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By Sebastien Hayez. Published May 31, 2023

Fonts for Books

Choosing a typeface for publishing is not an easy task. And even though we've already published an entry on font pairing, you need to study a little deeper to be able to make the right choices.

Of course, we offer great rules that work for sure, but it is possible to do it differently: punks can break all the codes, but you have to be careful not to make the whole thing incompatible with its readership.

The golden rule is to take into consideration the content of the publication, whether it is text, with all its compositional finesse, or iconography (pictorial work, photograph, diagram, spreadsheet, map, etc.).

Periodicals: fun & formal

Daily, weekly, monthly or occasional magazine, the layout for periodicals is an exercise in flexibility. Many fixed sections are also living next to voluminous dossiers presented as extraordinary thematic.

Typefaces for headings

It is important to take into account the content of these sections in order to define an identity that will eventually vary only for the sections. The choice of typography must support the general tone of the publication while being relatively legible and discreet. These headings that open the magazine are calls to the eye, not cries in the silence. One or two typefaces are sufficient, and it is possible to play with both within the same title.

Here, the font pairing can be established within the title or between the title and the body text.

The catalog (in Italian, 16×24 cm, 160 pages) was published (and designed?) by Nero Editions. The design uses two typefaces from the same designer, and Nuances is the main one, stretched just like the sans serif headlines which are set in Univers Condensed.
NERO, VL9 Photography. License: All Rights Reserved.

Body text

It is advisable to make a perfectly justified typographic selection, in adequacy with the possible richness of the content. Thus, the most important thing is to choose a complete typographic family: roman, italic, bold, small caps, different styles of numbers, etc. It is common to have to compose a text with a few words out of the standard Latin alphabet, even a few mathematical formulas, and there is no question of having to change your typography for a few glyphs at the last moment. 

Once you have identified a good, rich and complete typeface, ask yourself the question of legibility and your preferences, serif or sans. Legibility is more a question of habit than of precise theory. Also, it is important to match your audience. Some more experienced people prefer serifs for their legibility in small sizes. Younger people will opt for sans serif typefaces for their more modern look.

The book collection uses Apoc (Blaze Type) as the main typeface for their covers series, occasionally paired with other typefaces. Design by Rose Nordin.
https://www.instagram.com/p/Cl6D_mYMUC5/
Sarah Shin. License: All Rights Reserved.

Titles

The cover is the last page of the publication to be designed. It is reserved for the end of the editorial process in order to better reflect the news and to have a better vision of the general tone of the issue.

The choice of the typography composing the name of the publication is a subject apart: although simply typed in daily or weekly newspapers, the typography becomes a logo when design adjustments are made to create a perfect typographic image. Only the placement, usually at the top of the cover, is an almost fixed rule in order to appear correctly on the newsstand shelves.

The numerous taglines present on most publications encourages some designers to keep the same typographic choice as for the headings. For others, the cover is more visible than it is read. So they look for striking typography that's simple enough to be scanned quickly. 

The length of these titles sometimes requires the choice of a family available in condensed or compressed width in order to gain flexibility.

Literary edition

The Hamburg based studio off centre makes an ideal use of Apoc (Blaze Type). Uniquely displayed in regular on the website and in the program of the festival, only the scale differs to create hierarchy and movement.
Source: Nordlied Nordlied. License: All Rights Reserved.

Body text

Body typeface is generally chosen for all the books in a collection. This choice is the most important one for a publishing house and numerous reading tests with a representative readership are necessary. 

The choice of paper also implies that the typography is adapted to the texture which can tire the vision of some readers. 

A novel typeface is usually a serif typeface, with a fairly large x-height and open counter-forms to ensure optimal legibility. 

Its normal weight is balanced, neither too light nor too fat, at the risk of appearing heavy and invasive, especially if the paper is of poor quality, coarse-grained or too fine.

Think of the stylistic variations, however, since italic and bold are frequently used even in literary texts or poetry. Here, the preference for transparent typography, à la Beatrice Ward, is not a failure, quite the contrary. Just as a good actor does not overact, good typography works for the text.

Virtual Realities: From the home office to the virtual office and with glasses to digital entertainment.
The visual identity of the magazine is built around the very sharp serif Armag (Blaze Type) and the neutrality of a contemporary Grotesk
Source: vigia.tech Vigia. License: All Rights Reserved.

