WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE FONT?
Many discussions of book interior design begin with some version of the question What's your favorite font? I've heard and read discussions among publishers that start there and descend. One person loves Palatino. Another has never considered the question and admits to creating his book pages in Microsoft Word, using the default font in that program, Times New Roman. (For the record, I'd be unlikely to use either as a text font in a book, although both have their purposes in other contexts.)
This approach to book design is backwards. Font choice is important, but it comes later in the process.
A book design begins with an analysis of the manuscript itself. What category is the book in? Who is the intended audience? What are all the different kinds of elements making up the book (lists, sidebars, tables, charts, images, heading levels, and so forth)? What will the book sell for? How long is the book? How will the book be printed?* How many copies will be printed initially?
Working from that information, the book designer can develop an integrated conceptual plan encompassing paper type, page size, margins, and page count. Once the publisher approves that plan, the designer can begin investigating font choices that are appropriate to the content.
* Why does it matter how the book will be printed? For a few reasons. Read about one of them.
[Brian Jud invited me to contribute short articles on book interior design to his Book Book Marketing Matters newsletter, a biweekly e-zine. This page is adapted from one of those articles.]