Font for print book body

cbjensen's picture

First I have to confess that I am a complete neophyte in the field of typography. Our small (micro...nano?) press has been publishing eBooks for 2 years now and we are finally diving in to the world of print books. I know very little about choosing type faces, but I am not blind to the aesthetics of the printed word.

We are a publisher of both contemporary and historical fiction. I want a font that is easy reading, has a timeless character (leaning toward the modern), is distinctive, and is suitable for digital printing. My two top candidates at the moment are Hoftype Cala, and Okay Type Harriet.

I want to stay away from the usual suspects for book design (Minion, Bembo, Garamond, ...) but not get too crazy either. Any help, or suggestions for further learning are welcome.

Delete's picture

Albertina, Sabon Next, Verdigris, Elena, Lyon, Scala, Iowan OS, Dolly, Mercury, Documenta, Dante, and Berthold Baskerville Book or Storm Baskerville 10 would all be good book fonts depending on the subject.

hrant's picture

I would look at TypeTogether's library.

hhp

charles ellertson's picture

Let's see, you want something timeless and classic, but don't want to use a timeless & classic font.

???

Best thing to do with a first job is to steal like crazy. Go into a bookstore & find something you like. Not like to look at, but to read. Rip off the design. The more you try to put your fingerprints on it, the greater the odds you'll make a mistake.

You mentioned two fonts, Hoftype Cala, and Okay Type Harriet. Well, the letterforms of Cala look like they will print on an offset press, using an uncoated stock. That's not true of the Harriet.

I don't know these fonts, aside from seeing the letterforms as they pop up on Google. Space is a more important factor in reading than letterforms. How's the fit of the characters? If you set a page or two, using the trim, margins, and type size you want, how many leadings (linefeeds) work well with the chosen type size? If it's zero, it is a bad typeface. If it's one, there are many better.

but I am not blind to the aesthetics of the printed word.

Well, if we're talking about the printed word as it occurs in an object, the book, then you should already know the spacial relationships are most important.

Your posting here, and your emphasis on "something new" suggests to me you're primarily interested in leterforms. I could be wrong; let's assume not. Readers don't much care about letterforms. They read words -- really, clumps of words. If you want to say letterforms have a subtle influence, I agree. But if a typeface has a major problem, appealing letterforms don't even start to make up for it.

There are a couple good presses in Texas -- award wining designers, with production values that go beyond "graphic design." They might well be willing to talk, to give you a hand. Try Mary Ann Jacobs at Texas A&M, and/or Ellen McKie at UT-Austin.

If they would see you, a visit would be very educational, I'd think, and Texas A&M should be within driving distance from Houston. Kevin Grossman would be another contact at Texas A&M.

hrant's picture

Good advice.

your emphasis on "something new" suggests to me you're primarily interested in leterforms.

That's certainly possible, and it's very true that most beginners put too much emphasis on the black bodies of letterforms. But there is such a thing as novelty of texture, and to me that is in fact where there's the most progress to be made in type design.

hhp

charles ellertson's picture

To me, a large part of "texture" suggests the balance between the fine lines and the thick, and the overall weight, as the type is spaced.

Quick: did the "texture" of Galliard change when we went from repro-negative-plate to DTP? Galliard was a brilliant, beautiful face. And why do so many people say "was"? Because the relationship of its fine lines to thick was critical, as with the Didones, Bodonis, etc., and that relationship got messed up as the way of putting ink on paper changed. So, yes, the texture of Galliard changed, even though the letterforms didn't.

To me, all you're really saying is the good modern designers have finally read Smeijer's Counterpoint, and have learned that the drawing of the letterforms is is only a first step. The next is how a particular technology puts ink on paper or pixels on a screen. At the desired size. Something the guys in the metal era did automatically when they inked a punch & pressed it into paper.

hrant's picture

The texture of Galliard did change (as does its texture even when "simply" printed on different stock for example) but I wouldn't call that change a novelty. What I'm really talking about is things like Legato and Fenland.

