Goudy’s Diamond-Shaped Tittles & Punctuation… and Other Charms

This retro ad is super-cool, and set in enormous Goudy Old Style. I found it here.

A chubby little font with mostly substantial uprights, Goudy Old Style is nice and readable as well as being a little on the dark side in the block on the page. That’s not automatically a bad thing, I’ve been known to feel a sense of security when I open a book and see crisp, black letterforms ready to be consumed. They seem so reliable. That’s not to say I’ve never set a body style in 65% black nor settled on an ethereal font. I have done both, though not on the same project. It’s an intuition thing.

The Briefest History Ever

Goudy OS was developed in 1915 by an American bookkeeper-turned-publisher of the same name. Fredric W. Goudy created the typeface for the American Type Foundry (ATF), a handful of others for London’s Caslon foundry, and still more specialized fonts for other commissioners.

The Letterforms

Handsome, eye-pleasing, gentle curves abound. I’d like to paint letterforms, but they’re not really subject to artistic expression. The curves on the characters need to be rendered with care and perfection; in other words, they’re designed to be printed, not painted. That slight concavity just under Goudy’s columns on the capitals is ideal to my personal aesthetic. Not every typeface has this, others make me wistful for Goudy in that respect. Palatino, by comparison sits almost stone-straight along its baseline, but I can forgive it this shortcoming. Palatino possesses another pleasant feature shared by Goudy—an uppercase “P” that doesn’t close. I love that. In fact, there’s not a single Goudy alpha-character I don’t like. I’m even intrigued by the pruned ascender on the lowercase “t” giving the mistaken impression of a tall x-height. The “t” can get away with it.

The Flaw

My only beef with Fredric’s font is the regrettable absence of non-lining numerals. Goudy’s numeric set is all “uppercase.” The font you’re reading right now is Georgia, and its numbers have descenders: 0123456789. These are less distracting in copy, as when the reader comes across a date or an address. Lining numerals appear to be shouting at the reader within the copy, like all caps. They’re designed for tables, so they line up nicely in the grid.

Goudy is a fantastic little font, and its numbers are just as lovely as the rest of its figures. But if you’re typesetting something with a lot of dates or coordinates—maps, schedules, scientific data—you may need to switch it out for something like Caslon, Garamond, or… heck, even Georgia.

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