Book typeface suggestions

John Hudson's picture

As a type designer, I tend to have my nose so close to my personal grindstone that I'm not always aware what my colleagues have been up to, which is a problem when I'm actually looking for a typeface to use and don't have anything appropriate in my own knife block. So I'm looking for suggestions for possible types to use for a publishing project. The brief is as follows:

Family must consist of a minimum of roman and italic serif types in in a regular or book weight. Bold and other weight variants appreciated, and may become necessary. Must support at minimum western European Latin character set, and should include appropriate ligatures, smallcaps, numeral variant styles, etc.

The design should be of medium stroke contrast, i.e. not extreme à la Didot but not too heavily low contrast. The types will eventually need to harmonise on the page with some non-Latin scripts, some of which involve complex forms that must not get too dense.

The type should be clear and readable in the range of 9pt to 11pt.

The scripts with which the types will need to harmonise include both strong verticals and very round forms, as well as terminals and stroke reversals creating ball or hook forms. If similar forms are details of the Latin types, this can assist the harmony on the page. Some amount of roundness of forms is probably going to be most helpful in overall harmony; sharp, incised forms are probably not going to help.

Some of the scripts involved in the publishing project have, conventionally, a diagonal stroke weight axis, and others have a vertical axis. The Latin type could go either way, or be a hybrid (à la Kepler and Brill).

I'd like to use a recent design and see some money go to a living designer. A contemporary feel, as opposed to a 'classic' one, is acceptable, but not if it might date too quickly or be considered too-2011.

It will be important that the EULA permits modifications to the font (not for distribution), or willingness on the part of the designer/foundry to work with me on making some modifications.

So, suggestions?

kentlew's picture

John — Do you have copies of the old ATypI publication Type, circa 1997–98? These were set in a variety of the Cycles typefaces. Sumner probably continued to tinker, but these give a good representation of their general performance.

flooce's picture

That was a good hint hrant. It is from the Dædalus Journal, there is a free article in this issue, which everybody can access:
http://www.mitpressjournals.org/toc/daed/134/4
Showing Cycles 11 and 24.

hrant's picture

Thanks! Ah, so "Fall" was the quarter. :-)

BTW, that PDF I have actually shows the 9, 10, 11 and 24.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

Kent, yes, I do have the ATypI journals. I was looking for a PDF (thanks, Florian and Hant) to send to the book designer who is working on this project.

Further suggestions eagerly appreciated.

Queneau's picture

Well, I love Cycles as well, though I'm still looking for a project to use it for.

Other favorites, though perhaps too quirky for your project, are ITC Mendoza and Photina by José Mendoza y Almeida. Both are really beautiful for books. Mendoza has a very sturdy and open look which I like a lot, Photina is more classical but with calligraphic flow.

Calluna is a bestseller, but still I'd love to see it used in a book context. It is very complete in its character set, and it has an interesting but not disruptive set on the page.

johndberry's picture

Matthew's points about availability of something that you can really judge a text face by are true, but no one has mentioned the obvious, and traditional, way of judging a face: by looking at other books that have used it. While we're supporting our local type designers, let's at least browse our local bookstores, too.

flooce's picture

Queneau:
Calluna is a bestseller, but still I'd love to see it used in a book context. It is very complete in its character set, and it has an interesting but not disruptive set on the page.

It is in use for books:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/exljbris/4171132017/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/exljbris/4429306594/

John Hudson's picture

Calluna has some nice features, but I have an aversion to e with a slanted crossbar. Griffo had it right when he fixed Jenson's model.

William Berkson's picture

Seria is a book face with tall ascenders, and a distinctive, modern look. It doesn't have the ball terminals and hooks, though. You might have to draw this one :)

dezcom's picture

"but I have an aversion to e with a slanted crossbar. "

Why is that, John?

John Hudson's picture

Chris, I think it has something to do with the perception of informality, contrary to the evolved typographic form of the formal book hand. I think this is what Griffo understood, and why Jenson had it wrong: he regularised many aspects of the humanist book hand when he reduced it to type, but left the slanted crossbar which then looks out of place in the greater regularity of the typographic page. Griffo fixes this, and establishes the normative form of the typographic e. I've yet to see a serif text face with an e with the slanted crossbar that I didn't think would be improved on the page with a less casual shape.

Further on this subject, Plantin's types are interesting because the crossbar actually slants down to the right: a feature that I do not recall reproduced in any revivals. I don't think the impression this gives of the e being rotated clockwise is helpful, but the tightening of the lower counter seems to help the visual rhythm by creating a stronger right side to the letter. Recently I've experimented with flaring the crossbar, running the underside in a subtle downward to achieve the same effect.

[SBL BibLit]

dezcom's picture

John,
So you mean as a historic form, then? I can understand your wanting to preserve the style of the old classic faces but why does that matter for a 21st century face like Calluna? I don't know what your subject matter is for your book, but I would imagine that you think it needs to retain the feeling of the older metal types. Personally, I am more interested in how well someone solves the visual problems he makes for himself whatever the means. My question would be, was it a well done diagonal and did it suit the rest of the face? To slant or not means little to me, as the man says, "The devil is in the details."

I do admit that in book faces, the opening of the lower half of the "e" is helped by a reduction in the eye of the e. This seems to work well with roman faces or at least those with contrast. It is tougher with a low contrast sans at bolder weights. I am sometimes tempted to break the crossbar just before the join to get out of the pickle.

