Book typeface suggestions

John Hudson's picture

As a type designer, I tend to have my nose so close to my personal grindstone that I'm not always aware what my colleagues have been up to, which is a problem when I'm actually looking for a typeface to use and don't have anything appropriate in my own knife block. So I'm looking for suggestions for possible types to use for a publishing project. The brief is as follows:

Family must consist of a minimum of roman and italic serif types in in a regular or book weight. Bold and other weight variants appreciated, and may become necessary. Must support at minimum western European Latin character set, and should include appropriate ligatures, smallcaps, numeral variant styles, etc.

The design should be of medium stroke contrast, i.e. not extreme à la Didot but not too heavily low contrast. The types will eventually need to harmonise on the page with some non-Latin scripts, some of which involve complex forms that must not get too dense.

The type should be clear and readable in the range of 9pt to 11pt.

The scripts with which the types will need to harmonise include both strong verticals and very round forms, as well as terminals and stroke reversals creating ball or hook forms. If similar forms are details of the Latin types, this can assist the harmony on the page. Some amount of roundness of forms is probably going to be most helpful in overall harmony; sharp, incised forms are probably not going to help.

Some of the scripts involved in the publishing project have, conventionally, a diagonal stroke weight axis, and others have a vertical axis. The Latin type could go either way, or be a hybrid (à la Kepler and Brill).

I'd like to use a recent design and see some money go to a living designer. A contemporary feel, as opposed to a 'classic' one, is acceptable, but not if it might date too quickly or be considered too-2011.

It will be important that the EULA permits modifications to the font (not for distribution), or willingness on the part of the designer/foundry to work with me on making some modifications.

So, suggestions?

William Berkson's picture

Hi John, I don't know from your description whether Williams Caslon Text is a candidate. The italic has hooks, but not the roman.

Some books I know about who have used it are: Foliomania! referred to in these two links:

http://www.finebooksmagazine.com/fine_books_blog/2011/06/foliomania.phtml

http://news.mohawkpaper.com/2011/10/04/foliomania/

Bruce Kennett did a beautiful job with it, and used a wonderful matte paper that shows both the type and illustrations beautifully. The links don't have close up photos, but if you are interested I can take some.

A more modest book, a Penguin style paperback, with Williams Caslon Text used at 10 point, was done by Dan Haskett, an English illustrator. You can see some photos of it in the link. Boston Magazine also used it at 10 point for a few years. You can see some photos of it on the FontBureau site.

http://www.danhaskett.co.uk/new-work/bonobo-press/

I don't know how it works at 9 point in a book, but I've done a small size also, not finished, but I used it in my own book Pirke Avot: Timeless Wisdom for Modern Life (Jewish Publication Society) for appendices. I'm working on the small italic for another designer who wants to use it.

butterick's picture

I'd like to use a recent design and see some money go to a living designer

This is a good principle that deserves wider currency.

Last year, I picked Lyon over Sabon for my book in part because I wanted to support a independent type designer. But I've come to think there will be a more acute need to support independent type designers as a matter of principle.

(BTW I'll define "independent type designer" as the opposite of "type designer who is employed full-time at a major corporation," of which there are a dwindling number.)

During most other periods in printing history, fonts would go obsolete or just wear out every few decades, creating an opportunity for new ones. But that's not the case in the digital era. Digital fonts can live forever. This is convenient in some ways (which I don't think I have to enumerate) but potentially harmful in others.

I'm not someone who thinks "we don't need any more fonts." Yes, we certainly do. But I also think that the "more is better" strategy that has guided digital foundries over the last 20 years is not sustainable indefinitely.

Text faces are a good example. Based on how often I see them in use, Minion and Adobe Garamond seem as popular as ever, even though they're both nearly 20 years old. What's to stop them from another 20 years of popularity? 35? 50? The only thing I can think of is someone buys the Adobe library and just takes it off the market. But no one would rationally do that (because the fonts are popular!) So how do you compete with an entrenched face like Minion or Adobe Garamond that will never go extinct naturally?

