Newspaper Front Pages Proclaim Obama Victory

  • Fonts in Use
Fonts in Use | Yves Peters | November 6, 2008

Historic moments call for historic front pages and historic headlines. Yet not all of them are as successful as they would like to be. Both the Newsdesigner and The Guardian websites have compiled galleries featuring the front pages of yesterday’s major newspapers. has over fifty American front pages, while the 21 on include foreign ones as well. And if you’re feeling particularly unproductive today or tomorrow you can always trawl through over 700 front pages from 66 countries on But don’t tell your boss/partner/spouse that you got that link from me. ;)

While some limit their creativity to coming up with a striking headline, other newspapers did a complete overhaul of their front page for this historic occasion. Of special interest is how the recently redesigned Chicago Tribune, The Oklahoman and Hartford Courant handled the story in their new formats.

The Oklahoman chose a rather conventional option. A page-wide landscape picture takes up about a quarter of the page height, and the headline in Tobias Frere-Jones’ Retina – together with Chronicle the new typographic style of the newspaper – spells it out in bold letters. The Chicago Tribune favours a bolder approach with an almost full page photograph that extends behind the nameplate, and the Mercury Display headline reversed in white at the bottom. The front page is powerful, with an interesting composition – note how Obama’s outstretched hand seems to rest on the headline, and the upwards vector from hand to face makes it a dynamic but still dignified image. And the Hartford Courant takes it one step further by tilting their front page sideways to accommodate a landscape photo of the President-elect and his family. Yet by doing so – and in the absence of any type except some small Rockwell at the bottom – this execution almost literally falls flat.

The Chicago Sun-Times displays the impressive power of subdued typography. The small “Mr. President” in Utopia (thanks, Kent) at the bottom of the full page image proves to have tons more impact than the biggest, boldest headline.

Quod erat demonstrandum. Not only does the headline on the Boston Herald verge on being condescending, but Helvetica Compressed looks unwieldy at such giganomous sizes. They’d better have stuck with Bureau Grot Light which is used in the secondary headline. The whole piece is a mess anyway, with the disparate elements positioned in a seemingly random way.

As far as bold type and big images go the front page for Rocky Mountain News fares far better, but you’d expect no less from a publication that was designed by Danilo Black (see also Roger Black’s excellent The Last Blog) with the custom headline face Rocky by Matthew Carter. And Benton Sans has that je-ne-sais-quoi that makes it sit on the page so pleasantly.

The New York Times stick to their regular format and this poses a slight composition problem. The “Obama” above the headline – set in Matthew Carter’s beautiful custom designed Cheltenham – accentuates the centred setting. Because the photo right underneath it is positioned according to the column grid it is off centre and makes the whole thing look a tad misaligned. Classy and conventional.

Although it follows the same modus operandi as The New York Times the front page of The Wall Street Journal looks more balanced. The headline type is the custom WSJ Scotch by The Font Bureau, Inc.; the great looking numbers on the right side belong to the aforementioned Retina. The WSJ Scotch family is now commercially available as Escrow (thanks, Kent). This is a nice conventional one as well.

The Star Tribune front page teaches us that it so helps to have a striking headline face. The page-wide photograph perfectly complements the headline set in Christian Schwartz’s Stag. The typeface was originally commissioned by David Curcurito and Darhil Crooks for Esquire. It is reminiscent of classic slab serif faces like Beton, Peignot’s Egyptienne Noir, Georg Trump’s Schadow, and Scarab but more compact and contemporary, with the blackest weights coming dangerously close to Aachen. Popular, with the subhead in Whitman Display (thanks, Kent).

Another newspaper which has been in the news a while ago is The Baltimore Sun which was redesigned in 2005. It uses Mencken, a family of custom faces in Text and Head version by Jean-François Porchez. The type itself is quite beautiful, but is poorly integrated in the photo. It prevents the image from “breathing”, making it feel a bit claustrophobic. And why on earth is that horrendous Eurostile allowed to reside on the front page?

The San Francisco Chronicle combines a striking image with equally strong typography on its front page. The full page photograph is literally underlined by the headline. Reversing out the first line at the bottom edge of the photograph and sticking the top of the second line to its baseline makes for a dramatic and surprising composition. It’s a shame the banners just below the nameplate look so corny.

One of the most beautiful front pages I discovered in the Newseum gallery up till now, and up to par with the Chicago Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle ones, is the stylish front page for The Patriot News. The sepia tones of the photograph, Obama’s head that slightly covers the bottom of the Poynter Old Style Display headline (thanks, Jan), the composition with the two quotes – one by Martin Luther King and one by Barack Obama – reversed in the photograph, … It all comes together perfectly in an elegant and dignified front page.

And to close off this arbitrary selection of front pages I present you “my” newspaper De Morgen, two times winner of the European Newspaper Award, which came up with a novel solution. As the outcome of the election wasn’t yet known due to the time difference they simply went for a reversible front page. Elementary, my dear Watson. Yet the location of the bar code and colour strip betrays the editor already had a hunch who was going to win …

If anything, this collection is testimony to the endurance of newspapers and the printed media. Print is not dead, as this entry on Khoi Vinh’s Subtraction blog attests. This is confirmed by the reprints of the front pages that are offered on many a newspaper website. So I’ll just leave it up to you to discover those numerous front pages in the various galleries. Of course you’re always welcome to comment below. The floor is yours.

