In January of 2014, a Pew study showed that nearly a third of American adults had read an e-book in the last year, and 50% of adults owned some kind of tablet or e-reading device. Many of these readers are using the wide variety of Android devices on the market, which can present a problem for those trying to create a standardized experience for e-book readers. Google faced this challenge while designing their new font, Literata, which will replace Droid Serif on Google Play Books.
Google worked with fontmaker TypeTogether on the design, and as a post on TypeTogether’s website points out, that a big challenge behind the creation of Literata was making work across wide variety of screen sizes, resolutions, and rendering software. Not making things any simpler, it was was tasked with developing a distinct visual brand for Google Play Books that would differentiate it from other e-reading services.
Google Play senior UX designer Addy Beavers wanted to use this update to address the mechanical feel that other e-book fonts tend to have, like Caecilia (used on Kindle) and the aforementioned Droid Serif. In the past, people have criticized Caecilia’s not-quite-right appearance, with one online commenter noting that the font is “like reading a variable width version of Courier.”
To fix this, Literata’s characters needed to have a variable width and texture that not only had an appealing legibility, but also didn’t feel forced by the hand of the designer. For inspiration, Beavers and her collaborators at TypeTogether went back to Old Style serifs and the Scotch and Roman typefaces of the 19th century.
“We liked that the [typefaces are] small and round, yet open and not compressed,” Beavers told Co.Design .
To make Literata feel unique among e-book fonts, TypeTogether began researching print novels.
“Jose Scaglione and Veronika Burian of TypeTogether included characteristics common to the typefaces typically used by book designers for fiction titles, so the reading experience is familiar, but updated them to bring new movement and feeling to the font,” Beavers says. “The shapes of features of letters, like terminals and outstrokes, all are firmly formed for reading on screens, but are softened for smooth movement across a line.”
Google Play Books has already begun supporting Literata on its app, and within the next 18 months, the font should be added to the broader Google Fonts repository.