First, there's an economic problem. Type design can't make progress unless type designers are designing type. (Duh.) And we only get new type designers if there's some reasonable economic incentive to design type. (Duh.) Every dollar that goes to Minion, for instance, is a dollar that can't go to Lyon. And if dollars don't go to Lyon, a guy like Kai Bernau will find something else to do with his time. (I made a similar point with respect to Robofont.)

Then there's a second problem: the risk of typographic stagnation. We think of Minion and Adobe Garamond as "classic workhorse" faces of the digital world, but that's largely because they came on the scene early and were able to establish themselves without having to contend with a lot of competition. Where are the workhorses of the future going to come from if they're not getting a platform now? If book designers who can afford to give new fonts a push are just using Minion and Adobe Garamond instead of Ingeborg, or Lyon, or Kingfisher, or Verdigris, or Paperback, or Elena, or Freight, or Quiosco, et al.—how are those designers investing in the future of typography? (I trust I need not explain why people who make a living off typography should be interested in helping sustain it.)

So while I don't advocate the formation of an OPEC-style font cartel, I think anyone who cares about the progress of typography should care enough to vote with their wallet. And that means whenever you can buy a font from an independent type designer for your own project, or influence someone else to buy one for their project: DO IT.

BTW, I'm not exempt from criticism under this principle. In the last few years, I know a lot of people have bought fonts like Sabon and Stempel Garamond based on my recommendation. I hereby repent. Because as a type designer, my royalty reports are a source of encouragement. And one of the ways I can reinvest in typography is by helping other type designers get the same kind of encouragement.

Which I do — but I could do more. Sure, Stempel Garamond is a great face. But it's had a good long run. Now it's time for another text face to get a chance. If I'm going to give a push to anything, that new face, and its designer, need it more than Stempel Garamond does.

hrant's picture

> The types will eventually need to harmonise on the page with some non-Latin scripts

In my view this will become the root of the problem/solution.
First: what do the relationships between the various scripts need to be?
Second: since there are so many good Latin text faces and so few good
non-Latin ones, unless the project will entail the designing of non-Latin
scripts to match a Latin "benchmark", the non-Latin fonts need to be
chosen first. And if the chosen Latin face will be given new non-Latin
designs, the scripts to be supported will help choose a good Latin basis.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

Arno, Ingeborg is indeed lovely; it is probably my favourite typeface to emerge from the Reading MA programme. It is probably too high contrast for this project, but I'll take another look.

Bill, I'd prefer not to use a revival, nice though your Caslon is.

Matthew, that's a very interesting discussion that I would normally enjoy, but I really am looking for typeface suggestions. :)

John Hudson's picture

Hrant, the non-Latin fonts will be new designs. I don't really want to give details of which scripts, beyond what I have already said about their characteristics, because I don't want to influence suggestions through associations. Also, the other scripts are of essentially two different kinds, and I know what I'll need to harmonise with them when I see it.

Let me rephrase the brief: I'm looking for nice, medium contrast text faces suitable for book work that are not too angular.

John Hudson's picture

Matthew, thanks for mentioning Lyon, of which I was unaware. This is a very interesting design, which I'll definitely add to my list of possibilities. It has a nice smoothness of curves that might harmonise well with the rounder scripts, while having an oblique axis that would reflect the others. The echoes of Granjon give it the qualities of a classic book face, but there is lots of contemporary feel in the treatment of serifs and other details.

hrant's picture

http://blog.eyemagazine.com/?p=7260

I would also look at Fleishmann revivals. Yves Peters once did a decent round-up,
in the second article here: http://www.typographer.org/2005_06_01_digests.html

hhp

John Hudson's picture

Thanks, Hrant. I'd already noted Antwerp as a possibility.

