Masters typography project

Hello all!

I am currently doing my 2nd year Masters in Communication Design at ESAD, Matosinhos, Portugal. One of the ideas I had for my final project was to develop a typeface specifically for children e-books. I am still not 100% sure about this, because designing a typeface for good readability and legibility on screen has a lot of issues. As James Felici says in his CreativePro article, "The question of readability is not just an academic or aesthetic issue: Studies show that people read printed text 25 percent faster than on-screen text. What can we as typesetters do about this? Very little, as it turns out (...). The most immediate problem is that screen type is not sharply rendered. On a computer monitor, including the flat screens used by tablet computers, this is true in part because screen images are created using glowing pixels."

Should I go for it, or is it a lost battle? Comments and advices are much appreciated.

Thanks you,

hrant's picture

Lost battle? We're just warming up.

Shooting for high readability on a reflective screen is easier. The question is, are younger people using e-readers? I doubt it - I think they're using tablets; e-readers are generally used by adults, in fact older adults. Plus does a font designed for "youth readability" on a reflective screen need to be different than one on an emissive screen? I don't see how (except maybe in a very low-level sense, as in hinting for subpixels). Ergo: maybe shoot for "youth readability" on any medium, including print.

BTW the* first thing you should do is look at existing efforts, such as Ann Besseman's.
BTW, she just got her PhD.

* BTW, I just mistyped that "the" as a "t", and realized something: "the" should be replaced with "t"; as the most frequent word in English that would save quite a bit of room/effort.


Calabaça's picture

Thanks a lot Hrant! I will have a look at Ann Besseman's project. I think you're absolutely right, "we're just warming up"!


JamesM's picture

> screen type is not sharply rendered

That's a pretty broad statement. Certainly it's true in many instances, but books (especially cheaper ones and paperbacks) don't always have perfect printing either.

The iPad is the most popular tablet, and the newer ones have a very high resolution. And since children's books typically use a larger point size, plus children typically have a short attention span anyway, I don't think this is a big issue when it comes to children's books.

Calabaça's picture

Quoting James Felici again, "...Enlarging the text addresses the first problem of screen type: legibility. When set in sizes considered normal for print on paper — 10- and 11-point — it can be a struggle just to decipher screen type. But making type larger by itself — enlarging it to, say, 12- or 14-point — does little to improve readability, because the low resolution and display techniques of computer and e-book reader screens prevent the fine character definition and spacing we’ve become accustomed to in print over the years."

hrant's picture

James, it's not [just] the resolution - reflective versus emissive makes a big difference, especially for reading at night.

children typically have a short attention span

Which means they need more help, not less.

BTW setting type too large harms readability by putting more of the material outside our vision.


JamesM's picture

> When set in sizes considered normal for print on paper —
> 10- and 11-point — it can be a struggle just to decipher screen type

Try this experiment — hold a book next to your computer monitor, and adjust your browser's setting so type is roughly the same size as the book text. Is it "a struggle to decipher" what's on your monitor?

Results will vary, but on my monitor I can still read just fine. And my iPad is much sharper still.

hrant's picture

You can decipher a child's handwriting in the sand. We're talking about readability.


JamesM's picture

My point was that James Felici was not accurate when he said "When set in sizes considered normal for print on paper — 10- and 11-point — it can be a struggle just to decipher screen type."

That is clearly a generalization that is not true in many cases, especially on a retina-screen iPad where type is sharp and clear even in fairly small sizes.

Now if he'd been a bit more restrained in his comments and said that footnote-sized (like 6' or 7') type could be "hard to decipher" on a monitor, I'd agree. But 10' type is easily readable on my notebook and iPad.

Chris Dean's picture

@Calabaça: When asking for help on a bulletin board for something as important as a thesis, be sure to cite it properly, lest your committee bust you for plagiarism. According to APA 6.0 the proper way to do this is:

Dean, C. (2012, October 28). Re: Thread title (Online forum comment). Retrieved from http://url of the thread

In this case, replace my name and date with the time and person who answered your question.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

This is not something type design alone can address, and frankly the question sounds like a designer not interested in solving problems but rather interested in drawing type.

oldnick's picture

Retina-display iWhatevers are simply overkill, IMHO. However, service providers love them, because the devices are serious bandwidth hogs, which means they collect a whole lot more money from the monkey-see-monkey-do clueless, continually mesmerized by the Dancing Pixel Circus…

dberlow's picture

[Hi Jack!]

JM: "Results will vary..."

So, should a children's book font have a font menu, with size, leading and what else? Margins? Column number? Tracking? Reverse? Weight? Style? Color? Background?

JamesM's picture

> should a children's book font ...[let you adjust] Margins?
> Column number? Tracking? Reverse? Weight? Style?
> Color? Background?

Of course not. But iPads (and I assume Kindles, etc.) let you easily adjust a book's point size.

dberlow's picture

Yes those reader apps do scale! And the kindle app on ipad does all but tracking. So, is it the case that children need less of a font menu than an adult?

JamesM's picture

The font menu is created by the system software and offers the same options regardless of the book's content.

oldnick's picture

You overlook the fact that faster reading is desirably in all cases. It is not, especially when it comes to children’s books, where slower is definitely better…

Nick Shinn's picture

The purpose of reading is to digest meaning.
You don’t want to rush your meal.
Besides, it’s rude!

Calabaça's picture

Hello all! I’m sorry for not replying to comments, but I was on a trip to London this week and didn’t check the internet. So here we go:

Frode Frank, although you may say that I’m "rather interested in drawing type", I’m also very interested in solving a problem, and as a communication designer that is my main goal here.

Chris Dean, thanks very much for the tips. I’ll be more careful from now on.

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