Trepidatious student asking for opinion and advice

km123's picture

Hello All

This is my first post and I have read through posting guidelines and threads about students and questions and was weighing up whether to still post. I decided to as I would value any input, not just for coursework, but also because I am genuinly interested in typography and the knowledge and experience that is available as part of this community.

Anyway, here goes. I have a piece of coursework where I have to lay out the first pages of a book. I can choose what kind of book and would like to use poetry, specifically by the Sufi 12th Century poet Rumi. Although I have done a lot of research and have books on type and book design, I would like to see how others feel about this. My reason for choosing poetry is that it needs a different treatment to a text book, a novel or similar. Also it is something that inspires me and I would like to do it with as much care as possible. My reason for posting is that although I have been able to find some information about poetry, as opposed to prose, I would really welcome a discussion of this with any interested parties.

I have looked at various typefaces and narrowed it down to Jenson, Bembo, Bodoni, Adobe Caslon and Goudy Old Style. After looking at various things such as the tail on the upper-case Q and the lower case gs I decided to go with Goudy Old Style, which I realise some may find slightly out of date, or hackneyed.

I am also interested in using page margins that have the left page margin largest on the outside and the right page margin largest on the inside. My book will be 6 1/2 x 4 1/2. I intend to put the folios at the bottom and centred.

Anyway, I am really interested in opinions about setting poetry and the differences that there might be for this. I would like to use upper case for the titles, but maybe in a small caps version.

Thank you for reading


Nick Shinn's picture

I don't know how this will be printed, or what size the type, but I suspect that Goudy Old Style, in the digital versions available, may be too refined and hence too precious for Rumi. It would tend to sentimentalize and not be "old" enough.

Bear in mind that it is one of the earlier classic old style faces to be digitized, and, based on intermediate sizes, is thus a bit emaciated at usual text sizes, due to the lack of "press gain" — i.e. as if it had been printed letterpress on coated stock.

Chris Dean's picture

@km123: Where do you go to school, what program, and in what year are you?

ben_archer's picture

Hi Kathy

Most of what is written in typography textbooks about setting poetry concerns the need to distinguish it from any surrounding prose – see Bringhurst 2.3.4 Indent or center verse quotations.

Most verse in my view, is set pretty open and generously-leaded, perhaps sometimes just to make the minimum extent that would justify a bound volume, however slim.

But you have a whole book to set (albeit not a very big one?) so, having arrived at the decisions you mention re: page size, margins, position of folios, typeface choice etc. the only thing to do is to try it out... set the pages and see what you get en masse. Test the design by getting other people to read it and tell you their responses. Don't forget the title pages and prelims.

km123's picture

Nick, thank you for your comments. I did wonder if the very things I find attractive about Goudy Old Style, its delicacy and lightness, might also make it look a bit diluted on the page. I have tried setting some poems in it, and although I still like it, I can see your point about preciousness. I think I will try a range of different typefaces and see what looks best.

Ben, thank you for your comments and suggestions. I have Bringhurst and will read the section you mention, and also think about the other things you mention, such as leading. I have to create the first pages of a book, from the title page to the first double page spread, although obviously I need to take into account that there will be a whole book and to think about things like binding etc. I will certainly test by getting others to read and respond.

Also, I have to write a critique of my choice of typeface, margins, format etc, and it is good to include this kind of discussion. I think that it will be considered a good thing to have joined this forum and discussed these issues, as it is an excellent way to learn about typography and to have to think about choices and do background research. Thank you for the time you have taken to respond.

Nick Shinn's picture

Goudy Catalogue?

km123's picture

Thank you Nick, that looks very interesting. I will try setting some of the poetry in it. That way I get to keep the characteristics that I like, but in a less delicate way.

I see this was designed by Morris Fuller Benton so I can do some research on his typography too.

km123's picture

I notice some spam has made its way into this thread just above my last post. Am I able report this for deletion?

km123's picture

I have tried Goudy Catalogue in a test on one of the font vendors, and it doesn't quite work. Goudy Old Style definitely doesn't when laid out. I have tried other typefaces and come down to two that I feel might work. These are Adobe Caslon and Arno Pro. I am attaching an image of the Adobe Caslon, Goudy Old Style and Arno Pro (one using swashes for the italicised title). I would really welcome opinions. With the Arno layout, I have used a slightly larger leading than for the other two. I am not sure about using italics for the titles, but think it looks better than with them all in upper case. I hope my screenshot is clear enough.

