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February 17, 2008

Why don’t book publishers use Helvetica?

Nigel Beale ponders this question on The Guardian’s book blog: “All are agreed on one thing, however: Helvetica’s dominating presence. This makes its absence in the world of books all the more intriguing. Of the 50-odd I checked on my shelves, only two were printed in serif-less,

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Helvetica-like type; both were art books, the rest contained typefaces identical or very close to Times New Roman.” Are serif fonts actually easier to read in book text, or are we just more used to reading them? Posit your theory…


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Mark Jensen says

Feb 18, 2008

Maybe this is why: http://www.marks.dk/2008/01/13/will-the-choice-of-font-affect-your-grade/

Not that scientific, though :)

Chandler Easley says

Feb 19, 2008

From the book "Homage to a Typeface" (a book about Helvetica which predates the film). I think Mr. Rand put it best in this qoute from his former pupil Kyle Cooper.

"I remember a time at Yale when my work was being critiqued by Paul Rand. Mr Rand told me only to use Helvetica as a display face, never in text. Then he squinted, leaned in, and whispered in my ear, "because Helvetica looks like dogshit in text"."
- Kyle Cooper

Alan says

Feb 21, 2008

Professor Karen Schriver at Carnegie Mellon has done relatively recent research on this question. Her results echo the conventional wisdom: serif typefaces are easier to read for printed matter.

Jim Heid says

Feb 21, 2008

FYI, my book, "The Macintosh iLife '08," is set almost entirely in the Helvetica Neue. We used Helvetica Neue 57 for most of the body text, and it's exceptionally readable. 57's space efficiency also allowed us to incorporate in a 400-page book as much text as might otherwise have required 800 or more pages.

Now in it's sixth edition, it's the world's top-selling book about Apple's iLife suite of programs.

I *loved* your film! :-)

Steve says

Feb 22, 2008

"How to be a graphic designer, without losing your soul" - a must read, has its body copy set in Gotham. It's a gorgeous read, lovely to look at, easier to read than the latest Klosterman - some sort of diminished and bolded times new roman offshoot.

Matt C. says

Feb 23, 2008

Serifs seem (to me) to take less effort to read in large chunks than does something like Helvetica. Also, setting the body of a book in Helvetica requires much more patience to make it really helpful. Even the book referenced in #5 above seems a bit condensed for my eyes to be comfortable reading it. But I'd take a well-done Helvetica body over Times/TNR any day.

W.V. says

Feb 25, 2008

the x height is just too high. it create large interior counterforms in the characters that are distracting to the eye when reading large bodies of text.

Imar says

Feb 27, 2008

Serifs are so ironic. They have their origin in ancient methods of inscription, and today we still find them in default typefaces on computer screens... The popular opinion - based on "studies" - is that serif typefaces make body text easier to read in print, yet sans serif is a better choice for screen based text.
In print, the serifs supposedly act as a linear guide for the eye but due to low res rendering technologies, they blur on-screen text making it hard to read...
Book publishers may never warm to helvetica after all.

andré carvalho says

Mar 04, 2008

i'm not a great fan of helvetica, but i really enjoyed the movie. i believe that the main reason that books aren't printed with helvetica is because it really sucks in small size and when it's justified it looks awful. and most books are printed in 12 or 11 pts size, and helvetica isn't great at these size. since it's a very geometrical typeface reading something writen on it for some time is very boring. as the letters are too much similar, we get very tedius very fast.

Kurt Schroeder says

Apr 18, 2008

I watched the movie last night. Loved it. I first noticed that book publishers sometimes specify the font that type is set in when I was reading A Son of the Circus by John Irving. Ever since, I have looked at the front to see what font a book is set in. Irving often chooses Janson, but I haven't decided if I like it or not. I agree that San Serif fonts just don't look right for book text. personally, I like Courier.

Also, in one of my recent Christmas letters, I invoted people to write my Christmas letter for me as part of a contest, and I told them to not use Comic Sans. For all the grumbling that some people do about the overuse of Helvetica, the overuse of Comic Sans is the real horror.