Fonts for children's books

maltelunden's picture

I'm working on my first book for children (with the text integrated in the full-page illustrations - usually, the illustration has left room for the text with a uniform colour or texture of some sort).

I might have more of these kind of jobs, so I'm on the lookout for fonts suitable for children's books (both display and text-fonts). I searched the forum, but it seems that nobody has discussed this before, so I'm looking forward to see what people think about it.

A personal preference: I wouldn't like to stereotypical fonts that could risk "talking down" to the children. In other words, being too childish. Also, I'm aware that the suitability of any font depends on the specific story, but my goal here is just to brainstorm away and create a whole bunch of inspiration!

Would Bello in small caps work for display text? My intuition tells me it would suit for young boys.

Thank you!
Malte

i cant delete my username's picture

I've been in love with House Industries "Burbank" since I got their mailer...
http://www.houseind.com/index.php?page=showfont&id=565&subpage=viewfonts...

Veer (veer.com) also comes to mind. They have too many typefaces to name that have that hand-drawn, yet refined sensibility

jupiterboy's picture

Have a look at Juvenis.

pattyfab's picture

I also think quirky serif fonts like Oneleigh, Kennerley,Belucian, Della Robbia and Worcester can work nicely, depending on the art. They suggest vintage kids books. The main thing is that they be easy for kids to read and work at larger sizes.

cuttlefish's picture

The classic suggestion for children's books is New Century Schoolbook, but don't be afraid to try something fresher. Hey, it was good enough for Dr. Seuss.

Koppa's picture

Cuttlefish beat me to the punch. Century Schoolbook is the answer. My sentiments exactly. Only I wouldn't suggest trying something fresher. I'd just use it without question. But I'm like that. If you were to try something fresher, I'd suggest Georgia. I learned that on Typophile! It's fun to get smarter!

Si_Daniels's picture

Surely Gotham & Myriad for contemporary subjects "Johnny gets an iPod" or "Our New President", Avenir and Frutiger for the retro look, and something scrawly for the Spiderwick set.

crossgrove's picture

A kid's book is an opportunity to use those typefaces that are too showy or interesting for long or serious texts.

Chaparral, Goudy Californian Text (FontBureau), Garamond 3, Hightower, Truesdell, Eldorado, Alcuin, are all sitting in your font library waiting for a project like this.

maltelunden's picture

Burbank looks really great to me! It reminds me of Zalamander, but just a bit more clean, soft and not so pointy. Perfect!

What do you guys think of Zalamander for children's books by the way?

Personally I would want to use quirky serifs, like Pattyfab suggested. I think I found all the ones you listed, but I find it difficult to visualize them in print, from just looking at the screen. I like Della Robbia though (maybe because the serifs are so neutral), Belucia seems a bit too sophisticated for most purposes and I don't know what to think about OneLeigh..

Chaparral was a really good idea! That could end up as a standard children's font for me. Thanks. I couldn't find Goudy California(n), but Garamond 3 and Hightower seem a bit too traditional. Eldorado looked interesting (especially the lower-case 'a'), but I think I need to see more of it (in print preferably).

M

Nick Shinn's picture

I know you're brainstorming, but why you would look for a generic "children's" face, without considering the content, illustration or layout of the book?
That's rather patronizing.
By choosing Burbank, you are discriminating against serious and sophisticated children, and those who may in future become graphic designers!

But if you must, Carl's approach makes a lot of sense.

Or, if you're stuck with the one-type-fits-all approach, give them Helvetica, and they will feel really grown-up :-)

Dan Weaver's picture

I wouldn't bring any attention to the type. Allow the Illustrations to carry the message. Just make the type easy to read.

i cant delete my username's picture

Nick, I agree that the typeface should compliment the illustration style and the story itself. I suggested Burbank on the premise that it had the same general class or style as Bello, but it is also better suited for body copy, and has many weights to choose from. I know Chris Van Allsburg would have never used it, but maybe Roald Dahl would have enjoyed it...

Nick Shinn's picture

the typeface should compliment the illustration style

I'm working on it. It will be called "DudeThatsWicked".

EK's picture

My son is in first grade, and I find that the measure and leading are more critical than the choice of typeface. By the way, at the library we never pick up books with "clever" type that goes up and down, or loops around the page.

maltelunden's picture

Hello Nick,

Thanks for the input. I guess your argument is similar to those in the thread on "gay types": there's no point in finding a generic type, without considering the content. I have to say though, I'm certainly not looking for a catch-all type, but rather stirring up some inspiration – and now, apparently, debate :)

Put simply, first I want to familiarize myself with a whole lot of different types suitable for children's book (a generalization: assuming that children's books have something in common, and are more similar than, say scientific journals), which will make it much more fun to pick a specific one for a specific book (by considering its specific subject).