Indra Kupferschmid's picture

I recently very much enjoyed reading a publication set in Cycles by Sumner Stone. http://www.stonetypefoundry.com/cyclesoverview.html

And Matthew did mention some great recommendable faces – “Ingeborg, or Lyon, or Kingfisher, or Verdigris, or Paperback, or Elena, or Freight, or Quiosco”. Speaking of Fleischmann I would like to add his own recent revival of a transitional design, Equity. Maybe too narrow and dark for your case but a good option for huge amounts of text: http://www.equityfont.com

When you said “both strong verticals and very round forms, as well as terminals and stroke reversals creating ball or hook forms” it made me think of the typefaces by Dwiggins, Cyrus Highsmith and John Downer. Maybe Zocalo, Iowan Old Style or yes, Paperback?

hrant's picture

Actually that stuff makes me think of Baskerville.
And Ernestine's imaginary contrasty sister. :-)

hhp

Stephen Coles's picture

My favorite underused book faces (other than those mentioned):
FF Clifford
Laurentian
Arnhem
Berling Nova
Renard
Merlo
MVB Verdigris

eriks's picture

John, I recently bought Genath from optimo in Switzerland. Designed by François Rappo who also did the excellent Theinhardt, which is more than an Akzidenz Grotesk revival. From their specimen:
“Genath is a free, simple rendering of a baroque type from the Genath Foundry in Basle, Switzerland. It’s based on a 1720 specimen likely showing Johann Wilhelm Haas first design in Basle.”
I haven’t used it yet. I do from time to time just buy something because I like it, I may use it (we only use what we have on our drives) or because the designer or the foundry could use my support. Just like Matthew said.

Florian Hardwig's picture

For reference:
In the thread Choosing a font for book design, Carl Crossgrove lists several ‘new, excellent book types’. Further down the page, he adds some more names.

ncaleffi's picture

John, for what matters, I regulary use Cycles by Sumner Stone and Athelas by José Scaglione in typesetting books. They're both original designs somehow based on or inspired by classical forms and models, but they stand in their own league as beautiful, readable contemporary typefaces for books. Cycles has a more calligraphic feel (Sumner's touch is evident in all his types), while Athelas tends to be more "anonymous" on the page, so to say (which can be a plus for long text readings), but they both work in a very nice way - and they surely have "some amount of roundness of forms". Don't know about EULA modifications, anyway, or how they could be paired with scripts. I would also be happy to show you some page settings, if this may help.

flooce's picture

If you like Lyon, have a look a Rawlinson. It is a bit more classic in its details, which I like. However no SMC in italics. The terminals are quite neutral I find, probably one could categorize as "not ball terminals yet", but a bit roundish.
Cycles is one of the few commercial fonts I own, it is a great piece of work. I don’t do professional work with type however. I am glad it is again sold on the retail market.

dezcom's picture

Stewf--Renard is a jewel!

butterick's picture

To be fair, designers of text faces should be doing more to make their wares easier to test and buy. For instance:

John Hudson now has an excellent (and growing) list of nominees. How does someone in his position choose from these faces?

If he visits the websites, he will see cruddy GIFs. Those don't help.

There might be an online type tester. I guess these things are useful to find out what shape the Q tail is, but they're completely useless for measuring nuance, and text faces thrive on nuance. (Why do type designers even want customers making buying decisions with a type tester? Don't kid yourself—if it's there, they will)

If he's lucky, there will be a PDF specimen. But most PDF specimens are, frankly, not very good—usually they only present the face in a clinical manner ("Here are the OpenType features..."), and omit realistic texts in realistic contexts. They are boring when they should be inspiring. Never in the history of typography has someone been persuaded to buy a font through sheer boredom.

For John, probably the best test would be to have the actual fonts in hand and take them for a test drive himself. He could buy the fonts and do some test seettings, but fonts are typically nonreturnable. And they're not licensed on a per-project basis, only per-workstation. And they're not cheap enough that he can just buy several purely on an exploratory basis.

So here lies the conundrum. How is someone supposed to commit to a new text face when they can't even see what it will look like in a real-world context?

