Clarendon Typeface Spread


We were to write a one to two page essay that highlights the history, usage, and unique characteristics of the typeface (Clarendon), and a brief statement (50–65 words) summarizing the essay.

My Clarendon essay and brief statement.

Key Research Points:


  • Created in 1845 by Robert Besley for the Fann Street Foundry in London.
  • In the 1840s, slab serifs were gaining popularity but were often lumpy and poorly matched to the body text face they were intended to complement.
  • Therefore, Clarendon was designed as a “related bold”—a typeface meant to harmonize and align with other roman types
  • Clarendon was the first typeface to be patented.
  • Introduced thick, bracketed serifs—gentile curves that widen to connect the serif to the body of the letter, providing ease of readability and visibility, as well as a softer and more approachable feel.
  • Curled leg on “R”
  • Ball terminals on “a” and “c”
  • large x-height
  • short ascenders and descenders
  • low contrast
  • Display type
  • Five weights—light, roman, heavy, bold, black
  • Posters printed on wood type
  • “Wanted” posters of the American Old West
  • National Park traffic signs
  • Sony, Wells Fargo, Tonka, Ruby Tuesday logos are all variations/inspired by Clarendon.


Clarendon’s association with nature (wood type, national park signage) gives the typeface a feeling of warmth and hand-craftsmanship that comes with a comforting timelessness. Its’ thick square serifs are bold, confident, and sturdy, yet the soft curves of the brackets are gentle, approachable, and charming.

  • Bold, Striking
  • WOOD, “Wanted”
  • Timeless
  • Playful
  • Handcrafted
  • Vintage
  • Approachable
  • Versatile

Analyzing the Typeface

With some background knowledge on Clarendon, I decided to do some analogue analysis on the typeface to apply what I researched.

Studying the typeface in variations of italicized form and all caps.
Type pairing explorations

Thumbnail Sketches

Because the letterforms of Clarendon are so unique and elegant, I focused a lot of my initial thumbnails figuring out how I could create dynamic and informative imagery by highlighting the different quirks of each letter. I played around with scale, breaking the margin, and other playful compositions. I knew I wanted to highlight these key characteristics: the upturned foot of the “R,” the ball terminals, and the bracketed square serifs. I also tried to experiment with layouts using images, but I found it pretty difficult to place on the spread when I didn’t have any images in mind for reference.

Laying it Out in Digital

Inspiration posters.

Proportion & Layout Harmony

Vicki taught us how to use our letterforms to guide and inform our spread proportions. We learned how to use the x-height and cap-height of our letterforms to influence the placement and size of our text and images. I revisited some of my layouts and explored setting the type guided by Clarendon’s wide, stocky letterforms.


Because Clarendon’s letterforms already have so much personality and ~quirkiness~ to them, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to incorporate any photos. I still wanted to give it a try though, so my first instinct was to look for “cowboy,” “Old Wild West,” “American Western” artwork. I found a lot of dynamic and energetic paintings of American cowboys and horses, but I wasn’t too sure how to incorporate them into my spread.

Meeting W/ Vicki:

  1. Using the letterforms to create imagery could be more interesting than using a photo.
  2. Cowboy imagery is a little overkill, and doesn’t match the “modern” look of Clarendon. But, the colors are really nice to incorporate into the spread.
  3. Favorite thumbnail spreads are the big “R” and scattered letters that almost spell “Clarendon.” Except, big “R” spread spells “RAY,” try another letter combo that doesn’t create a word.
  4. Print out letters and cut and paste them to loosen composition up.
  5. Look into pamphlets and newspapers from 1845.

Cut & Paste Exercise

More and More Iterations…

The cut paper exercise helped a lot in adding movement to my spread. I played around with tilting letters, masking images, and bleeding across the spread and through the margins. I also played around with varying hanglines for my body text to add even more energy to the composition. I experimented with only using color in the bottom left spread; the color palette was inspired by the bold but somewhat “earthy (..?)” tones from the cowboy paintings I found earlier.

In-Class Feedback from Jaclyn

  1. Like the big “R” composition, especially the tilted type creates a really interesting composition.
  2. For the pull quote, like the placement above body text more, and like it more when words are all the same size.
  3. Rag needs improvement, maybe columns are too thin? Gutter is good size for ease of readability.

Meeting W/ Jaclyn

  1. Multiple colors isn’t necessary, just using the orange is nice.
  2. “Q” spread → pocket of trapped dead space in the middle of the spread. How can we activate the dead center space? The circle layout is kind of interesting…
  3. Maybe can experiment with adding orange characters?
  4. What is the upper right letterform? Looks like some pull bar. Maybe change to an “n?” Also kind of strange that it’s a solid color while others have an image.
  5. Orange bar to highlight the bracketed serif is a little muddy. (?)

Moving to Indesign

More exploration within Indesign.

Meeting W/ Vicki

  1. The image feels European, and not sure what it’s about. Maybe you can fill the empty space next to “R” with a little blurb of text explaining the image context.
  2. Readability is on point!
  3. Dashed line detail is nice but gets lost on screen, make a tiny bit thicker.
  4. For Clarendon title, add tracking to count for the spine of the magazine spread so the letters don’t get eat up in the middle.
  5. For pull-out quote, subtle change in weight seems like a mistake, change the color to an orange, or increase the weight contrast.
  6. Really like the playfulness of the tilted text that feels appropriate for Clarendon.
  7. Orange for the circle is too bright and attention-grabbing, maybe try a very light, off-white color.
  8. Include page numbers!
Working with the grid.

Final Crit:

Guest Critic—
1. “R” not bold enough? The image makes the “R” fall back into the composition.
2. Too much playfulness? Everything has that bouncy feeling so the playfulness competes with each other. Maybe make “Clarendon” title straight horizontal across spread.



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