Eight Guidelines for Choosing Type, Part II

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font tip 0 Eight Guidelines for Choosing Type, Part II

Welcome back! In Part I of this post, we looked at four basic ideas that can help you find just the right fonts for your book:

  • Think about what your text is meant to do
  • Look for fonts that convey the essence of your message
  • Aim for legibility and/or readability
  • Keep it simple with just two (or a few) fonts

But what if you have a bunch of fonts that might work? How do you choose between them? And how can you best use the fonts you’ve chosen to both look good and make an impact on the page? Don’t worry, once again some straightforward concepts and a little common sense will take you far.


#5. Use contrast to make it pop

Although too many fonts can make your page look chaotic, too few can make it monotonous. Usually, you want two fonts rather than one in a project. As Ben, Blurb’s Director of User Experience, recently told me, “the big goal for design is always engagement and interest through contrast and juxtaposition.” In other words, break it up. Pick a nice, readable font for your main blocks of text, and something bigger, brighter, bolder for your display text – your titles, headings and other miscellaneous bits. Variety will draw eyeballs to the page, but finding elegant contrasts will keep them there.

Take a look at the illustration below. Which of the three examples did you notice first? Which is most inviting to read?

font tip 5 Eight Guidelines for Choosing Type, Part II

Here are some more tips for finding the right balance between two fonts:

  • Pick one font that contrasts strongly with the rest of your design: one that looks completely different, but still fits the profile you came up with earlier (see Part I of this post). Test it on the cover, in the headings, in the captions. Figure out where it looks best and most interesting. And if it doesn’t feel right in any of those places, it probably isn’t. Toss it out and try another one.
  • Use the display font sparingly. You know how annoying it is when someone sends you an email IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. That person is trying to grab your attention, but it looks like they’re shouting, and it rubs most people the wrong way. The same thing applies here. Use a sprinkling of boldness, and the bold parts stand out. Use too much, and it’s just visual noise.


#6. With so many flavors out there, why pick vanilla?

Here’s one super-simple way to make sure you’re getting off on the right foot. Don’t pick Times New Roman or Arial just because you’re used to them. Sure, those fonts are safe and comfortable, and there are times when they’re perfect for the job. But remember: everybody sees these fonts all the time. Using them on the cover of your book, or even in the text, might look more like laziness than creativity. Be open to the alternatives. Serif fonts might all look alike to you at first, but go ahead and try some out, or put them side-by-side. You may find that going for a less common font, even a conservative one, makes your page feel fresher and more unique than sticking to the tried and true.

Take another look at this image from Part I to see what we mean…

font tip 3 Eight Guidelines for Choosing Type, Part II


#7. Your page is a blank canvas… use it.

Remember what we said about contrast and juxtaposition? That’s not just the fonts you choose, but how you use them on the page. You took great care in picking your photo layouts, so give your words the same attention.

Try making those headings a little bigger, or give them a different color. Try making the headers and footers a little smaller. On your cover, don’t be afraid to make your title big and strong, even if you have to shrink that photo to do it. Try the opposite, too: sometimes a discrete title tucked in the corner is just as striking as a big one.

On your pages, don’t fill up all the space. Let your words breathe. Give them nice wide margins. Put a little padding between your headings and your text. Try adding some extra line spacing and see how that can open things up. Pick a few lines at random and count the number of words on each. If the average is more than a dozen words per line, maybe your columns are too wide. Try making them narrower and see what happens. Or maybe bump up the font size a bit.

Fiddle around with the alignment, too. If you’re producing a novel, try justified lines rather than align-left. Maybe a photo caption would look better over on the right than it would on the left…

font tip 7 Eight Guidelines for Choosing Type, Part II


#8. Don’t be afraid to have fun

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, because this really is the most important tip of all. Stop sweating and start playing. It’s your book, so let it reflect your personality. Got a crazy idea? Try it on the page and see what you get. If you don’t like it, try something else. You have the power!

Look around the Blurb bookstore (or on the shelves of your local bookshop and library) to see what other people have done. Which books look flat to your eye, and which ones jump off the page? Which take an effort to read, and which draw you in? See, you know more about this than you thought you did. Now get in there and have some fun!

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  1. is there a way to change the font throughout the entire book at the end? i am manually uploading my blog and coping and pasting the text and i would like to switch it now…. but not page by page! thanks

    By melissa
      November 2, 2010 – 4:43 am   Permalink
  2. Where has part two of Eight Guidelines for choosing Text gone to? I can get to a page with this as a heading but no storyline?

    By Blair Southerden
      August 17, 2012 – 10:17 am   Permalink
  3. Hey Blair,

    Thanks so much for pointing that out. We’ve fixed that post, and it should show correctly now:



    By Kent
      August 17, 2012 – 11:29 am   Permalink
  4. Is there a way to enhance a font with a blending option such as a drop shadow?

      August 21, 2013 – 9:49 am   Permalink
  5. Hi Anne Marie,

    It depends which of tool you’re using. BookSmart and Bookify don’t currently offer it, but it’s something we’re looking into. Adobe InDesign, however, gives you a lot of options for dealing with type.



    By Kent
      September 25, 2013 – 11:23 am   Permalink

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