A new font for an old book
Tyndale House Publishers, one of the foremost Bible publishers in the United States, had a problem. In addition to rising ink, paper and other printing costs, adding study notes in the New Living Translation, Second Edition, would increase the page count. And, unlike other publishers, they could not go back to the author and ask to have text cut. Deleting even one word from the Bible was out of the question!
Tim Botts said afterwards: "I was especially jazzed with the way the new One Year Bible turned out — a 10% longer text in a stronger typeface — yielding the same page count! To think we competed with Century OS and Weidemann — and I think — won."
Each aspect of the printing process was examined before Tyndale settled on a solution that was, at first, not obvious. What about the typeface? Was it possible that a new font could help contain costs? Surely one of the thousands of available typefaces would be suitable. After all, fitting more words on the page would result in a savings on ink and paper. But, would a smaller font still retain, even improve, readability? Was the right font out there?
Their search for an answer to this question led them to Brian Sooy, principal designer for Altered Ego Fonts, a division of Aespire.
From practical and economic needs, the typeface Lucerna was created. Lucerna enabled Tyndale to reduce their page count by 10% in the new edition of the one of the world's most popular Bible translations, yet improve readability for all ages.
Calling in the second string
Actually, Brian Sooy of Aespire was Tyndale's second choice. Tyndale originally approached Robert Slimbach (of Adobe), but he was not available, due to commitments to existing projects.
In 1995, Sooy Type Foundry (now Altered Ego Fonts) released Veritas (Latin for Truth), a font designed with Bibles and publications in mind, as the narrow columns don't lend themselves to readability due to the small number of words per line. Veritas was designed as a narrow-width font, (not condensed) to aid legibility.
Many years ago, Brian Sooy was introduced to Timothy R. Botts, a world-renowned calligrapher. Tim is also Sr. Art Director at Tyndale, so after sometime I showed him Veritas, suggesting that it would be useful for making the Bible more readable. Eventually Tyndale used Veritas in two editions of the New Living Translation.
Along the way I mentioned to Tim a number of times that it would make sense for Tyndale to have a custom font for their New Living Translation (The first edition was completed in 1996). This version was translated with the goal of making it easy to read and understand, while being faithful and accurate to the original biblical texts.
In August 2002, one of Tim's associates contacted me to explore whether we had an existing font that could be used for their technical requirements. Other options we discussed were customizing a font, or starting from scratch.
The most practical solution was to start with an existing font, and Veritas was the choice. The final font bears little similarity to Veritas, but the groundwork had been laid.
Where to begin?
Like any design project, this one had a brief with some technical criteria, to help define and solve the design problem.
- Achieve a better character count (to maximize space and ultimately save paper).
- Eliminate artificial condensing of standard fonts (such as ITC Giovanni).
- Have visual similarities to ITC Giovanni, by Robert Slimbach.
- Make the font "stronger."
- Achieve as good as or better character count than ITC Weidemann or Century Old Style.
- Achieve better character count while maintaining readability.
Articles & Commentary
- Step into Design Magazine: Two Views on Typographic Legibility (Unpublished)
- Inside Business: Divine Design
- Information Design Handbook: Featured Case Study
- NLT Blog: New Living Translation Sample Pages
- Biblical Typography: Brian Sooy's Contribution to the History of the Printed Bible
- Guy Kawasaki: Another Font Story
- Evangelical Bible discussion from Facebook: "This typeface is EXTREMELY easy on the eyes"
- PDF sample of the ESV Outreach Bible interior pages
- Curious Obsessions Blog article
- NLT Blog: What makes a "Large Print" Bible?
- NLT Blog: New Living Translation Sample Pages
- Picking the Font: A Case Study
- Amazon UK reader reviews
- Bible Design Blog : Tyndale Select NLT
- How Design: Font Designs by Brian Sooy
- Amazon Review: "Very easy to read."
"Much of any review will be subjective. Perhaps that is especially so regarding typeface. The typeface used is Lucerna which was "designed by Brian Sooy & Co. exclusively for Tyndale House Publishers, Inc." The Lucerna typeface is beautiful in the NLT Study Bible. It looks nice in my Slimline Reference Edition but with the larger font size in the Study Bible the typeface becomes all the more beautiful. The combination of typeface and size makes for a reading experience that is comfortable to my eyes." – Stan McCullars
Altered Ego Fonts features other typefaces designed by Brian Sooy. Veritas is anotherfont for Bibles.