I know John Hudson himself is not going to throw up his hands and say "I guess I'll just use Minion." But you can start to see why other book designers might. One of the reasons entrenched faces like Minion continue to dominate is because any designer can picture exactly what the result will look like. When you use Minion, there won't be any negative surprises. There won't be any positive surprises either, but hey, you don't get a bonus for positive surprises. But you will get fired for negative surprises.

So we do need to encourage customers to support independent type designers. But we also need to encourage independent type designers not to push so much risk onto the customer.

John Hudson's picture

Thank you so much everyone (and especially Indra for pointing out the suggestions buried in Matthew's first post: I was trying to avoid being sidetracked by his interesting discussion, and missed them on the first, overly quick read).

When you said “both strong verticals and very round forms, as well as terminals and stroke reversals creating ball or hook forms” it made me think of the typefaces by Dwiggins, Cyrus Highsmith and John Downer. Maybe Zocalo, Iowan Old Style or yes, Paperback?

I'll revisit these, but my mental image of them is that they tend to contain a lot of internal corners and broken curves, which I think will not work well in this project. Some of the scripts I am working with can support such features, but the others are derived from palm leaf lettering, and smooth curves are a key characteristic.

John Hudson's picture

Matthew: So we do need to encourage customers to support independent type designers. But we also need to encourage independent type designers not to push so much risk onto the customer.

I agree. This is one of the reasons why I think it is important for independent type designers to establish direct relationships with customers, rather than relying on third party distributors or resellers. This engenders the kind of trust that makes it possible for book designers to request and receive copies of fonts under trial license.

The other option, of course, is to link licensing fees to commercial use of a font, rather than to its installation. I have several clients who have taken this approach with their custom fonts, making them available at no cost for non-commercial use, which would include test settings for possible commercial use. [But not, I would say, use in specimens that are intended to try to obtain paid work, e.g. mock-ups in a portfolio: the commercial use is defined by the intent to generate income, not the success in doing so.]

hrant's picture

I'm starting to think that maybe a flare-serif would be just the ticket.
What about the nicely round Avance?

hhp

eriks's picture

Like I said, Matthew: designers will only use the fonts they actually have on their hard-drives. FontShop Germany used to offer fonts on a trial basis to some “preferred customers”. I think that is a great idea. If a foundry gives me their fonts and I sign a paper, no way would I use those illegitimately. Only problem is that fonts are data and data is gas. It spreads into any given volume. If you’re in a studio environment with freelancers and interns coming and going, your fonts are going to be at large, and not necessarily by criminal intent. They’ll be packaged into Indesign files, moved over to a server. That lack of control is what has prevented many studios asking for that sort of service.

Indra Kupferschmid's picture

… my mental image of them is that they tend to contain a lot of internal corners and broken curves, which I think will not work well in this project.

Ah, then I totally misunderstood you John, sorry, because I meant exactly that corner/curve thing.

Nick Shinn's picture

@John: …it is important for independent type designers to establish direct relationships with customers, rather than relying on third party distributors or resellers…

While I am not averse to direct relationships, it is somewhat at odds with the whole premise of mass productization.
Minimizing the necessity for labor-intensive customer service enables mass volume, low prices for consumers, and high profits for manufacturers.

hrant's picture

Which is exactly what lowers quality.

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

Most people would prefer an inexpensive product that works perfectly right out of the box and requires as little customer service as possible.
A well-designed e-commerce site helps accomplish that.
Of course, there is a role for customer service, and no doubt a special role for it in font sales, but the majority of retail font licensing should not require it.

hrant's picture

Which is exactly why China is winning.

hhp

butterick's picture

Only problem is that fonts are data and data is gas. It spreads into any given volume. If you’re in a studio environment with freelancers and interns coming and going, your fonts are going to be at large, and not necessarily by criminal intent.

Of course. There will always be hurdles to overcome in terms of balancing safety with exposure. But more type dies of obscurity than piracy. Over the long term, the risks of not overcoming these hurdles are potentially dire.

