Book, Regular, Medium

edited October 4 in Technique and Theory
Aside from tradition, is there any reason that would make it a bad choice to add a Book version next to a Regular and Medium version of a font? I know in many cases, Book is equivalent to Normal or Regular. But what if Book is in between Light and Regular? A bit like what Medium is between Regular and Bold?
I’m curious about recommended practices, technical issues, but also boundaries.
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Comments

  • None that I know of. Generally a book weight is thought of as being especially useful in long text matter. It is not a problem for it to fall between Light and Regular; it really is the designer's choice.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,653
    I see a book weight as a text weight with color on the lighter side and regular/medium as having a color little darker than book. 
  • I see a book weight as a text weight with color on the lighter side and regular/medium as having a color little darker than book. 
    That’s how I feel about it too.
  • I figured there may be issues with how Microsoft or Adobe handle font styles. I know there have been issues with Light versions with Microsoft back in the days.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,589
    In the specs and fonts I am familiar with, some fonts have both “Regular” and “Medium,” and Medium is the heavier of the two.

    In usWeightClass from the OpenType/TrueType spec, Regular/Book is 400 and Medium is 500. (Not that it is great in this area, it has other issues.)
  • K PeaseK Pease Posts: 39
    edited October 5
    I have found that some applications assume Book to be the same as Regular (no matter what numbers are assigned) and won't display both in the menu. I got around it by renaming Regular to Medium, which in the case of Cerulea was more apt anyway.
    If you want all three, it may be advisable to make up another name along the lines of HemiLight or Welterweight or... "Boook", I don't know, if Folio weren't a well-known family I'd use that. Magazine?
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,589
    Yes, Adobe’s apps that use their CoolType font library do that. (Some fonts can still display both Regular and Book in these apps—but only because they are “special cased” in the core library code!)
  • edited October 5
    Thanks for pointing these issues out. It was my concern that some applications would ignore the assigned 400 and 500 weights.
    “Helvetica Neue Medium” is heavier than “Helvetica Neue Regular”. Making Medium and Regular interchangeable doesn’t seem ideal to me. But I read that some designers prefer a Medium for their titles in typography instead of Bold.
  • None that I know of. Generally a book weight is thought of as being especially useful in long text matter. It is not a problem for it to fall between Light and Regular; it really is the designer's choice.
    I agree with this. "Book" as a term indicates or implies extensive book/text setting, so one can call a weight "Book" when the intended size/weight satisfies his premises. That is, if I am designing a face for a large-size liturgical lectionary, it might be considerably lighter than one intended for the setting of small-sized books in 8pt size.
  • I see a book weight as a text weight with color on the lighter side and regular/medium as having a color little darker than book. 
    That’s how I feel about it too.
    Well, if it’s all about just how one perceives it, it can be arbitrary. I prefer the reasoning of George as a loose criteria.
  • Scott-Martin brings up optical sizing. 
    As I conceive it, in a modulated design, weight changes are mostly focused on the thickness of the thicks. Optical sizes are focused (among other subtleties) on the thickness of the thins (to achieve higher or lower contrast). 
    It sounds to me like the "book" label, which rings of optical sizing, was often simply assigned to a weight that had the approximate contrast of a running-text font but that came about through a lessening of the thicks rather than a strengthening of the thins. That would account for the frustration that the result was overall too light for what it seemed to promise. 

    (Has there ever been a "Book" weight offered of a monoline design?)
  • George ThomasGeorge Thomas Posts: 504
    edited October 5
    (Has there ever been a "Book" weight offered of a monoline design?)

    Futura Book is likely the best known example.

  • Stephen ColesStephen Coles Posts: 765
    edited October 5
    As a label, “Book” rarely makes sense to me. If your other style names are clear descriptions of weight with an obvious sequence, why introduce a name whose meaning is ambiguous? It only confuses your customers and users.
  • edited October 5
    I’ve been working on a Neo-Grotesk family and one day added a Book weight because the Regular (or Normal, or Text) weight appeared too strong in some applications, particularly with bright type on dark background.
    I use an RSS reader to validate metrics, kerning, readability and flow on the screen. This app lets me switch between bright, toned and dark backgrounds, which is very useful for comparisons.
    Adding a Book weight in addition to the Regular/Normal weight could provide designers with more freedom, especially for text colour as mentioned earlier in this discussion. I find all your thoughts and insights very helpful and I was wondering how the font family would be perceived if there is an additional Book weight available. I am not so much worried anymore about conflicts with software, as I think Adobe (and most modern by other manufacturers) has that covered. I tested the font with Adobe’s suite, as well as Affinity Designer, Apple Pages and Keynote, PowerPoint, etc.
  • Stephen ColesStephen Coles Posts: 765
    edited October 5
    I say “ambiguous” because there is no clear standard for where Book falls in a weight spectrum or even if it implies a weight value at all. Evidence: 
    If type designers, apps, and OSes are all over the map about Book, type users won’t get it either. 
  • Henning, I see what you mean, and I understand why Book is often introduced to existing families that already have style names applied. But if you are working on a new family and have the opportunity to create all the style names at once, why not choose names that are clear? It won’t be obvious to many users that Book is lighter than Regular.



