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How Type Works: The Subtitle

T
he appearance of "Leonard Cohen I'm Your Man" in some reputable publications got me to thinking: Wow. Not everybody knows how subtitles work. It should, of course, be "Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man." Titles and subtitles are separated with a colon.

No, there's no colon here:

LEONARD COHEN I'M YOUR MAN

It doesn't matter. Notice the different colors? Notice how the letter sequences appear on separate lines? Notice how the words make absolutely no sense read as one long string? Those are clues that you're dealing with a subtitle.

Observe:

THE AUDACITY OF HOPE: THOUGHTS ON RECLAIMING THE AMERICAN DREAM

No colon. But that doesn't make the title of Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream" (or, heaven forbid, "Barack Obama the Audacity of Hope Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream"). Graphic design is a noble and wonderful calling, and graphic designers use all sorts of techniques to present titles and subtitles and authors' names on book jackets, and titles and subtitles and directors and stars' names on movie posters. All that has nothing to do with the way those things are rendered in print by grown-ups.

I'm not sure why the Cohen movie caused smart writers and editors to suddenly forget the way they typed "U2: Rattle and Hum," just as I'm not sure why the lowercase logos of Adidas and "Thirtysomething" caused smart writers and editors to suddenly lapse into a childlike xerographic state and forget the dozens and dozens of other products and titles that had been presented with creative orthography since the invention of the written word.

So, smart writers and editors, consider your memory refreshed.




Now what?

Move on to THE SMOKING GNU?

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