For example, why not let customers generate PDF samples on demand? Customers could upload a tagged text file to the web, specify the font, size, leading, and measure, and get back a PDF made to those specifications. Limit them to 1000 words. Then the font files never go anywhere. (Sort of like fontfonter.com, but for print)

hrant's picture

Actually for a while URW (and then LettError) were
selling "on-demand" EPS settings, for a few bucks.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

Nick, I think there are several different kinds of markets for fonts, and in some of those markets I think it is in type designers' interests to establish personal relationships with customers. So, art directors, newspaper designers and book designers strike me as the sort of customers with whom one wants personal relationships that can be mutually beneficial. For the type designer these relationships can lead to custom commissions, nice portfolio specimens, etc., and for the customers they can facilitate test licensing agreements, rapid response for special needs (e.g. the diacritic they need added in order to typeset an African politician's name), etc.

I never suggested that anyone needs a complicated order fulfillment system in order to enforce a relationship with all customers. That would be stupid. My point was that if one relies completely on systems that sit between and isolate you from customers, that decreases the possibility of developing relationships that can be mutually beneficial.

Bald Condensed's picture

> I agree. This is one of the reasons why I think it is important for independent type designers to establish direct relationships with customers, rather than relying on third party distributors or resellers. This engenders the kind of trust that makes it possible for book designers to request and receive copies of fonts under trial license.

I agree too. However you should ask OurType about their experiences with trial licenses… :^/

Nick Shinn's picture

That's true John, and I do it all the time.
For instance today I have just been emailing a customer who wants some CE versions of an older Shinntype face for a Polish newspaper. The retail versions don't have CE, but I am able to supply them, as I developed them for a previous customer, but have not yet got around to releasing them.

However, customer contact only occurs for a small percentage of Shinntype sales.

This is the Shinntype perspective that I'm describing: our main business is from publishing retail fonts through third party distributors.

Sure, I retail types that have been custom developed, after a period of exclusivity has expired, this is a good model financially.
But it is not a model I would like to be beholden too, as the tendency is for clients to want "something like so-and-so" and there are other less conservative, less derivative ideas I would prefer to pursue.

I believe this foundry-driven approach is just as client-benefiting as commissioned work.
It's Jobs-style leadership.

Arno Enslin's picture

If I could choose between Renard and Geronimo, I would choose Geronimo. Mário Feliciano is a genious.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

John, have you seen Sindre's Satyr? I know he's made a lot of progress since posting here.

William Berkson's picture

H & FJ's Chronicle has ball terminals, moderate contrast, and is very well crafted. To me it's a bit of revival of Century, but don't let that bother you :)

hrant's picture

Geronimo's vertical proportions are imbalanced.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

Quite a few of the suggested typefaces were designed for newspaper or magazine use. I like them, but their proportions are probably wrong for the kind of book work I have in mind (x-height too large, extenders too stubby. It would be nice if more foundries took the time to produce book variants of such types, although I suppose more and more the book design market is a shrinking one.

Arno Enslin's picture

Geronimo's vertical proportions are imbalanced.

Well, I am amateur. I had to riddle. What do you mean, Hrant? I have printed the PDF and if the vertical proportions are imbalanced, it doesn't seem to bother the reading. Imbalanced like Bembo?

William Berkson's picture

John, I think a lot of the designers of the short extender typefaces, like Stone, would argue with you that they are book faces. Certainly their are a lot of books that use them, with a large amount of leading. I'm not that fond of the look, but just thinking about it now, if you look at the longer extender books faces, a lot of them are revivals, like Garamond Premier, and Eudald and Merlo.

hrant's picture

Because languages that use the Latin script rely on ascenders
much more than descenders, a font that makes the latter longer
than (or even the same size as) the former isn't what I consider a
"true" text font. Of course it's not that such a font is unreadable,
it's simply that it's not optimal for text.

hhp

charles ellertson's picture

Quite a few of the suggested typefaces were designed for newspaper or magazine use. I like them, but their proportions are probably wrong for the kind of book work I have in mind (x-height too large, extenders too stubby. It would be nice if more foundries took the time to produce book variants of such types, although I suppose more and more the book design market is a shrinking one.