John Hudson's picture

No, I don't mean as an historic form. I mean that I think e with a slanted crossbar always looks more informal than one with a horizontal bar, and unless the rest of the typeface design is similarly informal the e ends up looking out of place. I also think it subtly undermines the stability of word rhythm by introducing divergent counter shapes and inter-letter white space. I think this is a problem common to all the contemporary text types I have seen that have this affectation.

I do admit that in book faces, the opening of the lower half of the "e" is helped by a reduction in the eye of the e.

This is the opposite of what I am saying. In many types, and all that have the slanted crossbar, the lower counter is too open. You get better spacing and stronger internal rhythms if the crossbar is lower and the eye not too small. This is one of the improvements that the Dutch punchcutters made to the French models that they inherited.

dezcom's picture

"improvements that the Dutch punchcutters made to the French models that they inherited."

I detect a bit of sarcasm there, John ;-)

William Berkson's picture

John, I agree with you about the slanted crossbar being less optimal. I don't think it's so much a matter of informality as just being a distraction. Maybe the thing is that it's overkill. If you are going to divide the letter, making it both divided and slanted is too much information.

Your idea about the bigger eye being better for rhythm and spacing is interesting, but I don't know if it's right, as so many factors are involved. If you have a smaller eye, it goes with a narrower letter, which also changes the rhythm...

hrant's picture

Actually I believe that a dense top is what makes an "e" itself, and
contribute ideally to boumas. (Nothing to do with rhythm of course.)

hhp

Michel Boyer's picture

a dense top is what makes an "e" itself

You mean that the center of gravity of the e should be high? I don't know what your boumas are but your perceptors don't seem to be like mine.

hrant's picture

I mean there should be some extra darkness at the top.
Of course if you go too far even laymen* will start to mind.
However this does depend on the point size of course.

* Type designers will mind much earlier, but most
of them are too rooted in Modernism (even color)
to warrant attention concerning this. :-)

A bouma is the overall shape of a cluster of letters,
which is often a whole word, but can be a single letter.
It is the unit of reading.

hhp

John Hudson's picture

I detect a bit of sarcasm there

Absolutely not. I think what the Dutch did with roman types in the 17th and 18th Centuries remains -- at least in the Anglo-American world -- the least understood and appreciated advance in our art. I have a hard time thinking of a single change they made to the Garamond model from which they started that isn't a clear improvement in terms of colour on the page, individual letter legibility, word knitting, consistency, etc.. I recall Matthew Carter saying something to the effect that everything he knows about readability he learned from Fleischmann. Yeah, pretty much.

John Hudson's picture

Hrant: Actually I believe that a dense top is what makes an "e" itself

Across all tested spatial frequencies in which the letter was identifiable, the crossbar, with or without adjacent areas, was the key feature enabling recognition. Now, one may make the case that this was due to the choice of letterform tested, that a Garamond e with its higher crossbar and tighter, denser top would produce different results, but a) I wouldn't bet either way on that, and b) that still wouldn't imply that a dense top makes every e itself. I suppose you may also makes the case that what makes an e itself within a bouma is somehow different from what makes an e itself in itself. But I think Mr Occam would like to sell you a razor.

John Hudson's picture

Bill: If you have a smaller eye, it goes with a narrower letter, which also changes the rhythm...

Seldom for the better, I think. The Latin script has inherited a fairly sloppy approach to relative letter width when it comes to the exceptional letters (those that are not directly referenced by other letters in the way that b d p q are). I reckon any type designer who really wants to develop a feel for relative widths should spend time working on Cyrillic text faces. When you have to optically coordinate the proportions of 'а в е ѕ' so as not to disrupt those long Slavic words, a lot more care is needed than in the generally laissez-faire Latin approach driven more by stylistic decisions.

hrant's picture

The bar is important because it's part of a dense top. The bar is
important because there's a counter there; there doesn't have to
be a bar/counter if you wanted more density... :-)

> that still wouldn't imply that a dense top makes every e itself.

Never "every". I'm talking about a convergence
towards an ideal, not within a particular context.

> you may also makes the case that what makes an e itself within a
> bouma is somehow different from what makes an e itself in itself.

Indeed.
This is parallel to the reality that there's a difference between
display and text fonts, between legibility and readability, between
various other opposing poles that I listed in my Mexico City talk.

This is a distinction I've been making since my "Modules+Similars"
diagram of 1999 (which I know you saw at ATypI-Boston :-).

hhp

dezcom's picture

"...I reckon any type designer who really wants to develop a feel for relative widths should spend time working on Cyrillic "

Amen

William Berkson's picture

I wonder if you are taking the wrong lesson from Cyrillic. Does roman type have a lot more variation in width than Cyrillic? I would think that it may be an advantage to have more variation in width to give more varying word images (or Boumas as Hrant would have it). I suspect that even color is more important than similar width.

Monospace roman type is less readable, I think, but a contributing factor may be that you get a color problem with monospace roman, especially for lower case.

dezcom's picture

Cyrillic has so many sub-levels, incongruous shapes, and cuts that fitting is far more difficult than Latin.

hrant's picture

> designers of text faces should be doing more
> to make their wares easier to test and buy.

And this, folks, is how you do it! :-)
http://ernestinefont.com/
(All Nina's work.)

hhp

jacobsievers's picture

Okay, Typophile... why does my post on one thread keep showing up here, instead. Annoying.

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