Project 3: Typeface Spread

Thien Le
8 min readNov 11, 2021


Communications Studio I

In this project, readability is the main goal.

legibility vs readability

factors that contribute to legibility

  • x-height: taller = more legible
  • counters: smaller counters = harder to read

factors that contribute to readability

  • smaller size = harder to read (demographics should be taken into account)
  • flush left, rag right
  • rags: look at shape, want an organic flow. no stacked words

eye needs somewhere to enter, exit, and rest

Du Bois Notes

  • Released in june 2021
  • Designed by Tré Seals (Vocal Type Co.) inspired by infographics created by W.E.B. Du Bois and students at HBCU’s in the 20th century
  • The typeface is Curveless
  • The font on W.E.B. Du Bois’ infographics were originally uppercase sans serifs but Seals created Du Bois to include lowercase letters, 11 sets of stylistic alternatives as well as a series of refined keys from some of the maps included amongst the infographics.
  • Vertical and horizontal strokes are the same weight in all fonts.
  • 27 fonts total, three weights, three widths, with matching italics and reverse italics.
  • Du Bois infographics were published twenty years before the founding of Bauhaus,” and their modular style predated “the rise of dominant European avant-garde movements”
  • Adjectives for Du Bois: Bold, Strong, Historical,

Readability Tests

Du Bois is a display font so I needed to see what fonts would pair well with it. I experimented with both serif and sans serif fonts. I decided to go for a Sans Serif font because I think that they complemented Du Bois well rather than a Serif font because of how thin the strokes get and in Du Bois, all of the strokes are the same width so it just looked too thin when next to Du Bois. Of the Sans Serif fonts, I liked Helvetica and Source Sans Variable the best.

Readability Experiments

With Helvetica and Source Sans Variable, both regular, I experimented with point size and leading.

After printing out the tests, I was deciding between Source Sans Variable (9.5/12) and Source Sans Variable (10/12), both in three columns. I then asked some classmates for feedback and they recommended to adjust the tabbing because there was too much space for the indentation, try breaks in between paragraphs, and add more leading to allow room for the eye to breathe. I also noticed that the column width I was creating was fairly slim and there was not the optimal amount of characters per line causing the reader to have to move onto the next line too quickly.

I chose Source Sans Variable (9.5/13) as my typesetting because it felt easy to read. I think that I need to adjust the rag so that there are less irregular shapes that form and adjust the copy so that there aren’t orphans.

Thumbnail Sketches

With these initial compositions, I tried mainly two approaches: focusing on the form of the typeface or focusing on the historical importance of the typeface by echoing its origin in W.E.B. Du Bois’ infographics. After doing this set of 9 spreads, I realized that I wanted “Du Bois” to be in all-caps and be bigger to have more of a presence on the page because I see Du Bois being bold, strong, and powerful, and having it smaller I believe, does not give enough respect to its history.

I was initially unsure of what approach would be correct: focusing on the form of the type or the history, but after talking with Vicki, I was encouraged to approach it any way I see fit to get people interested in reading about the font. I think that because Du Bois has such a rich history, this is what I want to mainly focus on and because of this, I should include some example infographics or even a photo of him. The main purpose of this project is readability so that is what I should focus on first, rather than having a good composition and layout with unreadable text.

W.E.B. Du Bois Infographics
Possible spot colors
Iterations shown to Andrew

After iterating a bit on the idea to include quotes, and pictures, I asked Andrew for a crit. Some advice that he gave me was to think about what you want to show, how you want readers to feel, and what you want to say. Having one example of an infographic Du Bois created may place importance on it and readers could be led to believe that this was the only one that he created.

Adjectives for how i want people to feel:

  • Inspired
  • Informed
  • Proud
  • Empowered

When talking to Yoshi and showing him some of the spreads I created, he encouraged me to hone in on an idea. Some issues that he pointed out that were evident in all of the spreads was that the use of the grid could be better executed, color can be used more effectively, experiment with more of the colors Du Bois used in his infographics, and to choose letters that are more intentional and can both serve the purpose of analyzing the form and also enhance the story of the type. Some of the spreads are more effective than others in conveying the narrative that I want. I think that the one with the grid of infographics is a good experiment but the focus should be placed on the typeface evident in those data visualizations and currently, more emphasis is placed on the visualizations.

I am slowly honing in on an idea and trying to focus on one to refine but of the ones I created, I like two of them and so I iterated on those ideas.

When talking with Vicki, she said that firstly, the repetition of “DU BOIS” has an interesting pattern but it is too much. If I were to go with that idea, I would take some of it out to add more negative space and movement. Additionally, having an actual line that connects the two pages of the spread is too obvious. If alignment is used correctly, there is no need for an actual line. My goal is to draw the readers eye from the left page to the right page, however it is too obvious and looks like an afterthought. Some more refinements that can be made is adding in page numbers, playing more with the colors, adjusting alignment to create a harmonious page, adjust the hang quote, try to incorporate the adjectives in the left page and have the right be just the right. I also will try to find photos of Du Bois that is from a time when he was younger.

Spread for Crit

After some time away, I wanted to work on my spread. I wanted to create a spread that is more cohesive. I also felt as though the stark white contrasts too much with the pattern of the Du Bois and I don’t think that it is fitting for the font. From crit, some things that were mentioned was the size of the body, and the size of the page numbers. I think overall I need to work on creating a spread that has contrast of sizes. My goal is to have the largest text be the “Du Bois”, the medium text be the quote and statement and the smallest text be the body copy.

Final Spread

For my final spread, I went back to an old layout I had, except I simplified it and was much more careful about alignment and proximity. I knew I wanted to include a picture of him and the only way that I could resolve it was to put it in the title. I tried to make the reader’s eye move from the left to the right by aligning the beginning of the paragraph to the top of the title and by including the statement on the second page.

Overall, I appreciated the depth at which I experimented in the beginning of this project. I had a really difficult time choosing an idea to go with and refine and I still think that there are numerous ways through which I could have enhanced readability in the final spread and made it more interesting but I think that it fits the vibe of my animation and it gets the point across.