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Screening Room Special

Type Matters

Fonts. Obsessed? Couldn't care less? Either way, they affect the way that you feel about what you're reading. They're an added layer of communication that we are often unaware of. Fonts and book design add richness and character to our reading experience. And we wanted to hear from the people who spend their days focused on how to complement the work of writers published by Penguin.

Authors on fonts:

"I would love to have been a typographer; I can hear fonts like tones of voice. Sans serif e-mails are less likely to offend, and small type with big leading imparts an elegant restraint to any novel...."

Meg Rosoff, author of The Bride's Farewell

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"I would love to have been a typographer; I can hear fonts like tones of voice. Sans serif e-mails are less likely to offend, and small type with big leading imparts an elegant restraint to any novel. My twelve-year old daughter has a magpie's attraction to fancy type-faces which make my teeth hurt: Copperplate Gothic or Lucida Handwriting. I'm always amazed that Eric Gill, with his hideously convoluted and controversial sexual life, has managed to be remembered for the world's cleanest, simplest face. But really, without Edward Johnston, there would be no Gill. Johnston was developed in 1913 for the London Underground and is still used today; Gill came along thirteen years later and merely adapted it slightly for himself. Gill is so near to Johnston as to almost constitute plagiarism, but for me, Johnston has more personality, with much more beautiful Qs and Ys. Whenever I see it printed across the UNDERGROUND sign at Heathrow, I know I've come home."

Meg Rosoff, author of The Bride's Farewell

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"I'm going to say a few words in dispraise of Garamond. This may surprise you. You probably consider Garamond to be a font that is above reproach. Its pedigree is certainly flawless..."

Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians

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"I'm going to say a few words in dispraise of Garamond. This may surprise you. You probably consider Garamond to be a font that is above reproach. Its pedigree is certainly flawless: it was named for Claude Garamond, a Parisian typeface designer who died, probably blamelessly, in the 16th century. Garamond has cute twiddly serifs and majestic curves. The works of Dr. Seuss are set in Garamond. So is Harry Potter. Well, I hate it. I hate the tiny holes in Garamond's a's and e's, and I hate its limp j's, the bottoms of which cannot be bothered to hook properly. I hate its stupid sickle question marks, and the way the loops of its 6's do not quite manage to close.

Garamond is a showy font, not a humble one. What was once—I'm sure—old-world elegance has faded and curdled over time into an empty, self-indulgent quirkiness. It is the font of people who make a big deal about how they contribute to public radio. It is the font of invitations to weddings that will result in unsuccessful marriages.

Garamond's sinuous, serpentine curves try to seduce the reader into believing that the words that it is spelling are elegant and profound. But they are not. When writers have something worth saying, they have the confidence to say it in Times or Courier. When they don't, they say it in Garamond."

Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians

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"My favorite font to work in is Calibri, 11-point. It's very clean and square, very masculine, without too much space between letters, and despite the fact that it's a Microsoft creation..."

Ron Currie, author of Everything Matters!

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"My favorite font to work in is Calibri, 11-point. It's very clean and square, very masculine, without too much space between letters, and despite the fact that it's a Microsoft creation (and therefore not very classic or distinguished) I like it a lot. Times Roman is cool, too, but also a little boring and obvious. I hate Courier—it looks so clinical and dated, should only be used for the driest academic papers. As far as email, I use whatever the default font is in gmail—don't even know. Getting cute with email fonts and colors strikes me as similar to plastering your car with bumper stickers; people who do it seem to think it's a mode of self-expression, but it really tells you nothing about the person except that you probably wouldn't want to have a beer with them."

Ron Currie, author of Everything Matters!

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"My preference for Gill Sans runs so deep that I have gone as far as to set several of my computer programs, including Word, to default in the font. There was a time when I used both Akzidenz Grotesk and Helvetica..."

Mark Ovenden, author of Paris Underground.

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"My preference for Gill Sans runs so deep that I have gone as far as to set several of my computer programs, including Word, to default in the font. There was a time when I used both Akzidenz Grotesk and Helvetica, and just before switching to Gill Sans, I was lucky enough to have an electronic version of New Johnston (the font designed in 1916 for the London transportation system by Eric Gills's contemporary, Edward Johnston). Gill Sans has the benefits of gravity and authority when used in wide spaced caps and yet the lower case is both a joy to read and immensely pleasurable to look at. As a writer specializing in design, I find Gill Sans the quintessential face of balance and perfection in sans-serif lettering."

Mark Ovenden, author of Paris Underground.

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