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I'm designing and typesetting a new series of first reader (and/or easy reader) books in Norwegian. One of the first thing on the list is choosing a typeface. I thought I should ask for your opinion. I divide my questions into two:
1. Any typeface suggestions?
After a few rounds we are close to settling on a candidate: Comenia. Both Comenia Serif and Sans are lovely typefaces. I'm especially in love with Comenia Serif: natural and unassuming but if you really look at it, it has fantastically elegant strokes, fx the foxtail on the lowercase r, and and the much used norwegian glyph æ is simply a stroke of genius (excuse the intended pun, see attachment). I'm a great fan of many of František Štorm's typefaces, which makes me all the more confident. The only negative I have heard from others is that because of its relatively thick strokes it can look a tad dark on the page, despite the fact that it has quite open counters. But this is not necessarily a problem, and of course also has to do with size and spacing.
I'm still absolutely open for suggestions. Some keywords that I had in mind, the typeface should
- be easy to read
- have a friendly look, easy on the eyes, not quirky
- be a good workhorse for both longer and shorter texts
- work well in all sizes between about 11 and 21 points
- work well occasionally in white on colored surfaces (illustrations)
- have a tall x height, but not too tall
Regarding content the emphasis is on stories, i.e. they are literary books for youngsters. They are divided into different levels, with different amounts of text, but we wanted one font that works for all. Preferably it should be a seriffed face, but it doesn't hurt if there is a humanistic sans to go with it. The reasons for choosing a serif could turn into a lengthy discussion on readability, but beside the fact that I happen to believe that a good roman serif font works best for longer reading, it's also a good thing if the reader is given the feeling that he/she is reading a "real" book.
2. The question about g and a: When looking at the field of easy reader books in general they have really awful typography, to but it bluntly. One of the reasons for this, is the requirement that the letters a and g should look like the letters that the pupils learn to write. This means that the editors and designers have gone searching for fonts that have one-story a's and g's, and have found fonts like Futura, Neutraface, Sassoon Primary, and Garamond Infant. I wanted to avoid that route. Instead I wanted to something that works well in all regards, and if in the end my editor and her advisors insist that the a and g must have one-story forms, I will find a solution, maybe working with the font designer.
What are your opinions on this? Is it important for inexperienced readers that the letters should resemble the letters that they learn to write? And if the answer isn't absolutely no to this: Why don't more roman fonts include an alternative a and g glyph?
My opinion would be that it doesn't take that long for young readers to understand that handwriting is different from printed letters, and that the differences between these letterforms are easily learned. But the dilemma stands, because when choosing a typeface for this kind of books we are faced with the following double requirement:
- The texts must be easy to read for young inexperienced readers
- The texts must be perceived as easy to read by the parents and teachers that are going to take part in choosing and recommending the books
In an ideal world there wouldn't be any opposition between these two. But as it is we have to think about it, and in such a way that the readers and parents on their part won't give it a thought.