  • The Hikari family has been in work since around 2013, off and on. I should explain that it was one of the first font families I created as a family and not just one singular weight. So it’s been along for the ride while I have begun working on new fonts (singular and families) and my eye has improved and my experience grown—but I’m still feeling it’s not there yet, and I haven’t even started with the Italics family yet.
    The points Stephen made, about designers not getting it—that makes sense, but designers always see the font in context with other weights, unless someone installed just one weight of the family on their device, or they come across it as a Web font.
    I am open to alternatives for the weight names. For the longest time, I was fine the way I had set it up, now my doubts have broadened after I read your comments. It may be a good idea to replace “Book” with something else.
  • Perhaps Medium Light, as it sits between Light and Regular?
  • Adam LaddAdam Ladd Posts: 130
    "Book" naming used to confuse me at times when I was a full-time graphic designer, wondering what the intent was and why some families opted for that naming in addition or sometimes (if I recall correctly) in place of a Regular. Though after learning more, I like the option to have a slightly different color for certain uses.

    After shifting to type design, I became somewhat more exposed to these options and their intent. But I actually found that currently I've preferred what fonts like IBM Plex Sans have done with a "Text" named weight as a complement to Regular by having it be slightly darker (instead of lighter, like Book).

    https://www.ibm.com/plex/specs/ (Don't know if there was a different intent by the designers opposed to how I've viewed it or not.)

    "Text" feels more open to me, whereas Book felt a little too traditional and like I was misusing the font/weight if it wasn't for actual use in a book layout. That may sound a little too literal, but I wonder how many customers it throws a slight curve ball to, as Stephen noted.


  • A very good point of taking the naming too literal. Believe it or not, I’ve encountered designers who thought “Display” was the version of a font for computer displays.
  • My setup, inspired by the IBM type design team, could be Thin, Light, Regular, Text, Medium, Bold, Heavy, Black.

  • Adam LaddAdam Ladd Posts: 130
    Ah yes, and perhaps raising the hurdle more if you have a Fontname Display and Fontname Text subfamily options. And "Text" could introduce the same disconnect like "Book". A
  • Perhaps Medium Light, as it sits between Light and Regular?
    It's a bit strange that "semibold" is pretty common but "semilight" rather rare.
  • George ThomasGeorge Thomas Posts: 504
    edited October 5
    Perhaps Medium Light, as it sits between Light and Regular?
    In the case of Futura Book, when Monotype made their version (the Twentieth Century family) they named the book weight Twentieth Century Semi-Medium*. It fell between Futura Light and Medium so that was their choice.
    *McGrew
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,136
    edited October 5
    My earliest recollection of a “Book” weight was in the release of Tony Stan’s Berkeley Oldstyle by ITC, in 1983.
    ITC used it even earlier with the release of ITC Garamond, ITC Century, and ITC Cheltenham in 1975, which at the time had only two weights each—Book and Ultra. That's where I first remember noticing "Book" used as a weight name. These were also by Tony Stan, so I guess he's to blame. :smile:
  • In the case of Futura Book, when Monotype made their version (the Twentieth Century family) they named the book weight Twentieth Century Semi-Medium*. It fell between Futura Light and Medium so that was their choice.
    Semi-Medium seems laughable to me. What's next, Extra Regular?
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,136
    "Semi-Medium" is odd because "Medium" already suggest halfway between "Regular" and "Bold", albeit more ambiguously than "Semibold". (Phil Martin did a "Helvetica Semi-Demi", although I think the name was meant to be somewhat whimsical.)

    Conventionally, "Light" and "Bold" are directions on a continuum away from "Regular", so weight names like "Extra Light" and "Semibold" and "Extrabold" are easy to understand. Weight names that don't follow this implied system, like "Medium" and "Book", don't have obvious meanings.

    FWIW, the common use of the name "Regular" is something fairly new. If you look at pre-digital type specimen books, you won't find it used much. Normally, there would be no weight name at all for what we call "Regular" now. But since digital fonts have to have a weight name, we end up with a lot of "Regular".
  • edited October 5
    Conventionally, "Light" and "Bold" are directions on a continuum away from "Regular", so weight names like "Extra Light" and "Semibold" and "Extrabold" are easy to understand. Weight names that don't follow this implied system, like "Medium" and "Book", don't have obvious meanings.
    Is Extra Light an “extra light” (especially light) version of the font, or does it lean towards Regular, meaning it’s heavier than Light, adding “extra weight” to it? Without seeing the font, I think this too could cause confusion, as the direction of the dimension isn’t declared by a name of a single state in between two stops.
    There have been a few examples of creative naming of the weights. Hoefler’s Knockout Welterweight was already mentioned and I remember some French type designers used different weight names too. I can’t find it right now, but I thought I had seen a “Noir” weight as well somewhere.
    How about Thin, Light, Normal, Text, Medium, Bold, Heavy, Black? This would make what was the Book weight until now the Normal version, or Regular, whereas Text would lean to the slightly heavier weight, as it was done by Bold Monday in the case of IBM Plex.
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