Didot Typeface Spread

Bryce Li
6 min readOct 17, 2021


C Studio Fall 2021: Project 4

For this project, we were assigned to create a spread about our typeface. I was assigned Didot, a very iconic typeface. On a visual element, the most notable aspect of this typeface is the extreme contrast in stroke thickness across different parts of the letterform. Additionally, Didot has elegant curvature that can be appreciated up close.

The main purpose of this assignment was typesetting: how can we create readable text featuring a typeface like Didot? We were given a ten-column grid to work with consistently as a class.

Part I: Initial typesetting experiments

In this iteration, there was experimentation with different layouts and typefaces and how they read with each other. I almost immediately realized why Didot was almost always used as a display typeface: it was unbearable as running text when I first saw it in person. I initially switched to Georgia: Vicki later commented that Georgia would not be suitable for a print usage. I eventually settled on the usage of Garamond.

I also quickly noted the effect of the gutter on the layout on a spread: it’s important to cross the gutter with intention. Otherwise, it impedes readability: it’s a barrier between two sides.

Part II: Layout experimentation with letterforms

Based on my initial sketches, this spread experimented with text alignment and a closer look at letterforms. In these iterations, I enjoyed the aspect of highlighting specific parts of the letterforms and breaking down it’s anatomy. At this point, I also settled on the usage of Garamond, which was my favorite usage of type based on the printed type tests that I originally did. I chose this serif, as I think that it is most fitting with the historical context of the typeface.

Part III: Further experimentation with layout, new variations

In this version, I experimented with a zoom into the letterform of selected characters– namely the lowercases of R, A, and G. Unfortunately, it also read as the word “rag”.

In the left-hand version, I separated the “Di” and the “Dot” to account of the gutter. Additionally, I made adjustments in typesetting for the labels pointing out typographic elements: Vicki pointed out that with smaller weights and shorter elements, it is more readable to make the label text less wide.

Part IV: Adjustment of layouts

In this version, I wanted to experiment with changing the color and the composition. I feel that the left hand experiment was unsuccessful, as it did not draw my eyes to what was important. The right-hand side eventually felt way too cluttered: something that I did not associate with my simple and elegant typeface. I also moved the large Didot to the right hand side so that it would be broken up and read as “Di-dot” instead of “Did-ot”.

Part V: Final version

In this version, I settled on finding the letterforms of the lowercase G. I chose this because after closely studying the letterforms, I found that one of the most compelling parts of Didot for me was the elegant curvature. Additionally, the g could connect the left and right side of the spread, making it easier to go from one side to another. I was also able to apply lessons of typesetting from other versions, such as the labels being a smaller width. On top of that, I used a drop cap and changed it from a D to a T so there would not be redundancy with the title.

Initial Narrative

The initial narrative was rough: it featured heavy quotes from external sources, and was very long. I adjusted the text later on to make tweaks to readability and to optimize for typesetting.

“Didot is an archetypal modern serif typeface: it evokes elegance and European history. Firmin Didot aimed to create an iteration on the Baskerville font with an even higher stroke contrast. Like other modern/didone typefaces, Didot features ball terminals, vertically oriented weight axes, and a heavy neoclassical inspiration.

In the wake of the French Revolution, the Didot family was known for printing accessible yet beautiful books of illustrated classics and scholarly texts: Voltaire was just one of the prestigious clients that was typeset in Didot. As a result, Didot is associated with values of enlightenment, especially when combined with it’s neoclassical feel.

“In print, Didone fonts are often used on high-gloss magazine paper for magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, where the paper retains the detail of their high contrast well, and for whose image a crisp, “European” design of type may be considered appropriate. They are used more often for general-purpose body text, such as book printing, in Europe. They remain popular in the printing of Greek, as the Didot family were among the first to establish a printing press in newly independent Greece.” -Wikipedia quote, will change

Contemporarily, Didot can be found as a logotype in Dior, Boss, Vogue, Zara, Harper’s Bazaar, and CK: we’ve associated these logos with luxurious and elegant European fashion. However, it’s high contrast also suggests usage as a display font.

“The period of Didone types’ greatest popularity coincided with the rapid spread of printed posters and commercial ephemera and the arrival of bold type. As a result, many Didone typefaces are among the earliest designed for “display” use, with an ultra-bold “fat face” style becoming a common sub-genre.” -Wikipedia, quote will change

The usage of Didot poses challenges to readability in running text: it’s thick verticals overwhelm thinner aspects of letters and overwhelm the reader. As a result, it’s either best to keep the usage of Didot to display text only or to use modified versions with optical sizing to increase readability. “