Thursday, September 3, 2015

Magic the Gathering: Typography Over the Years

As we are begin our Fall Semester, desperately trying to finish assignments while finding time to goof off, I am reminded of one of my many hobbies that I would spend hours tinkering around with back in high school, Magic the Gathering. For those unfamiliar, Magic the Gathering was the first collectible trading card game created back in 1993 by Wizards of the Coast, and continues to grow with approximately 20 million players buying their products to this day.

I was introduced to Magic the Gathering back in 2003, and looking back at all of my old cards, I have noticed some great changes in the design and typography in the cards over the many years.

Here are some examples of the cards I originally played with.

And here are some cards from the most recent edition.

Can you tell the differences?

Before we get into any specifics, let’s take a look at Magic the Gathering’s very first set

Just look at that TYPE

Just taking a quick glance at this set, we see that Wizards of the Coast was in the right direction, setting the theme of the game with their type, but holy moly the type is all over the place. Given the benefit of the doubt, Wizards of the Coast wanted to give each card color its own unique visual ranging from the fluidity of water to the grit of trees. In reality though, it makes it way too difficult to read the body type on each card, especially when you try putting black type on top of a brown background.

Visuals aside, the biggest type crime of these cards is the sheer inconsistency between most of the cards.

First, we have type that are justified left, which looks pretty normal

But then we have type that is center and blown up just to fill some space

Now we have huge centered type that leaves a bunch of space

Flavor text crammed too close to game mechanics type!

What am I even looking at?!

After 5 months of this hell, Wizards of the Coast finally changed the color palette slightly to make the black text more readable, but the issue of inconsistent type continues to be an issue.

Here have some more examples of INCONSISTENCY

It wasn’t until 1995, when Wizards of the Coast finally made all of their body type justified right.

It’s a good start

But how about that font size

While much better than where it was originally, the same issues continued until Magic’s Core Set Eight Edition, where the designs of the cards were revamped to be more legible. 

Type was finally being divided into their own sections instead of being awkwardly crammed in between image and text box. On top of that they made the headlines of each card have a bold black typeface instead of their former light white type, making it much each easier to read. Other positive changes I really liked was the addition of a drop shadow on the icons located on the top right of each card. It makes the icons pop out instead of being lost in the border color.

This card design continues to this day with only a few minor changes between sets, just to give each edition its own identity.

In October 2015, Magic the Gathering will be releasing its 84th set, and personally I think that designs look absolutely beautiful. What does everyone else think?

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