Be passionate about book design typography.
Book design typography means everything to strong page design. A designer with a foundation in the history of type, font construction, and various type foundries is helpful.
Make typography a priority.
A classic typeface provides a solid basis for body text. A typography hierarchy should be in use when you select typefaces and fonts for headlines, subheads, captions, quotes, and more. Authors need to send the right message to readers. Typography can be that strong design element. Good use of type can draw the reader to the message and hold their attention. Poor type selection can make the designer look like just a desktop publisher.
START WITH A HIGH-QUALITY TYPEFACE
Using classic “pro” typefaces is the basis for typography that makes for great book design. Limit typefaces to one or two families. They need to pair correctly. Add a third font can if you have a style in mind. An example might be setting the title of a recipe in script — not in uppercase — or a handwriting font. Consider a typeface with useful glyphs.
Beautiful or poor typography can make or break a book when it comes to sales. There are thousands of available choices to use nowadays. Do not become lost in all the choices. Limit choices for a simple and professional book design.
There are different typeface classes. Adobe Fonts uses Sans Serif, Serif, Slab Serif, Script, Blackletter, Mono, Hand, and Decorative. Google Fonts uses Serif, Sans Serif, Display, Handwriting, and Monospace. Classification seems to be a matter of choice; however, serif and sans serif always top the list.
Although you can choose typeface for book design and website design from both Adobe Fonts and Google Fonts, we prefer Adobe Fonts for book design. There are many fine type foundries that may or may not have typefaces on Adobe Fonts. Designers and self-publishers should explore them as well.
The examples below show serif and sans serif letters. Serif type has feet, or a beak or the arms (in circles below.) “Sans” simply means “without.” In this case, without feet. The example on the right is sans serif.
An entire alphabet with letters, numbers, punctuation, and glyphs is termed a typeface. A well-known typeface is Helvetica.
A range of fonts all based on the same typeface is a typeface family. Examples of a family include Helvetica and other variations. There are many more examples of Helvetica to include in a typeface family, for example: Helvetica, Helvetica Narrow, Helvetica Neue LT Std.
The different styles in a typeface are called fonts. Each example is a font: Helvetica Regular, Oblique, Bold, Bold Oblique, Narrow Regular, Narrow Oblique, Narrow Bold, and Narrow Bold Oblique. Helvetica Neue LT Std Roman, Italic, Bold, Bold Italic, Italic, Bold, and Bold Italic.
Typefaces that can be grouped because they share the same basic style are called superfamilies. Helvetica and Helvetica Narrow qualify as a superfamily. Also typefaces that have both serif and sans serif fonts can be a superfamily. Freight is an example, like is Freight “Sans” Pro, “Text” and “Neo”.
Each of these typeface families has 24 fonts. Therefore, a typical way to use the fonts is for headlines and body text, like using two of the following:
FreightSans Pro Bold headline
FreightText Pro Black headline
FreightText Pro Book body text
FreightNeo Pro Book body text
Open Type Variable Typefaces
Adobe Fonts introduced Variable fonts in June 2020. They are Open Typefaces, but they are also “Variable.” The fonts are in a customizable format. The purpose is to have more variety from a single font than you can have from an entire font family. To access Variable fonts activated with
Adobe Fonts, go to (Ctrl + T) > Font Family drop down.
We are using Acumin Pro Variable Concept in this example. When viewing the list of typefaces on the computer, there are symbols for Open fonts or True Type fonts. The new symbol for a variable font is the “O” with “VAR” in smaller letters covering the “O.”
See the illustration above and notice the icon in the circle. Click on your open InDesign file to the see the pull-down menu. This is where you can adjust the weight, width, and slant. Selection is made by moving the sliders.
I still prefer using typefaces as the designer designs them. Skill goes into creating character shapes. It seems that some Variable Fonts skew the characters if you do not adjust them in proportion to height and width.
Adjusting non-variable typefaces
Don’t artificially condense or expand the actual characters in non-variable typefaces. However, kerning, meaning adding or reducing space between letters, is common.
Top designers and foundries work extremely hard to get each character exactly right. It is a lot of work and these professional typefaces may be pricey. But these typeface families are especially worth the extra cost. Not only is each unique, but they are well-built.
Most often, select typefaces have beautiful or interesting glyphs to use. While variable fonts open new possibilities, one rule remains the same. Too many font variations clutter the design. Limit choices and use Paragraph Styles and Character Styles to keep the design simple.
Typeface superfamilies are safe to use. Condensed versions of a typeface may be selected, but not all typefaces have condensed fonts. Design the paragraph text, headlines, and subheads early. Work with them in a few pages or samples until they suit your design.
It is interesting to experiment with type by one-off designers, but I am reluctant to do so until they have more experience. I prefer using type from Adobe Fonts or well-known foundries.
Designing type may pique your interest. Typeface design takes knowledge, expertise, and time. So, a self-publisher does not need to design a typeface for use in one book when there are many options available.
A glyph is the design of a character. There may be several different glyphs for each character in a typeface. Many professional typefaces have a range of interesting and creative glyphs — which may include borders, border corner elements, and more.
When buying or selecting typefaces for use in book design, check the character map to see all
the available glyphs.
There may be particular fractions to use for cookbook recipes, icons, symbols, numbers, scientific inferiors, or glyphs for math symbols.
Look at different pro typefaces as they might save book design time as well as add interest. Be careful not to over design as too many elements make the design look cluttered.
A dingbat is a glyph character in Zapf Dingbats which is a typeface by designer Hermann Zapf in 1978. It has been in use for years as a staple for graphic designers. However, a wide variety of dingbats is also now seen in many other typefaces.
More dingbats are available in other typefaces, icons, and graphics. Whether using Zapf Dingbats or not, it is a great typeface to own and may prove useful.
In conclusion, explore serif, sans serif and even dingbat typefaces for a variety of uses in book design typography.