After designing books over the years I have settled upon a few favorites for the interior design of a book. A few factors I look out for are:
A versatile typeface will contain a number of different font weights and styles such as bold, bold italic, semi-bold, Regular, Regular-italic, Light, Light-italic etc.
Fonts that vary in weight and style will come in handy when you require captions, pull-quotes, or sub-heads that require a different weight or emphases so that they stand out from the surrounding text.
This is better than using a number of different type faces which will lead to inconsistency. It’s best to use just one or two font family’s but vary the font weight and style when needed.
You will also want a font that uses real italics rather than Oblique. What is the difference? Well a font family that contains an italic font face will use an angled typeface that has different design characteristics from its upright companion and is designed specifically to be used as an italic font. Oblique’s, on the other hand, are simply slanted versions of their roman companion with no major design differences, other than their angle.
Versatile fonts will also support True Small caps which are designed to retain the same stroke weight as other letters and have a wider aspect ratio for readability. These are superior to smaller caps that do not retain the same stroke weight.
When you read a book do you take any notice of the font type used in the book? Unless you’re a professional typesetter then probably not. This is what you want – A font that doesn’t stand out or distract from the message. This is why you want to stay away from elaborate letter-forms or fonts with long ascenders or descenders. They are harder to read and distract from the message.
Legibility is probably the most important factor when deciding the font for your book. You want a font that remains legible at small sizes and reads well when italicized or bolded.
Whether you choose a sans serif or serif font will dependent on whether you’re book is displayed on a screen or on a page. I’ve discovered that sans serif fonts work best for eBooks and serif fonts better suit text on a printed page. The letters of serif’s are more distinctive and easier to recognize.
Sans serif fonts work better on the web because monitors are typically around 100 dots per inch unlike printed words which generally have a resolution of around 1,000 dots per inch.
Take a look at an eBook or web page and chances are the font will be sans serif. Compare this to printed books that tend to use serif fonts for the body text. You can use sans serif fonts for the printed titles — and this will create a nice contrast — but keep serif fonts for the main body text.
Best Fonts For Books
The following four fonts have all of the above qualities, they are tried and tested fonts that I use regularly in the body text of a printed book:
Minion is a digital typeface designed by Robert Slimbach in 1990 for Adobe Systems. The name comes from the traditional naming system for type sizes, in which minion is between nonpareil and brevier. It is inspired by late Renaissance-era type.
Named after the famed 16th-century French “punch-cutter” or type designer Claude Garamond, many versions of this old style face exist. The one used most frequently now is the version designed by Robert Slimbach for Adobe. It’s known for its graceful, flowing style and humanistic elegance.
One of the most popular text typefaces of the 18th and 19th centuries, Caslon was designed by William Caslon in England in the early 18th century. An old-style face modeled on early Dutch originals, Caslon has an appealing irregularity and creates a distinctive texture on the page. Many people recognize Caslon from its extensive use in textbooks. Here’s a sample:
Bembo, another old style typeface, was based upon a design by Francesco Griffo, who worked for famed early printer and publisher Aldus Manutius in Venice in the 15th and early 16th century. It was a clear attempt to bring the humanist script of the finest scribes of the day to the printed page, and served as the chief inspiration to Claude Garamond, among others. Bembo has a classic beauty and readability that are unmatched.
Having a sans-serif font for the titles and sub-titles can create a nice contrast with the paragraph text. Here are some fonts that work well for Title and sub-titles:
Avenir is a geometric sans-serif typeface designed by Adrian Frutiger in 1988 and released by Linotype GmbH, now a subsidiary of Monotype Corporation. The word avenir is French for “future”. The font takes inspiration from the early geometric sans-serif typefaces Erbar (1922), designed by Jakob Erbar, and Futura (1927), designed by Paul Renner. Frutiger intended Avenir to be a more organic, humanist interpretation of these highly geometric types
Helvetica is a widely used sans-serif typeface developed in 1957 by Swiss typeface designer Max Miedinger with input from Edouard Hoffmann. It is a neo-grotesque or realist design, one influenced by the famous 19th century typeface Akzidenz-Grotesk and other German and Swiss designs.
ITC Franklin Gothic
Franklin Gothic and its related faces are realist sans-serif typefaces originated by Morris Fuller Benton (1872–1948) in 1902. “Gothic” was a contemporary term (now little-used except to describe period designs) meaning sans-serif. Franklin Gothic has been used in many advertisements and headlines in newspapers. The typeface continues to maintain a high profile, appearing in a variety of media from books to billboards.