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  1. Thanks Yves, yet again a really good post.

    One question, what’s with the Eurostile hating?


    Posted by Simon Robertson on Nov. 6, 2008
  2. What typeface is used in the DeMorgen masthead?

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Nov. 6, 2008
  3. Well, it doesn’t really fit in the design, does it? The large date and the price stuck to the top edge of the image look really brutal next to the delicate type, and the website address just below the nameplate throws the whole piece out of balance.

    The De Morgen masthead is set in Gotham, as you could’ve read in the Unzipped entry I linked to if only it had been written after my switch to English.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Nov. 7, 2008
  4. I totally agree: Eurostyle ruins the compostion. Plus, the dateline there is clumsy, and adds more noise to the cover.

    I really liked this entry and it does show how beautiful print can be.

    Thanks for the post, Yves!

    Posted by Bart on Nov. 7, 2008
  5. Boston Herald – Impact: time for Change!

    Posted by Arun on Nov. 7, 2008
  6. Yves, a correction: The Star Tribune doesn’t use Stag. Stag has those slightly bracketed outer serifs. That’s a different Christian Schwartz design: Popular. (Actually, IIRC, he tweaked it slightly for the StarTrib and called it Populist.) And, I might immodestly point out that the subhead there is Whitman Display.

    If I might shill a little more, the WSJ Scotch family is commercially available as Escrow.

    The Chicago Sun-Times head you asked about is set in Utopia.

    Posted by Kent Lew on Nov. 7, 2008
  7. How important is he…?


    Posted by Mike Schawel on Nov. 7, 2008
  8. Great info, Kent. I’m adding this to the article. :)

    Posted by Yves Peters on Nov. 7, 2008
  9. Follow-up to Koi Vinh’s Subtracted blog entry – The New York Times front page has a starting bid of US$200.00 on eBay.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Nov. 7, 2008
  10. The Sun: “I totally agree: Eurostyle ruins the compostion.”

    I think Eurostile was introduced this year, along with a small redesign of the newspaper. It replace Nobel introduced by Lucie Lacava in 2005 as Sans companion to my Mencken.

    Posted by Jean F Porchez on Nov. 12, 2008
  11. Well, I’d pick Nobel over Eurostile any day. I wonder who is responsible for this typographic snafu. :/

    Posted by Yves Peters on Nov. 12, 2008
  12. i agree eurostile is not a great choice here, but i got the impression you generally didn’t like it, is that true? or am i just reading too much into it?

    thanks for the gotham tip!

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Nov. 13, 2008
  13. Mwah, let’s say I’ve very rarely seen it used well. ;)

    Posted by Yves Peters on Nov. 13, 2008
  14. This is all very interesting to see, but it would have been nice to see more frontpages from Europe. Incidentally, I wonder if Mr. Peeters might not have put an unnecessary dig in at the misidentified Stag font if this font was distributed by FontShop?

    Posted by Anders on Nov. 14, 2008
  15. Incidentally, I wonder if Mr. Peeters might not have put an unnecessary dig in at the misidentified Stag font if this font was distributed by FontShop?

    Errr, I don’t follow you. What’s the unnecessary dig?

    BTW It’s Peters with only one ‘e’ before the ‘t’. No problem tho, it’s an oft made mistake.

    Posted by Yves Peters on Nov. 14, 2008
  16. Mr Peters,

    My apology for the spelling of your name.

    Maybe it’s just a problem with my English. If something is “dangerously close” that doesn’t mean it is too similar or a copy? Sorry to misunderstood you if this is not what you meant.

    Posted by Anders on Nov. 15, 2008
  17. Oh, that’s what you mean! I didn’t realise you referred to that last bit in the crossed out section of the text. :)

    You misunderstood me indeed. That remark was intended to be very much tongue in cheek, but now that I reread it I see it can easily be interpreted in a negative way, so sorry for my clumsy wording. What I meant is that I noticed the boldest weights somehow featured some design details that reminded me of Aachen, certainly not that Christian Schwartz had actually copied anything of that design. Christian knows very well I hold him and his work in very high regard.

    Trust me – I would never judge certain typefaces differently just because they’re not distributed by FontShop. Quite often new foundries are added to their catalogue, so I’d never know if and when my words would turn against me if I did that, and that would make me lose all credibility. Furthermore I have been writing less favourable things about certain FontFonts in the past, and I do praise “non-FontShop” typefaces whenever they warrant that praise.

    And really, don’t worry about the misspelling – “Peeters” is the most common name in Belgium bar none, so it happens all too often. ;)

    Posted by Yves Peters on Nov. 15, 2008
  18. RE: Eurostile – I understand Yves, I guess I just love it’s design, so am a little biased.

    Although i do prefer it use back in the 60’s, as in these titles from Captain Scarlet:

    It look better on DVD, but you get the idea.

    Posted by Simon Robertson on Nov. 18, 2008
  19. Stumbled on this post only now. Brilliant compilation to say the least! Newspaper front pages never fail to inspire.

    Posted by Arun on Oct. 21, 2009

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