Title

In English-language publishing, novels or literary texts are less traditional than in European editions. Thus, it is not out of the question to use the cover typeface on the title page or to opt for a more fanciful typeface when composing chapter names. The frequent exchanges between literature and cinema, television series and comic books have influenced the layout of novels: the French pioneers of Club des livres understood this well by composing introductory pages inspired by cinematographic credits: typography becomes an actor quickly unfolding its palette of expression with the aim of plunging the reader's attention into the plot.

This publication – created in the book module at the Luzern School of Art and Design – refers to the unequal representation of artists in Swiss museums. Based on the archive of artist Elisabeth Eberle, I designed a prototype on this topic. Both contemporary Sans and Apoc are paired throughout.
Photo: Gina Burri. fas. License: All Rights Reserved.

Cover

Again, the cover is the final task and it can be imagined as a movie poster. In this case, no strict rules are valid, only a few principles can still make sense. The typography must combine expressiveness in accordance with the mood of the book and in adequacy with the readership. However, the reduced format of this type of book does not offer the same freedom as the poster. The overall composition must remain relatively wise in order to be seen and read correctly.

This edition of Dino Buzzati’s novel Il deserto dei Tartari (English: The Tartar Steppe) was designed by Veronica Paoli together with Michele Biondi and Rachele Bozzato, as a student project at ISIA Urbino. Unique font is Inferi.
https://www.instagram.com/p/CY1b5AMMnFW/

Art Books

Art books are probably the playground of graphic designers: they offer an interesting balance between literary publishing, wrongly considered too conservative, and periodicals, sometimes perceived as too popular. In fact, each medium influenced the others and the art book sometimes takes on the aspect of a one shot periodical, with light headings and no advertising.

Thus, without going into the details of the typographic choice for the titling or the layout, it is advisable to make a perfectly justified selection, in adequacy with the possible richness of the iconographic and textual contents, while keeping a certain restraint so that the typography is at its service and not the opposite. The work is the content and not the design, or it is an artist's book, but it’s another topic.

Only the cover can have a complete audacity: thanks to its format and the creativity of its illustration, the typography can express itself with the greatest conviction, as well as be discreet to emphasize the content.


When it comes to typographic choices for publishing, don't hesitate to test your layout designs with paper and scale prints. The thickness of the paper, often too thin, is a parameter to be taken into account so that the typographic gray is neither too dense nor too light. These books are made to be read without fatigue over long periods of time. These small details, if neglected, will make your creation a lackluster design.

Area Inktrap and Serif are paired for the conception of the Zeppelin Museum’s magazine. The institution, based in Friedrichshafen, brings to life innovations in technology and art. It inspires people to dare the seemingly impossible and actively shape the future as pioneers of art, crafts or industry.
Source: operative.space License: All Rights Reserved.
Massilia and Oroban – both issued by Blaze Type – are used throughout.
Laura Dalex
Surt in use by Lisa Cadot for the visual identity of the 2019 edition of Les Rencontres Photographiques du 10e, a biennial that presents various photo exhibitions scattered throughout the arrondissement during several weeks and punctuated by various events.
Source: lisacadot.com License: All Rights Reserved.
Fragmented Narratives was held at alpha nova & galeria futura, Berlin, 2020. The exhibition shows two new research-based works by Sharon Paz and Elianna Renner. In their works, both artists deal with history and historical narrative and their omissions. These partially biographical approaches focus on Jewish history, anti-Semitism and racism.
For the posters and exhibition publications, design studio Operative Space made a brillant and eclectic use of the Massilia family.
Source: operative.space License: All Rights Reserved.
Written by Jessica Sanders and illustrated by Stephanie Spartels, Me Time, The self-care guide to being your own best friend is a book that:
Designed by Andy Warren. Published by Five Mile.
Zoo is one of the many typefaces used in the pages.
GOOK is a portmanteau of GO skateboarding mag and “book”.This new experimental format of the magazine focuses on photography, art, creative writing, etc. — all around skateboarding. GOOK is published quarterly and is freely distributed in skateshops all around Spain. The main font in use is Oroban.
Source: luisb.com Luis B Hernandez. License: All Rights Reserved.