"Counterpunch" (sp.) is a great book, and helps those detached from previous eras a great deal (which describes me back when I read it). But it really just explains a precedent. For myself, the most valuable part of "Counterpunch" was the discussion of how the "j" could be reformed; this led me to my Alphabet Reform work, and to my rejection of chirographic type. BTW it's certainly a paradox that I'm pretty sure Smeijers doesn't agree with me on that in the least. :-)

Something the guys in the metal era did automatically when they inked a punch & pressed it into paper.

Note however that the metal guys used smoke proofs when cutting the punches, so they didn't actually see the accurate end-result very early - they needed a lot of experience to be able to reduce costly iteration. In digital we iterate much faster, and certainly much cheaper.

hhp

Delete's picture

I interpreted his wish as something that is not quirky or that calls attention to itself ("timeless"), not overly used (so not Minion, ITC New Baskerville, Adobe Garamond, etc.) and leaning toward modern (possibly meaning recent trends for lack of constraints towards linotype/monotype proportions, and often slightly darker look with more defined serifs, or just a modern interpretation of traditional type). So a replacement for Adobe Garamond might be Sabon New or Verdigris. Many modern typefaces have nicer italics.

I realize Galliard is popular, but I don't find it very readable in its digital forms. One of the major scientific magazines adopted it and changed again in less than a year (to Quadraat). There are more elegant typefaces, if that is what is desired.

cbjensen's picture

I interpreted his wish as something that is not quirky or that calls attention to itself ("timeless"), not overly used (so not Minion, ITC New Baskerville, Adobe Garamond, etc.) and leaning toward modern

This is what I was after, yes. To be clear, I am not obsessed with letterforms. I am more concerned with how the text flows, the overall texture of the page, and especially what kind of "feeling" is produced. For example, I understand why Garamond is used so much since it produces a good looking page that is easy to read. However, when I show specimens of candidate fonts to our people, Garamond always gets the comment, "old fashioned". That isn't something I want people to associate with our work.

Minion passes the look and feel requirements, and I may use it if nothing else can be found. Part of our branding strategy is to differentiate ourselves from other publishers. Setting books in Minion doesn't further that goal. I realize that readers aren't going to notice that we are using a popular font or something more obscure, but readers are not the only target audience. Potential authors, artists, designers, and editors will also see our work, and some of them may actually be paying attention to the details of how the books are put together and making judgments about us based on those observations.

cbjensen's picture

"the letterforms of Cala look like they will print on an offset press, using an uncoated stock. That's not true of the Harriet."

What is it about the Harriet that makes it bad for offset printing?

hrant's picture

readers aren't going to notice

Consciously, almost never; unconsciously, always. Everything produces a different feeling.

hhp

Delete's picture

The feeling is as much about whitespace, leading, page dimensions, paper and printing choices, etc. as choice of typeface. Even the popular choices can look bad if not the right size and leading for the publication.

charles ellertson's picture

What is it about the Harriet that makes it bad for offset printing?

If your eye doesn't tell you, you'll probably have to learn the hard way, by doing. With all fonts, learn to look at the letterforms and what the final, printed result looks like. Eventually, you should learn what happens to a font* with all kinds of presses, and all kinds of paper.

Type on the screen isn't my forte, but likely something similar happens there, too.

BTW, for those commenting on Galliard: it was pretty much always a "digital" font, if you count the Linotype 202 and 505 as "digital." Some do, some don't. Some like to have it both ways, depending on what they're pontificating about.

The Bitstream versions were always digital. Finally, there was no change in the letterforms of Carter & Cone Galliard after it was released in the 1990s, again as PostScript. The only subsequent changes were in the platemaking technologies used for offset printing.

*The "font" being different than the "design."

Andreas Stötzner's picture

You may find some more worthy candidates in this listing.

Jackson's picture

"What is it about the Harriet that makes it bad for offset printing?"

I don't know what's up with cbeg's condescending and unhelpful response but Harriet Text works fine in offset.

charles ellertson's picture

I did say I don't know these fonts except what I see with a Google search, and I assume what's shown was accurate

http://okaytype.com/harriet/series

If that sample is accurate, it won't work for exactly the same reason plain old (PostScript) Linotype Scotch won't work offset, at text sizes. Not for me, or for that matter, the book designers I've worked with who tried Linotype Scotch or Monotype Scotch-- About one time, each, until word got around.

http://www.linotype.com/1455/ScotchRoman-family.html

http://store1.adobe.com/cfusion/store/html/index.cfm?store=OLS-US&event=...

