You know you work with text too much when you see a commercial on TV or a billboard or an ad and you know the fonts they’re using. If you’re a writer at heart, the words are what matter. But in advertising you soon learn that font usage is about more than the words – text is another graphic element. Using fonts to convey the message can be as important as the words themselves in capturing the attention of your audience.


Trajan may be the perfect headline font. It is strong, but subtle and elegant as well. It seems to connote mastery, or even supremacy. Perhaps that is because it is derived from Roman capital letters used during the reign of Trajan – one of the few rulers whose reputation has survived nineteen centuries. Every new emperor after him was honored by the Senate with the prayer felicior Augusto, melior Traiano, meaning “may he be luckier than Augustus and better than Trajan”.

The font is an old style serif typefaces designed in 1989 by Carol Twombly for Adobe. The design is based on the letterforms of capitalis monumentalis or Roman square capitals, as used for the inscription at the base of Trajan’s Column. Since lower case forms were not in use in Roman times, Trajan is an all-capitals typeface. Instead, small caps are commonly used. A number of interpretations predate Trajan, particularly Emil Rudolf Weiss’ “Weiss” of 1926, Frederic Goudy’s 1930 “Goudy Trajan,” and Warren Chappell’s “Trajanus” of 1939. There are also numerous prominent typefaces that are not revivals, but owe a very clear debt to the Trajan letterforms, most notably Hermann Zapf’s 1955 Optima.

Twombly’s cut of Trajan has become very popular, as seen in its nearly constant presence on American movies, television shows and books. For example, the font was used for the film poster of Titanic, for the credits of several films like Interview with the Vampire, the titles and captions for The West Wing and the covers of many John Grisham paperbacks. Trajan is also the official font of Columbia University, Rice University,  University of Kansas and many other institutions and political groups.


The ubiquitous Interstate typeface is a relatively new font, 1990s vintage. It is a clean, san serif type with a wide spacing between letters and unique angle-cut ascending and descending strokes. I think what makes it so popular – think Southwest Airlines, Citibank, The Weather Channel and Army Strong (just to name a few) – is that the face works well in large formats and as body text or online. Whatever the reason, chances are you’ve seen it used before.

History of Interstate
Interstate is a digital typeface closely related to the signage alphabet drawn for the U.S. Federal Highway Administration in 1949. It was designed by Tobias Frere-Jones from 1993-1999.

Isadora Caps

Popular in Europe and North America, the Art Nouveau style had its beginnings in the late 1800s and remained dominant until the outbreak of World War I. Its aesthetic was characterized by extreme decoration, and was evident in architecture, painting, sculpture, furniture, clothing and even jewelry. Some consider Art Nouveau to be a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, when craftsmanship was trumped by mass production and machine-made products.

Art Nouveau typefaces are stylized, elegant display fonts. The type designs are usually extremely decorative, and can include embellished stroke endings, very high and low “waistlines,” diagonal and triangular character shapes, top- or bottom-weighted stresses, angled crossbars, and in some cases, filigreed initials. Some typefaces have more than one of these distinctive traits.

Isadora Caps was designed in 1993 by Sam Wang. He designed over 20 Art Nouveau fonts from 1991-2008, including Handwriting, Celtic and Sarah Caps. Isadora Caps has deep plunging descenders and an open ’round’ appeal.

See more Fontology HERE.