Made for Each Other: Benton Sans and Benton Modern

There’s a theme in the requests for help we get here at the research desk, namely, “What headline face goes with the selection I’ve already made for text?” In answer, we put our heads together and came up with the idea of a Great Pairs series. Here we’ll show a good pairing in a number of settings, made to demonstrate the how and why of combining faces. Not an in-depth formal analysis of each face, but more of a quick, mostly practical bit of shop talk on function and usage.

This week we look at faces made for each other: Benton Modern and Benton Sans. Both of these Font Bureau families carry the Benton name, after Morris Fuller Benton and his father Lynn Boyd Benton, founder of American Type Founders. Benton Modern is a contemporary redrawing of the Century family of Scotch Romans / Scotch Moderns extensively developed by ATF.

Though you may not have heard of it before, Benton Sans should look familiar. It’s a mixture of mostly Morris Fuller Benton’s News Gothic, and all the others that carry a similar presence (Franklin/Alternate/Trade Gothic). The American Gothics, while charming, can come off as having a natural bent toward telling people what to do. Plainspoken, though not terribly softspoken by nature.

When working with faces that have a strong historical appeal, the use of period-specific conventions such as fully justified columns of text can be incorporated into one’s compositions to reinforce the historic aspect of the work. Or such conventions can be deliberately thrown out, resulting (if done successfully) in a fresh contrast.

Both these families are great because they offer a number of weights and widths, as well as the premium features you don’t get in old digital versions of Century or News Gothic, like small caps, text figures, etc., and yet they have a familiarity about them that, in the right hands, can be used to earn the trust of the reader.

That’s all. Catch another Great Pairs here next week.

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