A proven digital text serif with an arresting upright italic
In April 2014 the TypeTogether design team, led by Veronika Burian and José Scaglione, started to work on a new tailored font family for the Google Play Books application that had already begun a redesign. Google’s brief for the project presented the task in its full level of difficulty right from the beginning. A new digital 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 font family was meant to establish a recognisable visual identity for Google’s native Book App and stylistically distinguish itself from other eReader competitors.
The electronic or digital book represents one of the most important challenges 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 analogue 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 lettershapes look. This became very clear when analysing the typefaces in use in the the market’s most common eBook readers. It came as no surprise that the existing typefaces had a very uniform and almost mechanical feel. This is excellent for rendering purposes, but it 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, led 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 iteration process, TypeTogether arrived at a hybrid solution that took inspiration from both Scotch and oldstyle 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 the lettershapes 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
In 2016, a meeting between Dave Crossland, Omer Ziv, and José Scaglione in Google’s New York offices triggered an expansion of the original project. The new Literata font family now features eight weights and matching italics, adds small caps and over 650 new characters per font for greater language support, full Latin Extended (including Vietnamese), Polytonic Greek (designed by Irene Vlachou with external consulting by Gerry Leonidas), and Cyrillic (designed by Vera Evstafieva with external consulting by Kiril Zlatkov).
Lead design and concept
Veronika Burian (Latin)
José Scaglione (Latin)
Irene Vlachou (Greek)
Vera Evstafieva (Cyrillic)
Gerry Leonidas (Greek)
Kiril Zlatkov (Cyrillic)