GD154 Week 7

Book Design

GD154 Typography

  • Type Presentation: Transitional.
  • Review: Project 4 Exploration Series.
  • Book cover design.

Book Design

The design of books has a long history that goes back to the invention of the alphabet and applying that to ways of making information portable. There were clay and stone tablets, parchment and papyrus scrolls. Then there were paper codices. That’s where we can start to talk about book design.

The Codex

Recto and Verso

Jan Tscischold

Robert Bringhurst

Chip Kidd

TED Talks

Ellen Lupton

Books Every Graphic Designer Should Read

John Kane

A Type Primer


The Golden Section

Ellen Lupton on the golden section.

Need to Know Type Tips

A compilation of best practices (C. Aitken, J. Felici, E. Lupton, J. Kane, R. Bringhurst) edited by Karin Jager and Nova Hopkins.

Measure (column width)

James Felici, 2012

  • Determine the maximum measure (in picas) by multiplying the type size in points by three
    e.g.: Type set in 10 pt should not exceed a 30 pica measure
  • The optimal line length is 9 words (approximately 6 characters per word)
  • The optimal line length is between 1 1/2 and 2 times the length of the lower case alphabet
  • Minimum line length is 27 characters, Optimum is 40 to 60 characters, and Maximum is 70 characters

Point size

  • Standard point size for text in books ranges between 10 pt. to 12 pt.
  • Minimum body text size is 8 pt., Caption 6 to 8 pt., Subhead 14 to 24 pt., Display 25 to 72 pt.+ (dependent on case)
  • Kern characters (tighter or further apart) in any subheads or heads 24 pt. or larger. The larger you set your type the more likely it is that you will need to kern.
  • Automatic kerning choices include metrics (default — usually ok if using a well-designed typeface) and optical (recognizes character shapes)

Leading (distance in points from baseline to baseline)

  • Amount of leading depends on type size, x-height, line length and the length of the ascenders and descenders.
  • Leading value is greater than the typeface size by at least one point.
  • For excessively long line lengths, increase leading, shorter measures decrease leading
  • Display sizes may use negative leading e.g. type in all caps generally looks better set tight


  • Options for marking paragraphs: — Line break + indent (do not indent first paragraph in a body of text); — Line break + add extra leading — usually half of what your body text leading is, e.g. body text is 11/14 + 7 pts extra (21 pts.) between paragraphs; — Line break + hanging indentation; or — Symbol to mark paragraphs (no indent or line break).
  • Do not indent and add extra leading between paragraphs (choose one not both)
  • Do not use a full line return between paragraphs
  • Paragraph indents are a minimum of one EN — an EM is standard Type > Insert white space > EN space, EM space …
  • Avoid widows (one with a past but no future) and orphans (one with a future and no past)
  • Do not set paragraphs ragged left/flush right (limit is one or two lines of text.)
  • Never hyphenate the last word of a paragraph. Use a soft return (shift return) and bring the entire word onto the last line.

Italic type

  • If you are using italic type in a body of roman/regular text, any punctuation on either side of the italic type (commas, quotation marks, semi-colons) should also be set in italic. The only exception are parentheses (brackets)


  • Use small caps in a body of text (OpenType feature), or use the default if no OT feature is available
  • Track all-cap text slightly to improve legibility (create a character or paragraph style)
  • For larger headlines use titling caps if available (OT feature)
  • For all-cap heads larger than 24 pt., use kerning — sometimes, negative tracking works better for larger sizes


  • Use only one space after punctuation (OpenType fonts) Hyphenation, en dashes and em dashes
  • Hyphens: use for words only (not dashes)!
  • Use non-breaking or discretionary hyphens to control hyphenation: Type > Insert special character > Hyphens and dashes
  • Set the hyphenation at a minimum of 2 characters before a hyphen and 3 characters after
  • Do not set more than 3 hyphens in a row.
  • Never use — double hyphens as dashes, always use an { — } EN dash (option, hyphen), or an { — } EM dash (shift, option, hyphen)
  • En dash: set with a character space before and after, and is often used in place of the word “to” e.g. 22–25 with no spaces
  • Em dash: usually set with no character space before or after
  • Use either EN dashes or EM dashes in your text (not both) and be consistent with character spaces — either with or without (not both)!

Mixing typefaces

  • Pair a sans serif with a serif that have similar design characteristics e.g. x-height
  • Avoid similar classifications (e.g. two slab serif, or two sans serif, or two serif typefaces) Quotation marks
  • Use typographers quotes, not primes (set this up in preferences)
  • Hang your quotes (pull outs) Figures (numerals)
  • Use old-style numerals within u/lc text if they are available in your typeface family
  • Use titling figures in all-caps text


Bringhurst, Robert. The Elements of Typographic Style, 2nd ed. Vancouver: Hartley & Marks, 1996.



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Stephen Bau

Designer, educator, social architect, founder, Builders Collective. We are exploring how we imagine, design, and build the future together.