Idiot proof

What’s effective is the big bold type across the entire spread as a foil to the graphic icon representing a tweeting bird. But the juxtaposition  of the typefaces and the seemingly arbitrary relationships of the words from The Man Who Fell to Earth are baffling.

How two such different designs come to be in the same magazine is quite a mystery.

The large condensed typeface is Compacta and is ideal for the large headlines displayed in the first spread. The tight kerning leads to both a legible headline and a pleasing typographic texture. But why Compacta was used for the initial letters in the second spread is less clear. And the rhythmic alternation of alignment, where the initial hangs from the top on one word then sits on the baseline in another does not support the idea of something falling, but more of bouncing.

Gestalt theory talks about how objects that are in close proximity are grouped. And so the two words in the center, Man and To, will be read as a group which disrupts the natural flow of reading which is left to right. In typography we’d say the “readabiltiy” of the headline is poor because of that. And the smaller the letters become, the more illegible they are. The M is a particularly difficult letter to read.

No doubt I’ve spent far more time considering these details than the designer of the spreads. But that’s ok. Another lesson for the classroom.

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