Working on lots of long-term magazine projects, we don’t select new fonts all that often, particularly when it comes to body copy. In general, you choose a font for the body copy of your publication, and you stick with it, unless it’s time for a big redesign. And a lot of times, you still stick with it after a redesign.
Because a body copy font is such a long-term commitment, we are very careful when we’re choosing one. I sat down with our design team recently to get their insights on what makes a great body copy font for a magazine.

Lynne Boyer: Body copy is the heart and soul of what we do.
Kerri Davis: It’s determined early in the process and you live with it for ever and ever.
Q: What do you think about when you’re choosing a body copy font? Is it scientific? Is it instinct?
Lynne: What you should consider is who your audience is.
Kerri: You need to know a lot about them. Age…gender….legibility is important for certain age groups. The weight of a font is important, too.
Lynne: The weight can also be important for the message. It needs to match.
Carrie Wakeford: Body copy can’t look too trendy.
Kerri: We have a handful of what we consider body copy fonts. To me, a good body copy font goes unnoticed. If you pick one that has good spacing between letters, good strokes on the letters….
Carrie: And has the different bolds and italics….
Kerri: Some italics are too slanted for easy reading — like Requiem. I like the italic in Minion much better.
Lynne: Minion is more universal. It came out in the in the era when things were going to desktop publishing, and it just works well in a lot of applications.
On font development:
Kerri: They spend years on fonts figuring out how they work on a page. There is so much mathematics that goes into it. I think font people are more math people — I wonder about that. They’re kind of architects.
What else you need to think about when you’re choosing a font
Kerri: The space available on a page will drive it, too, whether you’re in an A5 or larger format book. Hoefler‘s got wider letters. Minion is more straight up and down.
Carrie: You need something that can fit in different column widths, whatever size book you have.

The design team’s top three favorite fonts for body copy:

  • Hoefler
  • Minion
  • Requiem

They named several others that they like and have used, but then rejected each for various reasons — not enough options. Too noticeable. A little funny looking. And no matter what we’re doing on the web, there were no fans of sans-serif fonts used as body copy.