Having just gotten back from the weeklong holiday and totally forgotten how to do my job, while blathering about choosing text faces the other day I omitted two very obvious considerations:
What kind of type is used in similar books?
What typefaces are used on the book cover or jacket?
Today I whipped up a design for an epic, Bible-related fantasy novel that was compared on the sell sheet with J.R.R. Tolkien and Philip Pullman. So first I went to Amazon.com and Google Books to try to find interior scans from old bibles, LOTR, and His Dark Materials. I also did some Googling around to try to identify typefaces typically used for bibles—not only because I thought they might look distinctive, but also because the book I was designing is very long, and I thought a Bible-ready typeface might help me cram it into the requested castoff.
I was able to confirm my hunch that a very understated, centered design would be most like the “if you liked x, you’ll also like y” examples, and I was also able to identify some typefaces that have been used in, or even designed specifically for, setting bibles. Of course, we don’t have Lucerna or Veritas. We do have ITC Giovanni, but when I saw that Elisabeth’s standby, Sabon, had some biblical work experience, I decided to try that first.
Our library contains two versions of Sabon—Adobe and Monotype—and I wasn’t sure what the difference was, so again, I Googled around. I learned that the Adobe Sabon is based on Linotype’s version, and that some people seem to prefer the Monotype version. I was already leaning toward the MT version because it has semibold, whereas the Adobe has bold. (I don’t use any kind of bold much, but sometimes a semibold is nice for heads, especially if there’s no display weight.)
Unfortunately, as soon as I started using it, I noticed that the Monotype Sabon wasn’t displaying properly in Quark. FontReserve said it was okay, but !@#$% Quark showed it all pixelly. So I swapped in the Adobe version, fiddled with leading and margins and type size until it just fit in the 704 allotted pages (this is not a shoot, so I could set whatever margins I wanted), was about to start designing the frontmatter, and then . . . remembered that it might be a good idea to see if there was a book jacket yet.
I connected to the various art department denizens’ shared directories, searched for the title, and found that there were, in fact, already a dust jacket and a trade paperback cover. And these both used Columbus MT.
Now, at this point, I could have just ignored that fact. Nobody would notice or care besides me and the jacket designer. And although at my last job, it was almost a requirement to pick up whatever typefaces were used on the jacket, at this company we’re not encouraged to take this into account. But I happen to have actually met and talked to the designer in question (before coming to this job; I haven’t met anyone else in the art department for longer than two seconds), and quite recently we exchanged some e-mails about titles we’ve both worked on. Said designer expressed mild regret about some cases in which I had not picked up the fonts used on the jackets. I experienced mild remorse. So even though I think of Columbus as a little too tricksy for most projects, I decided to give it a go.
More fiddling, to make the newly fonted text fit in the same container. (What had been 10.5/14.5 Sabon became 12/14.5 Columbus—another example of how point sizes are almost meaningless.) Decided Columbus was actually fine for the book in question. Picked up the display type (which I didn’t much like) from the jacket for the part titles. Made sure my design didn’t call for any font variants that didn’t exist. (For example, I wanted to set the first word of each chapter in small caps, but then I saw that some chapters began with italicized text. Columbus doesn’t have italic small caps, and I’m never happy with the look of ones that have been slanted by Quark, so I nixed this element and turned up the volume on the chapter titles, instead.)
Printed some spreads and determined that they didn’t look stupid. Slapped an approval form on it and dropped it off upstairs on my way out of the building.