In April 2014 the TypeTogether design team, lead by Veronika Burian and José Scaglione, started to work on a new tailored type family for the Google Play Books application that was in a state of re-designing. Google’s brief of the project presented the task in its full level of difficulty right from the beginning.
A new book typeface was needed that would provide an outstanding reading experience on a whole range of devices and high resolution screens running different rendering technologies. Additionally, the new Play Books type is meant to establish a recognisable visual identity for Google’s native eBook App and stylistically distinguish itself from other eReader competitors.
The electronic or digital book represents one of the most important challenge designers and developers face today. The technical limitations of devices regarding rendering of type, together with their variety of physical sizes, are only two of the main obstacles eBooks have to tackle. These facts contribute to an unfair yet appropriate comparison with their analog counterpart, where typography plays a leading role. The Play Books project offered an opportunity to approach some of these problems from a new perspective.
Type-founding and printing are as much interlinked as digital type and rasterization are. The limitations imposed on type rendering due to coarse grids of low-resolution screens have therefore affected the way letter shapes look like. This became very clear when analysing the typefaces in use in the most common eBook readers in different devices. It came as no surprise that the existing typefaces had a very uniform and almost mechanical feel. This is excellent for rendering purposes but does not help with immersive and continuous reading. In other words, they were not fonts meant for book design.
TypeTogether’s counterpart team at Google, lead by senior UX designer Addy Lee Beavers, agreed that the desired typeface should have a more interesting and varied texture than other fonts being used in eBooks or ones generally developed for on-screen use. This could be achieved by means of slanted stress, less mechanic letter structure and varied horizontal proportions of characters. Based on these premises and on an intensive iterative process, TypeTogether arrived at a solution of hybridisation taking inspiration from both Scotch and old-style Roman types. The resulting letterforms create a pleasant organic texture that helps to deliver very good results for ease of reading and comfort.
The secondary style is an upright italic, meaning that the letter shapes have an italicised construction and& no slant to speak of. Albeit rather uncommon in screen-fonts, this kind of genre addresses some of the inherent limitations of the square pixel grid. Moreover the resulting unusual italic adds high branding value to Literata making it unique, recognisable and easy to remember.
The final Literata family features two weights and matching italics including more than 1100 characters per font with PanEuropean language support; full Latin Extended, Polytonic Greek (designed by Irene Vlachou with the external advice by Gerry Leonidas) and Cyrillic (designed by Vera Evstafieva with the external consultancy by Kiril Zlatkov).
See more images in Flickr.