Thank you

Joshua Langman's picture

Very nice. I have set an entire poetry book in Arno Pro, and it worked nicely. Caslon is also a good possibility, though maybe look at other versions, like Williams Caslon. Also, have you thought about using less than a full blank line between stanzas? The break is looking a little large, I think (or are you using more than a full line space already?). You may also want to differentiate the titles a little more with size or some other form of emphasis. And think about making the space after the title larger than the stanza breaks. Actually, with more space, the titles as you've designed them might work fine. For more feedback, it would be helpful if you could link to or upload a PDF.

Edited to add some more thoughts: I'm not a fan of the swash caps in the last example. Also, have you looked at other similar Slimbach faces, like Warnock (very different, a bit spiky), Brioso (very calligraphic), or Garamond Premier Pro? All of these could be used quite well for poetry, I think, depending on the feel you're looking for.

km123's picture

Thank you Joshua. I really like Arno Pro, it is a beautiful typeface. I will have a look at other versions of Caslon and at the size of the breaks between stanzas. I will also experiment with larger titles, or maybe a different weight, or small caps or some other way to differentiate.

I haven't looked at Warnock of Brioso, but I do like Garamond Premier Pro. Currently I do not have a huge amount of fonts, so have been trying them out on font shop web sites, where you can enter some words.

Another typeface I really like a lot is a more recent one - Feijoa, which I was thinking of purchasing

Thank you for the link to your book, I also had a look at the pdf on your site. I like the way there is a bit of extra information included about the poem in italics, between the title and the body of the poem.

ben_archer's picture

Hi Kathy

There is more you might like to read about setting poetry (and plays) in the book called 'The Use of Type' by John R. Biggs, Blandford Press, London 1954.

It's hard for me to tell from the screen shot above, but maybe worth remembering that Indesign has an option in the preferences for type that reads 'Apply leading to entire paragraphs'. You should ensure that this is checked 'on'.

Joshua Langman's picture

"Apply leading to entire paragraphs" …

But since in the case of poetry each line constitutes a "paragraph," this wouldn't make a difference. Unless, of course, you end each line with a soft return, which is actually a handy thing to do, since you can then specify stanza breaks as before/after paragraph spaces. This avoids ending up with blank lines at the tops of pages, and makes it easier to change them all at once.

km123's picture

Thank you both, I am still working on the design. Ben, I will look at the book you mention.

Joshua I am not sure I understand completely how soft returns and stanza breaks would work. I know the space before and space after options in the paragraph styles, and will play around and look at how these affect my text.

I am very happy with Arno Pro, which also has a lot of different styles and I am currently trying out different options for poem titles.

It is a really interesting process and I am learning a great deal. As this is a piece of university coursework on typography and book design I have been trying things such as using the golden mean to lay out the page, dividing it into a grid of 9x9 and other things. What I am finding is that the different elements, such as title and stanza do not easily fit exactly with a grid, at least the results do not seem as harmonious as doing it by eye. The good thing is that I can put all of my experimentation into my critique and discuss it.

Off now to play around with titles in different varieties and with different paragraph spacing between title and poem.

JamesM's picture

> I am not sure I understand completely how soft
> returns and stanza breaks would work

Are you currently separating stanzas by inserting a blank line? That technique has some disadvantages. Suppose you decide later to change the spacing between stanzas. You'd have to go back and individually select and change each blank line. Or you could select all the text and change the spacing, but unfortunately that would change the spacing of all lines, not just the blank lines.

A better technique is to treat each stanza as a separate paragraph, use space before (or space after) in paragraph styles. That way in a few seconds you can globally adjust the spacing between all the stanzas without that affecting the space between individual lines.

Another advantage of eliminating blank lines is that you won't accidentally end up with a blank line at the top of a column.

Since each stanza is one paragraph, if you want to manually insert a line break within a stanza you'd use a soft break (Shift + Return). A soft break tells the application that you want a line break but you're not starting a new paragraph.

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