It doesn't have to be either-or. You can work both generalizing and specific, by making a preselection.

But what do I know, I'm a child in this business anyway

M

jupiterboy's picture

How’s your spiral?

mondoB's picture

On another thread, Jupiterboy drew my attention to a new Storm Foundry face called Tusar, which would be perfect for you: big fat friendly letter proportions, open clear counters, and stylish numbers--a real charmer. Take a peek. Not expensive either, $77 for the four-font package, all properly keystroke-linked, something I'm always grateful for from small foundries. Download from myfonts.

Arild's picture

How about Sauna from Underware?

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Talking of Underware: Dolly is very friendly.

maltelunden's picture

Hello jupiterboy,

Thanks for asking :)
It's somewhat on standby, although the board of direction accepted the idea/sketch, and were very happy about the overall concept (even eager to conjure up new uses of it).

Malte

maltelunden's picture

MondoB, that looks interesting, thanks for the suggestion. I will check it out.

Apparently, Underware fonts seem to do a lot of what I personally look for.
– A colleague of mine actually used Sauna for the new danish edition of the Bible for children.
– I love the look of Dolly, and have waited for an occasion to use it, so maybe I should put that on my childrens-list. Actually, I have considered Auto (another Underware font) for this particular job, because it seems to complement Chaparral very well (I discovered this in another thread here on the forum – I think it was a comment by crossgrove there too, so I might as well say thank you twice)

After thinking about the subject of finding "children's fonts", I may have to accept that I am rather strongly selecting fonts from a personal aestaethic viewpoint. I'm definately not going for the neutral and don't-see-me-fonts, because I want the look of the text to compliment and "play" with the illustrations (though not necessarily in the "clever" way EK mentions). But I may have a slight bias towards certain kinds of fonts. I don't know if this is bad or good.

Malte

mondoB's picture

Another option with some of the same appeal as Underware's marvelous faces is ESTA from Portugal's DSType...to me, it has a unique Portuguese combo of funkiness and old-world courtliness. Also not expensive (certainly cheaper than Underware): $19 per font from myfonts.

i cant delete my username's picture

"By choosing Burbank, you are discriminating against serious and sophisticated children"
I'll remember that next time I see the Duck Confit Happy Meal at McDonalds...

I don't think typographers/graphic designers should be afraid to play with typefaces, as long as the point size, leading (you're right EK), and legibility (none of those random cursive characters or such) are not affected. Take for instance, comic books. There you will have an excellent balance of type to image (and also the only time center-alligned paragraphs are acceptable) where there is in no way any indication of classic typography. Depending on the age group, I wouldn't hesitate to use a "handwritten" sans in a children's book, as long as it's still legible, and makes sense in it's usage. Maybe if they're a little older we can go to JK Rowling's 12pt Adobe Garamond (at least for us in the US).

Kellie Strøm's picture

A number of children's picture books use type which is very unsympathetic to the art. Putting brittle type next to or over painted art looks ugly to me. For my own first book I used a version of Cooper Oldstyle. The blobby serifs went very well with the acrylic painting, I thought. Where the designer and editor suggested setting some of the type along curves, I created a new upright cursive non-joining font, which being my first I make no great claims for, but it was better than having serifs choo-chooing up and down curves, which is something that looks weird to me, unless it's handlettered.

I handlettered the cover letters, which led to some problems on foreign co-editions. Where I got the chance I created hand-lettering for co-editions also, but most of them were typeset, not always in the most pleasing way.

My current project is a Dutch language only picture book, which I intend to handletter.

I'm also working on another English language book where I plan to follow Maurice Sendak and use Cheltenham, mixing and matching the versions from a couple of suppliers so that I can get as traditional a 'g' as possible, and also approximate smallcaps by using a bold at a smaller size. I may have to draw that old 'r' myself, though. I can't see it for sale anywhere, nor can I see an 'ffi' for 'traffic'.

I'm very fond of Baskerville with art, as seen in the Danish children's comic Rasmus Klump.

Counter to all this, Lauren Child uses type in a way that is extremely ugly, but integrates with the art perfectly, and is in its own philistine way absolutely brilliant.

DrDoc's picture

I've always thought that children's books should have as traditional a typeface as possible; they're just learning to read, so why give them a typeface that has interesting letterforms? I personally think something like Georgia would be a great choice, given the high x-height and overall legibility.

