Choosing a typeface for a novel

MrMaximilian's picture

Hello everyone,

I'm a final year Graphic Design Student working on a Final Major project. I'm redesigning a book most of you will know; G u l l i v e r ' s T r a v e l s . I'm choosing a typeface/font, and wanted some advice as to what would be best..

The story is based in the 1800s, the book reads in the first person. Gulliver is educated, has a passion for voyage and shows no Emotion - A suitable typeface, in my opinion, would be a Sans Serif, possibly found in Geography text books?
Another option could be - Serif typeface found in Dictionaries from the 1800s?
Another - A readable, monotone, Serif typeface from that period?

Any suggestions welcome..

Thanks for reading!

John Hudson's picture

Have you read the book? I think you will find that it is set in the 1700s, not the 1800s. It was published in 1726 (revised 1735).

Here's the titlepage of the first edition, predictably set in Caslon's types (with perhaps engraved letters used for the largest sizes on the page). If you wanted to move away from that obvious model, into perhaps something that captures the mid-1700s rationalist culture that Swift satirises in the book, consider New Fournier BP.

BTW, your Random Capitalisation is very 18th Century.

hrant's picture

Don't use a sans for a lot of text.

Important questions:
- Who is the target reader?
- What's the proportion/nature of the illustrations?


MrMaximilian's picture

Thanks for the reply. Yeah, I've read the book, and thanks for pointing that out. To be precise, the book is set in the late 1600s into the early 1700s. Could you explain how 'New Fournier BP' captures/reflects the mid-1700s rationalist culture? I'm not quite sure I see you what you mean, I don't see Swift's parody for the mid-1700s.

MrMaximilian's picture

The book will be aimed at a new generation of visually aware readers, or in other words, graphic designers/creatives. So every solution must be rational and must communicate a message to the reader. The brief is completely open to any interpretation, we must just avoid creating a pastiche..

charles ellertson's picture

The book will be aimed at a new generation of visually aware readers, or in other words, graphic designers/creatives.

Then it won't sell.

First of all, there aren't very any of "them."

Secondly, "they" have a lot of varying opinions about "what's right" or "what's best." Just read these pages. All you'll occasion is "Well, I would have used..."

Beyond that:

Here's the analogy. You are a set designer. You want to use an open set with a Shakespearean play. What else has to be there in order for your set to work?

HVB's picture

To emphasize the Gulliver-Lilliputians relative size, possibly a font with a very small x-height and very large ascenders ... - Herb

MrMaximilian's picture

I see your point, but fortunately, this won't be going on sale, it is a university project. I agree, every designer will react differently, hence, why I am here, starting this thread to see your opinions.

To your analogy: There has to be scenery, colour, lighting/mood, a curtain, some actors, sound...

quadibloc's picture

In other words, you want help with your homework...

charles ellertson's picture

I see your point, but fortunately, this won't be going on sale, it is a university project

Ah. Afraid I can't help then, haven't been at university for over 40 years. Of course, I've spent the last 30 setting and designing books for university presses, but they do care about sales...

The point about the set analogy is, you don't usually build the production around the set. The set designer has to adapt. But if perchance you do build a production around the set, don't stop there. It is, after all, a whole.

hrant's picture

Charles, just because a publication is designed to appeal to a certain group doesn't mean nobody else will buy it. There is the content, after all! :-) Also, designers don't just buy/acquire things with which they agree; the good ones also acquire things they don't agree with (in order to learn) especially if other people think it's culturally significant.

Ramping up HVB's idea: choose different -but harmonious- fonts for each of Gulliver's voyages. There are typeface systems with multiple styles. Hmmm, what about Compatil?


Karl Stange's picture

You may find the GraphicDesign& treatment of Great Expectations inspiring. It includes contributions from Phil Baines and Erik Spiekermann amongst many others. It might help you to imagine presenting your idea to this particular group of professionals...

oldnick's picture

Just to be contrary, may I suggest a sans that doesn't look like a sans…

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