« For Happier Reading Online: Some Browser Tips | Main | For Writers: Letting Go When It Doesn't Work »



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


It's an unending struggle between designers and editorial, and always has been. I love a well-designed book (having a degree in art and a degree in English) that is also well-organized, but sometimes it drives me nuts when there are no folios on opening pages of chapters that are listed in a table of contents, for instance. And what is the first page of the chapter when it's a double-page spread? The art page, which will often have no folio, or the text page, which might. I can never decide, unless CMOS has a rule about it I don't know about.


I dislike white or yellow body text on top of a photograph. It might be OK for a display face, but in smaller point sizes, it's too hard to read.

Emilee Bowles

While studying publishing in grad school, I encountered many new designers who forgot about the importance of the text amidst their creative designs. The best designed books should not bring attention to the design; they should enhance the reading experience, not distract from it.


I'm a web interface designer who was trained as a graphic designer and typographer, and I'm very much sympathetic with the need to balance aesthetics and usability (not that they're necessarily opposed).

I found myself nodding right along with you until you mentioned objecting to old-style numerals "on principle". I think lining figures often have their place, but I've never heard the principled, categorical objection to old-style numerals. Would you mind filling me in?

By the way, thanks so much for a wonderful blog!

Carol Saller

Mihiraj, I'm sorry I confused you by exaggerating for the sake of humor. I know that old-style numerals can be harmless in some settings. But they so often inhibit readability, it's dangerous to specify them for an entire document. For instance, some Unicode numbers combine letters and numbers, so if the one looks like a small cap I and the zero looks like the letter o, the result is jibberish. And the variable widths of old-style figures make a mess of table columns. Unless a designer examines the entire document (and I'm speaking as an editor of books with notes, tables, and all manner of appendixes), it's safer to stick with lining figures for text and use old-style figures for display only.


That makes perfect sense, especially when it comes to strings of letters and numbers like Unicode character codes. Thanks so much for clarifying, Carol.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

My Photo

Carol Saller