Learning the Letters

xtianhoff's picture

I was beginning to design a little booklet for my young son who's showing a new interest in letters and words at twenty-seven months of age. I started off using Chapparal then began to entertain other, wildly different, thoughts like Cronos and Century. I recently saw a children's book set in Licko's Journal Light that looked wonderful.

I realized that, unlike most projects, I wasn't sure on what I was basing my choices. What are the criteria that define a good font for young children learning their letters and eventually to read? Now, my son is clearly a genius of towering proportions, but let's limit the discussion to children in general.

I have some thoughts on the matter, but I'd prefer to open it up and see where this goes. It's a fairly interesting topic in that the point and priorities of the uses of the font are distinct from more typical text, display, or whathaveyou faces.

aluminum's picture

There's two camps:

1) Use comic sans for kid's stuff

2) Use anything but comic sans for kid's stuff

xtianhoff's picture

Camp #3) Use EVERYthing but Comic Sans.

I do think that there may be a point to using either multiple fonts or, more elegantly, a font with alternate letters (almost like the original Beowulf program). Kids may learn a letter best by seeing various glyphs for a given letter so that, by seeing what is constant and what isn't, they can arrive at the "essence" of a letter.

typerror's picture

After having designed 7 or 8 titling faces and doing many covers for a NY publisher of children's book I decided to design a thoughtful juvenile font that would speak to the time that I had spent with my children reading books. Two years ago I released Peanut through P22. Although one cannot have a favorite child this face definitely ignites the child in me. It may be less formal than what you are looking for but, what the heck, take a peek. It was truly a face born out of a dad's love for his children and their appreciation of their father's letters.

Don't get me wrong, this is not a shameless plug. Just a reaction to the same sort of love that I have for my children... 23, 21, and 10. Maybe it is just dad reminiscing through type and lettering.

Are we getting old or what?


xtianhoff's picture

Michael, I like that a lot. What were you aiming for when you first drew it? Playfulness? High legibility?

I like the balance you struck of a being freshly drawn with some classic shapes and serif forms.

vivicity's picture


My son is just a few months older than yours and also very interested in letters - to my delight.
As a designer I'm of the everything but Comic Sans school.

I find that at that the really geometric fonts seem to work well - such as Futura etc - as they tend to come closest to what we think of the basic form of specific glyphs.

And while he can recognize certain letters in almost any font as long as they are uppercase, he has yet to grasp the concept of lowercase letters - in other words that there are two types of ABCs or more.

And numbers for now are also called "letters".

Michael - nice typeface - like the name too.

typerror's picture

"What were you aiming for when you first drew it?"

Pure fun, simplicity (laced with a nod to the Roman forms) and a sense of the sparkle that I saw in my children's eyes when they looked at letters from early on. It is derived from a logo, and when I started lettering it I asked my kids which shapes they liked in certain letters. I commandeered the caps so they may not be as much fun, oh well. I did not expect the reaction in the publishing industry, some of my clients used it instead of having me do lettering. What was I thinking :-)

To this day the/my favorite letter is the lowercase e. Kid like goofy!


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