Building a Type Library

Dr Nadine Chahine undertakes to build a type library for less than $250/£210 — this is a helpful exercise, but I dissent from all her suggestions. Now, partly she’s chosen the week of a 50% discount on designs from the website she writes for, which luxury you and I won’t necessarily have…

She chooses two sets of sans faces. we’ve already commented on my weariness and dissatisfaction with sans type, so I’ll just note that I like Museo Sans well enough (not exclusively the Display variety), but I eschew geometric sans-es entirely. So bravo for Museo Sans, or TheSans for that matter, and let’s set aside Nexa. If I were choosing for a church or very small company, I’d lean toward Alegreya Sans, which you can use for free under the Google fonts library.

She chooses two script-y faces, one ‘handwritten’ and one closer to classic script designs. I’m not sure how urgently a basic library needs a script face, but I’d be more inclined to adopt an architectural-style hand-lettered look, with perhaps just one formal script (is I must). I greatly admire P22 Eaglefeather for a hand-lettered face, but there are dozens; for a formal script, I would look for a gently calligraphic appearance, like a restrained version of Zapfino. If you’re taking pains to stay accessible, it’s worth remembering that script faces can be more challenging for readers who struggle with unfamiliar faces.

I would then also add a very plain type family, something that doesn’t make a strong impression (such as Electra or one of its clones, or a Garalde such as Sabon), and a more distinctive serif (such as Alegreya or a version of Clarendon or Cheltenham).

One sturdy but not outlandish display face, something that will make a statement about your church or business — the identity face for titling or display signage. Chacun à son goût, but one might take Windsor Bold or Cooper Black, as an example.

If I had more time I’d price that repertoire out, but one ought to be able to find versions for an endurable price. As The Provost of Glasgow always reminds me, though, one wants to beware of pricing based on the number of authorised users; what’s affordable for one or two users rapidly becomes a backbreaker for five to ten users.

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