Butterick bends his own rules in the name of typographic eclecticism.
Matthew Butterick’s desk reference is commendable when it comes to mission, structure, content and style of writing. However, as a book designer, I have ambivalent feelings about the vast choice of typefaces applied throughout the volume. Butterick uses no fewer than eight type families, namely:
- Lyon Text roman, italic, bold and small caps for the main text and subheads
- Arno Display for chapter headings
- Quadraat Sans on the cover and inside for tips, tables and info-boxes
- Cheltenham subchapter heading
- Verlag book and black for cross headings, captions and marginalia
- Alix for monospaced text
- Amira bold caps for captions of examples on the margin
- Whitney Index White Round for numeration
- plus more typefaces in samples which I will not list here.
And again different typefaces on the website (via @font-face):
- Concourse for headings (a new sans by Butterick in progress)
- Charter for Text
While all of the above are excellent typefaces, each of them suitable for a whole publication like this, I see no real need to combine them all in one book. Why not pick just two or maybe three of those but then make full use of their variants, styles and weights?
At some point a too diverse typography can also lead to confusion rather than guidance. Differentiation of various types of texts and structures is necessary but shouldn’t feel arbitrary.
To read more, and to read designers comments on this project, visit Fonts In Use.