Formatting a book with sans serif! (Suggestions for serif fonts without many serifs?)

gertie's picture

Well... I am formatting a book, and despite showing him a couple of options, my dad still wants to use a sans serif font. I posted here last week and got some good suggestions for serif fonts, but it looks like I won't get to use them.

I'm a bit nervous about this since it goes against traditional book typesetting wisdom, and also because sans serif can be very modern and sometimes "cute", which wouldn't really fit with the subject material of this non-fiction book.

So, what I am looking for is suggestions for:

Sans serif fonts that are classy looking and would look nice in large amounts of text
OR (this next one is in case I can compromise with him)
Serif font, but that is not very complex and uses minimal serifs (something he will look at and think looks very readable- his idea of readable is basically sans serif).

Thanks for any help.

blank's picture

FF Info is just begging for someone to use it in a book. I’ve been doing a lot of work in Pill Gothic lately, and that one works out pretty well, and gives a look thats very contemporary as opposed to modern.

TypoJunkie's picture

How about Rotis Semi Serif? It's a bit quirky though, but has "sort of serifs" so it might be a good compromise.

Good luck!

mtzjjorge's picture

Jorge Martinez
I often times struggle with the same situation, lately I have been using Perpetua and I think it does the job for me, maybe you want to explore that.

mtzjjorge's picture

Jorge Martinez
sorry that is serif font

mtzjjorge's picture

Jorge Martinez

Have you try some families of the Humanist?

Gary Long's picture

FF Angie

I've never used it, but I've always admired it and would try it for a book where I didn't want a full serif font. It might be a little too casual though for your purposes.

How about Weiss? Is is a serif font, but the serifs are small. An elegant typeface and good for books. Needs generous leading.

Quincunx's picture

FF Legato would be ideal. Or Beorcana.

Those two would do very well. Both could be called serifless romans.

jupiterboy's picture

^ good ideas.

I might add Amor Sans to that list—plus you've got the serif if you want to use it for notes etc.

BradB's picture

You might want to shoot me for saying this, and that's okay, but what about Helvetica Neue? It might be hard to read at first, but after a while it is actually very easy to read, if it is set properly. Philip Meggs' _A History of Graphic Design_ is set entirely in Helvetica. At first I didn't like that, but then it grew on me, and it actually became easy to read.

blank's picture

Jelmar is dead on with Beorcana. Good god that would be awesome.

bojev's picture

Just the first edition of Meggs was set that way, second went back to serifs. That said - Helvetica is not bad for text, I also like text set in Gill Sans or Hypatia Sans (waiting for italic for Hypatia which will make it even better and more useful for text)

ryanholmes's picture

I find the "hybrid" modernist/geometric sans like Avenir and Proxima Nova to read very nicely in extended text blocks. Clean clean clean is the overall impression I get of something set in these two typefaces.

charles ellertson's picture

As was brought out in the last thread, the text in this book isn't the most important thing.

That alone takes you outside "traditional," at least, if you consider the first 450 years "more important" to "tradition" than the last 50 years.

Any number of photography books use a sans. If you ask on this forum, you'll get a range of suggestions. As you pour over the suggestions, consider this.

The designer Richard Eckersley, in his last 10-15 years, was quite fond of Trinite, and used it for many books. His good friend Rich Hendel (another designer, author of On Book Design) loved the look of Richard's designs with Trinite, but could never get it to work in his own designs. For a similar look, he'd probably use Quadraat. This isn't all that uncommon a phenomena. Rich Hendel uses Arnhem quite often, and I've set many books in Arnhem that Rich designed -- you would think I understand it by now. But when I have to design a book, I can't get Arnhem to work quite right, even if I steal Rich's design pretty much in full. When Arnhem would be right but I have to do the design, I usually switch to something like Charter.

What matters in a book, whether the text is important or not, is that the book is a physical object. There are spacial relationships you have to attend to. They are there whether you take a traditional approach or not. The "right" typeface is one you develope some comfort in working with. Think on it -- there is no magical typeface. If there were one, we'd all use it. The magic comes from your ability to understand how it works (fits spatially), and use it.

If you've never heard of Richard Eckersley or Rich Hendel it doesn't really matter; the point is they were/are very, very good book designers, who worked enough years to see many changes in both fashion and technologies.

bojev's picture

Avenir is not a bad idea either. In checking I found that Lewis Blackwell set his book "20th Century Type" (1992 Rizzoli, NY) in Gill Sans Light and it functions well with the illustrations and type specimens.

Steve Tiano's picture

Optima. Easier on the eyes over longer stretches of text than any other sans serif I've seen. The text may not be so important to your dad, but it may just be to anyone actually reading it.

ryanholmes's picture

I disagree on Optima; the varying stroke widths make extended text passages somewhat hard to read. Terrific titling face though, obviously.

IMO the "corporate-type" humanist sans are the easiest on the eyes for extended text copy: faces like Meta, TheSans, Frutiger et al.

metalfoot's picture

Whatever you do, do NOT use Helvetica or Arial. I bought a self-published book from someone with whom I have an acquaintance. 300+ pages, 6x9, Arial. My eyes were burning by the end of the first chapter. The story was good, but the typesetting was deadly.

(He also could have used a better editor...)

jlt's picture

I think that Beorcana would be terrific for a book - the micro sizes are tremendously legible in subheads, and I imagine the regular sizes would be absolutely ideal for booksetting. Please do let us know if you use it, I'd love to see it used this way.

It has terrific display weights as well.

AchillesG's picture

Bell Centennial

Both are sans serif designed for text (or smaller) sizes. I've found both to work very well.

loremipsum's picture

ITC Legacy Sans, Charlotte Sans, John Sans, Prenton, ...

garoux's picture

Try FF Avance, a truly well-done semi-serif. You can see a sample here:

eeblet's picture

ryhanholmes - I would have agreed about Optima until recently... I read an old copy of "About Alphabets" by Herman Zapf, set in Optima. It's beautiful and utterly readable. It's all in the white space, I think. (Meaning: proceed with caution!)


charles ellertson's picture

It's early days yet, but I'm finding Magma better suited to my work than Optima. I've been using the Magma Compact; can't speak on the regular or condensed.

While outside this discussion, Magma Compact works quite well with Quadraat -- for me, better than the Quadraat Sans.

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