On Choosing Type by Stephen Tiano
I am featuring a guest blog here, as part of a series of blog articles related to a project we are working on now. We were contacted by the city manager from Burleson Texas who had a manuscript created for their centennial which was soon approaching. As I spoke to the city manager, it became clear that the project was in need of an experienced book designer. I reached out to Stephen Tiano, as I was familiar with the fact he had designed other books for University of North Texas Press. Here is Stephen’s take on his part of the project, and specifically how he decided on choosing the typestyle for the book.
On Choosing Type by Stephen Tiano
The value of social media and blogging again came home to me when Martin Pugh of Houchen Bindery Ltd., with whom I’d exchanged blog comments, contacted me to say that he had given my name to someone handling the publishing of a book on the history of a small city in Texas. This series of communications was quickly followed by an email from the City Manager of that small Texas city. A deal was struck on the quick and I began work in short order.
Books with an historical bent almost always send me to one of the classic types to start with, types referred to as “Old Style.” These are usually subdivided into the categories “Venetian” (also called “Humanist”) and “Garalde” (also called “Aldine”). Examples of the former are Adobe Jenson and Arno, two of my favorites; examples of the latter: Bembo, Caslon, Palatino, and Sabon. But I immediately thought of the typeface Perpetua for this one.
Perpetua was designed by the British typeface designer, sculptor, and otherwise odd duck Eric Gill. Based on old engravings, Perpetua was spoken of (or written of, I should say) in kind of hallowed tones that kept me from using it, both because it was rather ubiquitous at one point and a classic that I was concerned about using only when I really had a sense that it was the type especially suited to a particular project. Despite Perpetua’s technically being classified as a transitional, rather than an old style, typeface (because of the intense contrast between thick and thin strokes), I liked it for this history.
The book would be a short one, about 40,000 words. The City Manager also said they wanted a 6- x 9-inch page size and imagined it running about 200 pages. There would be about 10 photos, at least half running full page, and six pages of frontmatter (titles, copyright pages, Dedication, Table of Contents; and not including the Foreword, Preface, and Acknowledgments).
That meant, roughly, 187 pages of body text, and about 214 words per page (without considering whether there would be any blank pages). Since Perpetua is kind of a delicate transitional that sets small—many of the transitional types strike me as clunky, because of their high stroke contrast—I would take advantage and use it in a rather large size for body text, 12 points. And as I had heard and taken to heart some years ago, the trend in leading is to make it a larger and larger number, until you simply cannot make it any larger. I went with 16 point—a number that, when I started out, would have sounded unacceptably huge to me.
But 12/16 Perpetua looks mighty fine on this one; and my client agrees.
STEPHEN TIANO www.tianobookdesign.com
firstname.lastname@example.org (C) 2012 All Right reserved
I would like to thank Stephen Tiano for sharing this article, and also mention that our customer says he was great to work with! Stay tuned for the follow up to this article, I will track this job through it’s various stages of production as a split run edition of hardcover and soft cover editions. After the book is printed and bound, I would like to feature a few more photos of some of the page designs by Stephen and get some comments on the book and it’s author.