Sunday, 1 July 2012

Typeface fails.

It's not secret that I love The Beatles. Everyone that knows me know this small fact about me. It's also not a huge secret that I really do enjoy Shakespeare, Twelfth Night's easily my favourite. However, I don't particularly care for Paul McCartney (George all the way), and a book of Shakespeare's play my mum picked up is just slightly terrible. We'll start with Paul.
Howard Sounes, HarperCollins, 2010
Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney is the most comprehensive biography of McCartney around. Released in 2010, it covers his early life in Liverpool, The Beatles, Linda, Wings, Lennon's death, and of course the Heather Mills saga. McCartney's life has been filled with tragedy and success, and at a lovely 634 pages, this book seriously covers it all. This cover incorporates most of McCartney's life in a simple and attractive way. Musical instruments, a pedestrian crossing and bright colours surround a very honest picture of the name himself. Looking his age, there's no attempt to hide the fact he's getting on with life, no matter how many up and downs he's thrown. The name alone would attract people towards this book on the shelf, and the cover design just enhances the want of a reader to have it on their shelf. That's the reason I bought it, I'm intrigued by Paul's life, but he's definitely third equal for my favourite Beatle. The typeface is a basic sans-serif, with McCartney's handwriting used for his name. The sans-serif works on the cover, it's nice and easy to read making it attractive for readers. Just wait until you see inside...
Inside cover, half title page, 'also by', and title page.
Imprint, contents, contents cont., and first section marker.
Here're the prelim pages for Fab. The red inside cover repeats from the thin red border on the cover design. The typeface is a sans-serif also continued from the cover, the use of white mimics the paper which I really like - it stands out well on the dark red and it's easy to read. Throughout these pages, the only change in typeface comes from 'HarperCollinsPublishers'  on the title page, and the use of a typewriter-like typeface for the contents - this continues through the book for each section title, chapter title, and A headings within chapters. These pages are all easy to read, however using a sans-serif for the imprint is something I haven't seen in non-fiction before. I understand that it's just the typeface they're using and the designer is being consistent, but for important information a serif would be much more suitable.
Now this is where the book gets really interesting. As you can see on the right here, a nice 1 is in a circle (a continuing theme), the chapter title and A heading are in the same typeface as the title, as is the B heading in the second picture (The Quarry Men). Each of these elements are great, easy to read and distinguished for the reader to follow along. But the body text, oh the body text. It's in the same sans-serif as the prelim pages. Terrible. A serif is usually used for books with a narrative, and as a long biography, you'd think they'd have used one! This sans-serif is still easy enough to read, the characters are spaced and each page is justified. The main thing that's put me off reading this book if because I'm not used to it, and I find it a bit unsettling. Perhaps others didn't mind, but I think there's a time and a place for sans-serif fonts, and a long narrative story isn't one of them.

Usborne, 2006, illustrations by Elena Temporin.

Now to Shakespeare.
This is Stories from Shakespeare, the book takes 10 of his stories and re-writes them in to 'a lively, easy-to-read style', according to the blurb. I believe Mum picked this up at a second-hand store because that's just what she does sometimes. Dad started flicking through it and promptly gave up, for reasons you will see in a minute. Firstly, this cover. I do like it. It's bright enough to catch attention, without making the three witches from Macbeth look too exciting or happy. The typeface for the title and Usborne on the spine, as well as bring shiny and silver, gives a modern but still traditional feel to the book. The blurb uses a slightly-serif typeface, that links to the traditional feel that the title gives.
Imprint, title page, and contents.
The brightly blue background of the imprint and title page spread catches the eye very easily, and the typefaces of the title have come through from the cover. The typeface of the imprint, illustrator etc., is the typeface that is continued throughout the book, including the contents page. Each of these pages are designed beautifully, they're easy to read, and hold the attention of the reader well. However, now you will see why Dad put it down so abruptly.
Oh Macbeth, you're not hard to read. The black, slightly-serif typeface stands out easily against this yellow-cream background. You can see where the heading is, and where printers' flowers have been inserted to indicate a break. This is all well and good, but then the next picture tells all.
BAM. I can understanding wanting to be consistent with one colour for the text, but where the background is darker, you can hardly read the text. This was one of the issues Dad had when going through this book, and his other was actually the size of the text - apparently it's too small. I can read it, and kids probably can, but I can understand the difficulty. So back to the colours, I've mentioned before it's pretty OK to change the typeface colour if the illustrations call for it. The whole things makes me pretty angry, it looks ugly and, just like Dad, it'll turn people of even reading the book. Silly choice Usborne.

More to come, 

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