Oldest typefaces, known for diagonal stresses on letterforms, character stroke weight is not dramatic.
  • Transitional: Typefaces represent the transition between old style and neoclassical designs, incorporates some characteristics from each. Strokes of letterforms oftentimes have a vertical stress, although axis of curve strokes can be inclined as well. Thick and thin strokes are more pronounced than old style serifs, but less than modern serifs.
  • Modern (aka Neoclassical + Didone): Have a more pronounced contrast between thick and thin lines in letterforms, axis of curved strokes is vertical with little to no bracketing, earliest typefaces date back to late 1700’s.
  • Slab/Square: Gained popularity in 1800’s for advertising display, typefaces have very heavy serifs with little to no bracketing, also have very little stroke contrast.


  • Flat, unbracketed, hairline serifs
  • Vertical and horizontal stress
  • Some letterforms have teardrop terminals
  • Skinnier counters
  • Regularized capital widths
  • Average x-height


9/29/2020: Thumbnail Sketching + Exploration

Thumbnail Notes:

  • All these thumbnails are iterations of the same concept: having kinetic type on the spread.
  • Maybe explore the more fashion, editorial side, along with historical — see what you like.
  • Try thumbnails that highlight the image?
  • Try thumbnails that highlight image?
  • Experiment with thumbnails that feel more editorial? (think fashion, vogue, harper’s bazaar)
(above) experimentation with leading etc.
(above) applying essay into columns

Matching typefaces:

  • Proxima Nova: size and x-height feels readable/appropriate.
  • Avenir: shorter x-height, flatter? letterforms than Proxima, kerning is tighter, a bit harder to read.
  • Helvetica Neue: letterforms are bigger (need to size down), higher x-height and thicker than Proxima and Avenir (x-height too high makes it hard to read).
  • Open Sans: Thinner, avg. x-height and large typeface, tracking tight like Avenir.

Editing Essay:

10/2/2020: Explorations Cont.

(above) exploration including image of Firmin Didot
(left) 120% larger; (right) 140% larger
(left) capitalized D in Didot; (right) Didot in all caps — emulating how Didot was used in the past

Discussion with Vicki + Jaclyn:

  • Idea of exploring a more ‘editorial’ feel is interesting, how would you do it?
  • Tidbits would be nice.
  • Look into fashion photography (i.e. black and white photography etc).
  • Would you be more interested in a spread with a historical figure’s face on it or fashion photo?
  • Even though Firmin Didot is the creator, the spread is about the typeface, not the designer.
  • Does ‘Didot’ letterforms have to connect?
  • Manually tab your paragraphs!!!1!!
  • Does Didot have to be largest? Could have a large image with small Didot surrounded by negative space and highlighted by red.
  • Open it up, try out historical and fashion direction of spreads, see what you like.
  • Remember to do loose sketchy thumbnails.
  • Colors we associate with ‘fashion’: magentas, reds, pinks, purple, warm colors.
  • Experiment with shape of body text — how can it relate to selected image? (Look @Alexey Brodovitch’s work).
(left) pointed out that top ‘i’ overlaps to second page while lower ‘d’ is cut off—interesting; (right) ‘didot’ isn’t really readable but interesting composition.
(above) compilation of fashion photography

All explorations with select images:

(left) composition 1; (right) composition 2
(left) composition 1; (right) composition 2
(left) looking at placement of short statement; (right) making the pull quote smaller and aligning with the cross of the ‘t’
(above) composition 1 printed untrimmed


  • The red on the ‘Didot” printed out more vibrant than anticipated.
  • Surprisingly, the white border around the first page made the overall spread feel a bit more harmonious — more breathable room on first page
  • Placement of “didot” in composition 2 felt successful, however, overall layout including text felt a bit cramped to the right — no room for additional content.

10/6/2020: In-Class Critique


Feedback from Jaclyn and Vicki:


  • Could consider adding centered headers on each page, in the same red i.e. “DIDOT TYPEFACE” in small.
  • Smaller weight for bolded text in center of second page.
  • Can consider fixing rag.
  • The composition using the black and white image felt like it took the ‘fashion’ connection a bit too far: expects to see the ‘Chanel’ brand rather than a Didot typeface.


  • Visually pushing the eye.
  • Left side does give a subtle sophisticated feel.
  • If a non-designer saw this spread, how to show modulation, the vertical stress etc? Add translucent circles to emphasize characteristics? Tip of letterform ‘t’ is very unique to Didot.
  • You want to encourage us to read the text, pull quote should be the CORE idea of text.
  • Experiment with the hang line of the paragraphs.
  • Think about placement of image source and page numbers/potential headers.
  • Goal is for typographic readability.
  • Think about how this spread might translate over to next project, type animation.

Tweaking For Final Critique:

(left) Pull quote from text on characteristics of Didot; (right) No more quote, added statement related to fashion to make better sense with overall spread feel.
(left) image source on right side of page (too much visual clutter); (right) bottom left corner of page, more subtle.
(above) shifted “Sophisticated, with a hint of grandeur” next to page number and sized smaller for less distraction.

Alternate Version:

(above) highlighting characteristics of Didot
  • Definitely highlights personality of Didot more.
  • May be a bit unclear what some of the indicators are pointing to.
  • Highlight on letterform ‘t’ may feel a bit left out.
  • May be a bit too much on the page??? (but also a tad too empty without it) :(
(above) where the eye goes on the page

Final Spread for Critique + Version with Grid:

(above) final
(above) with grid
  • First glance, can tell it is associated with fashion.
  • Visually, nice to look at (clean).
  • Break on ‘Didot’ (with color change) feels a bit unnatural.
  • The interaction with ‘Didot’ + person in image creates nice movement with text on second page.
  • If you’re going to do something playful/artistic, adding a subtle header that let’s them know what it is exactly resolves potential confusion (i.e. Chris’s Serifa spread)
  • Think about natural breaks, including in body copy (hyphens etc), you can think of it as a designer (“oh they aren’t anywhere near each other at least”), but you have to read it to see if its natural or not.
  • Think about if image is taking too much away from expressing the type.


I have reached a new high~

Revised Final Spread:



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Sarah Xi

Sarah Xi

Hey! I’m currently studying design @CMU with a focus on communications design + minor in HCI. You can find some of the projects I’ve worked on here.