On Typeface: Size, Selection & Distraction Mitigation

In any new writing project font type and size are key and the aim and medium of the project must be judiciously taken into consideration. Other than the obvious rule: avoid crazy and/or unreadable/difficult-to-read fonts, there are a couple of guidelines which, if followed will make one’s project move along more fluidly.

Firstly, fonts become standardized for a reason and that reason is generally that those which become widely used do so because of their readability and aesthetic dimensions (later, convention will gird them from change or modulation). The most popular fonts are those that have remained the easiest to create and which bring the most readability to their attendant texts. Some of the most popular fonts include:

  • Garamond (Claude Garamond, 1530)
  • Baskerville (John Baskerville, 1757)
  • Didot (Firmin Didot, 1784-1811)
  • Bodoni (Giambattista Bodoni, 1790)
  • Akzidenz Grotesk (Brethold Type Foundry, 1896)
  • News Gothic (Morris Fuller Benton, 1908)
  • Times (Stanley Morison, 1931)
  • Helvetic (Max Miedinger, 1957)
  • Sabon (Jan Tschichold, 1966)
  • Minion (Rober Slimbach, 1990)
  • Myriad (Robert Slimbach, Carol Twombly, Christopher Slye and Fred Brady, 1992)
  • Georgia (Matthew Carter, 1993)
  • Mrs Eaves (Zuzana Licko, 1996)
  • Gotham (Hoefler and Frere-Jones, 2000)

If one is writing a print work (such as a short story collection or novel) then the font type needs to be one which can be printed without losing clarity in relation to size and the size needs to be relative to the size of the page (accounting for bleed). This is generally not something which one will need to worry about if one is working with a competent and established publisher (as they will typically do this work for you), but it is quite important to understand if one wishes to engage in wholly independent self-publishing (where one will not only write the book, but design it, print it and market it as well).

If one is writing a text for the internet then multiplatform dispensation needs to be considered, for instance: how will the font look on desktop as opposed to mobile phones and tablets? How will the font “hold up” on different screens with different resolutions?

Note that these decisions should be made only after the writing project is completed, not during. The reason for this (general) rule is that it is disadvantageous to juggle typefaces in the middle of the writing process (regardless of the content of the project) given that in doing so one’s attention will be regularly split between the narrative under-construction and the peculiarities of the font and how they match or are found to be discontinuous with the themes or style of the project. That being said, it is best to pick one font and commit to it throughout the entirety of the text-work so as to mitigate aesthetic distractions, renovating the design of the text and making it internet “friendly,” (or offline program “friendly”) only after it is complete whereupon a considerable amount of time will have been saved.