John, one of the things we do with fonts for text -- given a useful EULA or with permission -- is to examine the extenders. It's not unusual for me to lengthen them. The "g" is the toughest, and then there are all those f-ligatures in the italic.

Having said that, there are fonts where lengthening the extenders is just the wrong thing to do -- determined experimentally, of course, meaning you do the work, then put back the originals. Charis/Charter is one such. I find it useful, and the shortness of the extenders not an aesthetic problem for the texts it's appropriate for. Arnhem Blond, on the other hand, would greatly benefit from a set of longer descenders for book work.

I also find the weight of fonts an issue for bookwork. I was stunned once to hear someone from Adobe mention that they made the medium weights esp. for books. Then I realized they may only think of coated papers for books. Sometime take a look at Merlo on an uncoated sheet versus a coated sheet. I use to think it too heavy for text, until I saw it used in a book printed on a matte coated stock. Quite nice.

I have read this thread somewhat, and as someone who sets type and designs books, haven't found the things that interest you guys of interest to me. Perhaps some marketing issues lie here?

* * *
Hrant, you're right of course, but that ignores the fact than many, many fonts have descenders that can be lengthened and still keep that balance. It is not trivially easy to lengthen descenders, or for that matter, to lengthen both. The font will tell you when you go too far, if you pay attention to it.

I'll offer this thought: A good text font, once you get past the letterforms themselves, offers several size/leading combinations where the font works. That is, not only can you set several sizes, but you can use a 10-point on 12, 13, or 14-points of lead, and it works quite well. You'd be amazed at the number of fonts that cannot do that. All spatial relations are important, and interact.

John Hudson's picture

Bill, there are certainly kinds of books for which types with large x-heights -- a better characterisation than short extenders per se -- are useful and even most appropriate. In this case, it is literary publishing, and something with a more classic feel to the page is appropriate. That said, my comment was directed specifically at the suggestion of types like Chronicle, which seem specifically designed for news or journal work.

I'll be able to say more about the project in the near future, I think, but I don't want to steal any thunder from the client's press department.

flooce's picture

As Sumner Stone offered his Cycles for some time on a use-based licence, I am sure he offers to adjust the font if needed. Book body text is the main purpose of this typeface. The 2009 licence did not allow modification, but since the Cycles fonts are freshly back on the retail market, maybe they have a new licence too, or one can buy them with an upgraded licence. Sumner is very accommodating towards his customers.
As you liked the rather contemporary Lyon, Edita is a contemporary serif typeface, they advertise it is a book typeface with long extenders.

Andreas Stötzner's picture

John: “it is important for independent type designers to establish direct relationships with customers”

For a certain kind of font development this is more than true. I would count typical book faces and fonts for scientific editing into that class. For Andron I can only say, user feedback has proved to be very beneficial for its development over the years. And the users are happy to see their issues dealt with.

John Hudson's picture

Cycles could be a serious contender: the roundness is a really good match for some of the scripts we're dealing with, but it isn't as static looking as some of the other round faces I've looked at.

John Hudson's picture

Does anyone have a PDF showing of Cycles (esp. Cycles 11 and 9)? The online samples are all bitmap images.

Florian Hardwig's picture

John, I have sent you an email.

hrant's picture

I'm pretty sure I do, since I actually caught a mistake in it
once (one of the optical sizes was duplicated and one was
missing), which Sumner duly corrected. Let me look for it.

But you could always ask him too.

hhp

hrant's picture

Found it, but Florian beat me to it! :-)

I did also find a 7-page PDF excerpt of Cycles in use (something
called "Science & the promise of democracy in America" by one
Andrew Jewett). It seems to be from a book called "Dædalus Fall",
published in 2003. Let me know if you'd like that.

hhp

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