This is the first major confusion in typography. Many believe that typography is font choices. They spend a huge amount of time on which fonts to choose, how fonts developed historically, and the reader reactions to these fonts.
This indeed is a good portion of typography, but this pursuit misses the entire point. The point of typography is to use words to communicate. Font choices can help—but this is really a small portion of what we need to be concerned with as typographers and book designers.
Fonts are not typography —fonts are used to create typography.
I am not minimizing the importance of choosing fonts which are easy to read and comfortable for your target audience. But we mustn’t confuse the tools and materials with the techniques for using those tools. In addition, we cannot focus on these two areas without maintaining the end product as our primary goal.
For example, let’s consider woodworking for furniture.
- The type and species of wood chosen: (as well as the fabric and hardware)
- The saws, chisels, planes, and power tools used
- The smoothing, fitting, and joinery skills employed
- And the finishing techniques: of shaping, adjusting, polishing, and coating
- Are all subservient: to the beauty and comfort of the chair being built.
All the pieces of the process are part of the whole, but they only serve the end goal: comfort and beauty. Plus, of course, how the chair fits the decorating style used.
My focus is on typography for books.
- The fonts chosen: (as well as the words and images)
- The drawing, image manipulation, and layout tools used
- The paragraphs, columns, pages, graphics, and formatting skills employed
- And the final adjustments: Which are necessary to make the type and layout beautiful and polished
- Are all subservient: to the beauty, clarity, and comfort experienced reading the book.
A book is all about the author (& illustrator) and possibly a book designer communicating easily and comfortably with the readers. The readers should not even notice the book once they’ve started reading, but be drawn into the content unavoidably. If the book is even noticed, it needs to be a pleasurable complement to the content.