by Joel Friedlander, Book Designer, Blogger, and Writer
Watch Joshua Robertson’s video recap of this article!
You’ve decided to create your own book covers and interiors design—do you know what font you plan to use? This should be one of the first, and most basic, questions you need to ask yourself before digging into other design elements. Whether you are designing your book’s cover or choosing the font for the body text of your book, I am going to show you five of my favorite fonts for cover and interior design.
One of the most consistent and easily corrected mistakes I see with book covers that are designed by authors is weak or inappropriate typography. Given that a book cover usually has very few words on it, and those words (title, subtitle, author’s name) have a huge influence on buying decisions, this can be a major problem.
For instance, if you’re writing about a topic aimed at a more masculine audience, does it help you to have an overly embellished or feminine typeface that’s barely readable on your book cover? No, I don’t think so. Or, for a historical romance, you wouldn’t want a modern, clean sans serif typeface like Helvetica for your cover. It would look out of place.
When you are designing your book cover, it is very important to choose a readable font that aligns with the tone of your book.
5 Great Fonts for Your Book Cover
To get you started, I’ve collected five great fonts for book cover design. What’s even better, three of them are free, and you can download them at fontsquirrel.com—so start experimenting with these for your book cover.
Chunk Five (free from fontsquirrel.com): This meaty and emphatic slab serif font is ideal for book titles in numerous genres. Try this font for action-oriented or political stories.
League Gothic (free from fontsquirrel.com): This sans serif font is very vertical, which is ideal for book titles. League Gothic would be a great choice for thrillers or business books. It can be useful if you have a very long title, too.
Trajan (available from Adobe): You might recognize Trajan, and that’s because it’s been used for more movie posters than any other font. It works quite well on books, too. This classic font is appropriate for histories, novels, and historical fiction, among others.
Franchise (free from fontsquirrel.com): Another tall and meaty sans serif, just ideal for the right book cover treatment. Franchise would be a great pick for a historical epic, mysteries, or for thrillers.
Baskerville (many versions available): Sometimes you need to have a straight Roman typeface for your title, and, in that case, I like to use one of the variations of Baskerville—a highly readable typeface. You might find Baskerville perfect for a memoir, a business book, or a historical romance.
The best way to see the effect these fonts will have on your book is by trying them out. Since most of them are free, there’s no reason not to try and see what you think. Just browsing through these fonts and imagining them on a book cover helps give you a sense of how the fonts you choose influence the look and tone of your book.
5 Best Interior Design Fonts
There’s no bigger decision you make in designing a book than picking the body typeface. A book, by nature, is a long reading experience, and as book publishers, we want our books to be as easy to read as possible while still communicating the author’s intent.
Style and fashion also play their part in many book designs, particularly in popular niches. The accumulated expectations of 500 years of book readers also come into play. Books are pretty conventional objects, after all.
Some fonts really lend themselves to book design while others that may look good in a brochure or on a business card or billboard, make odd, unreadable books. Any idiosyncrasy in the type design will be magnified by the repetition of typesetting 75,000 or 100,000 words in thousands of lines on hundreds of pages.
So the choice of your basic typeface looms large when you sit down to design your book. Here are five typefaces that have become favorites and will almost always look great in your books, too.
Garamond: 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.
Janson: Designed by the Hungarian Nicholas Kis in the 17th century, the design was mistakenly attributed to the Dutch printer Anton Janson. It is a strong and elegant face with marked contrast between thin and thick strokes, and may be the most popular text face for fine bookmaking.
Bembo: Bembo, another old-style typeface, was based on a design by Francesco Griffo, who worked for famed early printer and publisher Aldus Manutius in Venice in the 15th and early 16th centuries. 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.
Caslon: 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.
Electra: A 1935 design by the prolific type designer D.W. Dwiggins, Electra creates a distinctive “color” and evenness on a printed page. Its inventor said he wanted Electra to excel at setting down warm human ideas, to endow it with a warmth of blood and personality.
Although it would be easy to fill a book with samples of great text typefaces, it’s also true that many professional book designers could, if necessary, limit themselves to just these five fonts and continue to create great—and greatly varied—interior book designs, for years to come.