Looking for a serif with reading a's and g's

Fictions's picture

I'm brand new here and something of an ingenue at this whole typography game, but it's something I'm interested in and looking to learn about. To that end, I'd like some help from you.

I need to get my hands on a nice serif – a fairly traditional one preferably – with 'reading' a's and g's. This is intended for body text in a novel-style text, so shouldn't really be so markedly different in any other way from what you might normally find. A lot of nice serif fonts have suitable italics, but the Roman or book styles have the arc overhead (although I don't know what that's called).

Thanks for your time.

gargoyle's picture

Bembo and Plantin have "Schoolbook" variants with the single-story a's and g's. Also the "Alternate" styles of Musee.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Can I inquire as to *why* you want that style? Departing from "normal" letterforms for the body text of a novel will be jarring to the reader.

Moreover, those letter forms as alternates in serif typefaces were not adopted for reading purposes, but for teaching young children to *write*. All the available evidence is that they are in fact less legible. Plenty of publishers and designers are confused about this, but that doesn't make them right.

Cheers,

T

Nick Shinn's picture

Thomas, click on his name...

Stone Informal

I believe there are several OpenType faces released recently which offer the single-bowl a and g not as default, but as an alternate in a Stylistic Set. Off the top of my head, I can only think of sans serif faces. Actually, there was a thread here about this, earlier in the year.

William Berkson's picture

I would second Thomas's comment: there is no evidence that single story a's and g's are better for children. This is a concept that adults get in their heads, but it's not true.

charles ellertson's picture

Charis has them as alternates, but the 2-story characters are better.

Nick Shinn's picture

How about a nice upright italic:
Odile

Chris Dean's picture

@Thomas: “All the available evidence is that they are in fact less legible.”

Can you cite scientific studies that support this? I have often wondered this myself but have yet to come across any. Instincts tell me they would make no significant difference to performance measures such as reading time and comprehension.

Andreas Stötzner's picture

There is a special version of Andron which may be what you are looking for.

Fictions's picture

Thank you for the swift and helpful replies. The reason I'm after this is simply because a client requested it – I am an editor at a self-publishing company and, as such, I have to pander. The client is an 85-year-old man with very particular requirements, to say the least; but he's paying for the right to be picky. I'll take a look at the fonts you have all suggested.

Thanks again. I'm learning already.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Having those particular letters drawn custom by a type designer is another option.

Nick Shinn's picture

...there is no evidence that single story a's and g's are better for children. This is a concept that adults get in their heads, but it's not true.

The same could be said of the opposite, that single storey a's and g's are worse.

Reading research is not a good basis for typographic design decisions.

It's also debatable whether "children" represents an entirely homogenous category.

William Berkson's picture

Nick, I don't remember the source, but if I remember correctly the testing didn't show a difference.

Chris Dean's picture

Reading research is not a good basis for typographic design decisions.”

If reading research can show that certain typographic details, let's use ligatures as an example, make no significant difference in contexts where comprehension is of primary importance, then the typographer need not concern themselves with them saving valuable resources such as time and money that could be better spent on installing solar panels.

Why is reading research not a good basis for typographic decision making, and what would you propose as an alternative?

Thomas Phinney's picture

“Reading research is not a good basis for typographic design decisions.”

There we disagree. Now, aesthetics are hard to measure, so there are plenty of distinctions that are not easily made in research that still really do matter to art (or even craft). But anything that reading research tells us does matter, we should probably be paying close attention to.

Ligatures is an interesting example. Today, people using professional typesetting tools have to go out of their way to turn ligatures off. Yet this is commonly (though not universally) done in children's books. It would be very interesting to see some research on whether children find ligatures confusing, and at what ages or stages of learning to read. As far as I know there has been no research on the subject. I mentioned this briefly in my talk at TypeCon.

Cheers,

T

barthak's picture

I'd like to add Sirba to the list with alternate a's & g's.

Florian Hardwig's picture

Thank you, Bart, I have added it.

Nick Shinn's picture

...let's use ligatures as an example...

Which particular font did you have in mind?
Serif or sans?
What size?
What weight?
What page layout?
Pixel or print?
What stock/screen resolution?
What demographic of readers?
What reading environment? (RSVP in a lab?)
What text?
What publication?
What intended reading outcome?
What language?
And finally, who is the typographer?

Reading research is able to draw conclusions from a specific experiment in which the above variables are fixed, but generalizing to situations where the variables are otherwise is shooting in the dark.

Typography is a discipline of infinite variety, to be practised with taste and discretion, not reduced to a set of idiot rules.

Chris Dean's picture

“…but generalizing to situations where the variables are otherwise is shooting in the dark.”

You are speaking of the pros and cons of experimental designs that have either internal validity or external validity. While highly controlled laboratory environments may not be an accurate representation of real-world situations, it is only through highly controlled conditions that one can determine what variable is influencing what measure with any confidence. The cumulation of several studies with a high degree of internal validity slowly allows us to draw broader generalizations to the real world. With sound reasoning and reproducible results we can solve problems with greater efficiency ensuring clients a secure return on investment.

Who’s taste at who’s discretion?

Nick Shinn's picture

...it is only through highly controlled conditions that one can determine what variable is influencing what measure with any confidence.

You raised the example of ligatures.
I showed three sans serif 'fi's of quite different construction.
Unless you test all three against "ligatures off", how can you be sure of any conclusion about the readability of ligatures in general?
And what of other ligatures and other sans typefaces, and what of ligatures in serifed types?

Whose taste and discretion?
Typographers, art directors and graphic designers -- people who design documents for a living.

Antonio Cavedoni's picture

Galaxie Copernicus by Kris Sowersby & Chester Jenkins.

FlxB's picture

Hi Nick,

great examples of serifs. Could you please tell me the name of the second one? I cannot identify it.

Nick Shinn's picture

Electra.

FlxB's picture

thank you!

Nick Shinn's picture

Memphis (1929) is "pretty traditional": it was the first 20th century revival of the original slab serif style ("Antique"), before it became Clarendonized in the 1840s.

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