The Harriet in the sample has similar fine lines, a similar stroke contrast. Been there, done that, the fine lines are just too fine, the letters float off the page. Contrast these to Miller, (but NOT the Miler Display), with a text setting (10-11 point type size). Scroll down to the Text Roman:

http://www.fontbureau.com/fonts/Miller/styles/

& I'm not being condescending -- Jackson is proof enough that almost no one will take a stranger's opinion on such matters. You just have to try a font and see the result, without reading in your expectations. Hard to do.

Jackson's picture

"Contrast these to Miller"

Done. Harriet Text Regular and Miller Text Regular. One has a larger x-height but they essentially have the same stroke contrast.

hrant's picture

Charles, is it possible you were looking at Harriet Display? Because if you claim that Harriet Text is too high-contrast in comparison to Miller Text, it's not being a stranger that's the problem, it's not making sense that's the problem.

hhp

charles ellertson's picture

Charles, is it possible you were looking at Harriet Display?

Could be. The sample that Jackson shows looks pretty good, as far as glyph contrast goes. Again, it is important to be familiar with the type you use -- as I've just demonstrated, from the wrong side.

Even though Jackson sort of implies Miller is the second (i.e, the one on the right), I'm almost certain it is on the left -- the first one. Which I quite prefer, in any case. If Harriet is the one on the left, I'll buy it tomorrow, right after a breakfast of crow.

I'll even allow I have a bias toward Miller. I cut italic OS figs for it, as Matthew had only done the roman. Also recut the italic double-f ligatures, and lengthened the descenders both roman and italic. And before you give me grief, yes, he saw & approved them before I used it.

hrant's picture

If one must have a bias, one could do much worse than Carter! BTW, I never doubted that you got his OK.

hhp

cbjensen's picture

Harriet is on the right in Jackson's sample. The crossbar of the 'e' gives it away. I am also liking Miller, it is going on my shortlist (plus I really appreciate the mix and match buying options at Font Bureau).

Andreas - There are some good looking fonts on that list. I was glad to see my current front runner, Cala, on it.

Thanks to everyone for your thoughts, I am learning a bunch. I'm sure my first few books will be...less than optimal, but I am trying to learn to avoid as many mistakes as possible in the limited time available.

charles ellertson's picture

Just one caution -- Before settling on Miller for a project -- now or later -- and if time is an issue & you want old-style figures, you need to get up with Font Bureau & make sure they are readily available.

I believe Carter & Cone is now using FB for all distribution. For years, I dealt with C&C and sometimes had access to characters Matthew was willing to release, but hadn't. (A lot of times these would be pieces of character sets that just didn't fit the standard, hard-wired Mac/Windows encodings of the PostScript era.)

FB probably has everything, but it may not have been all packaged up & be ready to go.

Delete's picture

Sina Nova, designed by the same person as Cala, might be a bit better book font, as it is very slightly narrower and has a slightly large x-height (if that is desirable...).

Edit: My mistake: Comparing Cala and Sina Nova side by side in Illustrator, if one controls for the difference in point size, the x-height is the same. Cala, however, uses more bulb terminals and slight curves in the top of brackets, while Sina Nova is more caligraphic on terminals but uses more straight lines. The italics are different: Sina has no serifs on some of the desenders. Sina Nova is slightly narrower, which I think would work a bit better.

hrant's picture

A book font typically has a modest x-height. But Sina Nova's is actually pretty modest.

hhp

Igor Freiberger's picture

I second Elena, Lyon, Iowan Old Style, Documenta, Dante, and Sina Nova.

Additional suggestions: Girando Pro, Tundra, Novel, Yoga, Andron, Sirba, Comenia, Expo, Milo Serif and Stuart.

In your decision, consider the features you need and verify if they are included. Recently I was almost purchasing a license for Tundra when I realised it has small caps just in straight styles (and I need true small caps also in italics). Similarly, a purchase of Elena was aborted due to superscript absence.

hrant's picture

Charles, who else do you know at Texas A&M?

hhp

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