Ana Curralo's picture

For children´s book, I suggest Sassoon Infant Regular but give a look on www.clubtype.co.uk or www.schulschriften.de

Nick Shinn's picture

I’ve always thought that children’s books should have as traditional a typeface as possible; they’re just learning to read, so why give them a typeface that has interesting letterforms?

I agree with your policy, but not the rationale.
IMO, traditional serif faces have the most interesting letterforms, ideal for engaging young minds.
Kellie mentions Cheltenham, which has a few "extra" serifs and unusual top-heavy proportions.

I didn't design Fontesque for children, but that's a genre it's often used for.
Designers, perhaps, use its bounce and irregularity to signal the genre, being similar to the uneven quality of children's handwriting. Children also seem to like it; I think because it breaks the grid. They're always being told to conform, which is hard work, so they respond to something that doesn't. This isn't the same issue as "serious/fun", although there is some overlap. It is also possible for children to be serious and non-conformist at least some of the time-- after all, that's learning to think for oneself.

William Berkson's picture

Since this is a picture book, I think that suiting the mood of the story and the style of the artwork should be the main considerations. The 'voice' of the type would be the main thing, since being large any decent typeface will be legible.

What is the style of the artwork? What is the theme of the story?

DrDoc's picture

I agree with your policy, but not the rationale.
IMO, traditional serif faces have the most interesting letterforms, ideal for engaging young minds.

Sorry, interesting was a bad word choice. "Unique" or "different" was more what I meant.

maltelunden's picture

Well thought out, Nick. I think that's a very inspiring explanation for which fonts children most often like (though, you have to admit, the mere explanation of such a thing is a generalization. I don't think that's a bad thing though)

On a general note, I have to add that not all children's book are read by children. A lot of them are read by their parents. This affects the whole discussion of traditional type vs. expressive type. In the case of a book where most children don't read themselves, I wouldn't hesitate in using an expressive type. With my particular book as an example: the text is disproportionally difficult in relation to the age-relevance of the theme and the style of the artwork. If the child could read it, he/she would probably be turned of by the theme and the artwork, and go read a more serious book.

William: The illustration style of the book is rather wild, "pointy" and non-smooth. But also friendly and cuddly (especially the huge black dog, which the protagonist finds in his daddy's car instead of his dad). I chose Chaparral, because I seemed to get some of the same vibes from this font.

Malte

johnkraft's picture

I'm working on a new children's book, my first, and have been doing research on appropriate fonts. So far Georgia is in the lead but it does seem a bit boring or flat compared to the illustrations. Perhaps that's OK? Wondered what the group here thought of the font "Marker Felt". On first glance it seems readable & whimsical - but I may be losing objectivity.

Best,
John

aquashore's picture

I'm either using Burbank or Century Schoolbook for mine... so far Burbank is winning as it suits my art.

@johnkraft Marker Felt? Hmmmm I'd be hesitant on that one... However, I haven't read your story or seen the art to make a more informed comment :)

Don't go too fancy for the sake of it.... I used to be a (video) Editor, and people starting out or learning editing used to see the great list of fancy transitions (like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zdryiNdukM ) and go nuts using them all... when all you really need 99% of the time is a simple fade/cross fade or dissolve.

So, keep it simple - you want your art to draw the attention, not the font.

DesignHardcore's picture

Burbank is Good,But Worcester is also a nice font to use.

www.creativedesignhardcore.com

ALEXANDRAARROWSMITH's picture

Hey Malte
How are you getting on? Are you published yet?
I read all of the baove and am currently looking for font options myself for my children's books.
What did you settle on in the end?
AA

ncaleffi's picture

Go with ITC Century - a timeless classic, and a perfect choice, in my opinion, for children's books.

fontdesigner2's picture

Try pizzadude fonts. They're really cool and they're free. Just make sure to create outlines before you print them.

audesigner's picture

I worked as a graphic designer for a children's museum for over 3 year and what I have found is that kids need consistency and legibility above all else. Especially if your audience is younger kids, just learning to read. Don't pick fancy or decorative fonts. At the museum, we were very specific to using only fonts with infant characters (round a's and g's) because those are what children recgonize best. Some are:

Futura
Century Gothic
Andika Basic (I think this was designed especially for children): http://www.dafont.com/andika-basic.font
Gill Sans Infant

There are probably others. I also had a MFA Graduate classmate who did a thesis on typography in children's books. Again, consistency and legibility are the most important things.

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