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Eminently Readable typeface

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Fivos Vilanakis

I was reading the PDF copy of Kandinsky’s ‘On Spiritual in Art’. It is also available in ePub format. So after a while, I switched to the iBooks version (which I generally read in Iowan).

I suddenly realized the typeface used in publishing the book is about a 1000 times more readable than ANY of the iBooks fonts. In face all the iBooks typefaces now look ugly to me.

I am stunned. What is this beautiful typeface? Why is this typeface SO MUCH better for reading than any the ones provided in an app specifically meant for reading? Each word is so clear that it almost leaves an imprint on my brain. In this day and age of retina high resolution screens, why do we not have appropriate typefaces for reading on electronic devices? Or just anything that matches the beautiful printed one in readability?

I am almost depressed because I can clearly tell I love the printed book typeface but am unable to say why exactly. I can understand the effect but am not yet able to discern the cause. Where/how can I learn about how to tell what makes a good typeface good? Any good books?


The font in your printed book looks like Vogue a typeface from 1930.
There is also Am Sans by Volker Busse [2005] a digitized version of Vogue.
You can read more on Vogue here:

I agree with the ID of Vogue for this sample. It matches samples shown in the McGrew book "American Metal Typefaces of the Twentieth Century". The samples in the Jaspert book "Encyclopaedia of Type Faces" do not match, even though they are supposed to be the Intertype version.

Am Sans does look like a fair re-creation of Vogue.

- Mike Yanega

Thank you, much appreciated. I have retrieved Am Sans.

In response to your comment about why you find that type easier to read, "The Elements of Typographic Style" by Robert Bringhurst might be a good place to start. Interestingly, you picked a sans serif style, which supposedly is not as easy on the eyes for extended reading. Your reaction might have more to do with the spacing between lines and the simplicity of the letterforms. Some of the fonts available for iBooks are not really designed for the screen. I think Georgia, which was designed by Matthew Carter for screen use, could be easier for reading, if not as stylish (whatever that means to each of us). In my experience, fonts with larger x-heights tend to be easier to read at a variety of sizes. One I use a lot is Pratt by Nick Shinn, but I think Fedra Serif, by Peter Bilak is also very easy to read.

- Mike Yanega

I may be the only one, but when I read PDF versions of books on the iPad, I sometimes find the "print oriented" type quite challenging to read. The typefaces may be Sabon or Baskerville, but the letters are very sharp and fine, almost attention-seeking-ly sharp... Perhaps they would look better when printed with ink on paper, so that the text spreads and evens out just a little?

I do feel churlish for wanting less sharp, less detailed text on screen though... :)

Vogue, IIRC this is from the an Interype book.
Worth compaing it to AmSans.

I would be wary of using a free font for serious work. Some of them are fine, but the vast majority are not. I would try to find a better revival of Vogue, or something with comparable desired attributes, like possibly Semplicità:


From same source


Those scans are great Don, Thanks for posting - more Vogue pages to see?

Hi Bob, I'll check my McGrew.

Bob, unfortunately I don't have a scan of that page. Should be about p328 or 329. Anyone else?

Got McGrew will look, thanks Don

Bob, if it shows anything different from my specimen a scan would be much appreciated.

Nice bunch of specimens including a condensed Don - send me e-mail for scans.
Actually a full page in McGrew, complete range including wide etc.

Mike, thanks for the book and font suggestions. Amazon Primed the Bringhurst book :-)

I have ready several books on typography but I still don't have a clear language to assimilate/understand type faces and typography in general. Using Matthew Butterick's ‘Practical Typography’ and ‘Non-Designers Type Book’, I have learned some rules. But those are just rules. I still lack an innate grounding when it comes type.

You may be right about the fact that I liked the printed book type better because of factors like spacing and so on. So many things other than just letterform face structure come into play to make something readable.

I have also noticed I gravitate towards geometric sans serifs. If I am restricted to using the default fonts available in MS Word, I always prefer to use Century Gothic. To me it looks like the font allows the content to 'breathe' . Most other default Word fonts look all scrunched up, like they are poor little calves squeezed and crushed together in a cattle car. Of course Verdanaand Georgia are always nice, but dull to me.

There are a vast number of sans-serif fonts, but in my opinion most are not suitable for reading extended text. My criteria include: a fairly high x-height, not compressed width, generous space between letters, fairly light, letters that are not too unconventional -- this can be distracting from the objective of scanning for content --, and letters that are not ambiguous, e.g. _l_, _I_, and _1_. Others ambiguous letters include _O_ and _0_. Intertype Vogue does not get top marks for all of these criteria, but it's fairly good.
Typeface design for extended reading is a struggle between the designer's wish to make a distinctive typeface and the reader's wish for a comfortable reading experience that enables effective comprehension of the content without delay. In my opinion the best type designers are able to reconcile these objectives.