Century Schoolbook, compelling and nostalgic

I really seem to be focusing a lot on serif style. For this I offer no explanation.  I do frequently read things not-on-a-screen, so maybe I just feel more at home.  This week’s focus is Century Schoolbook.  If you open up your MS Word program, you may have more than one selection for Century… Century Gothic, Century… Well, first, Century Gothic is sans-serif, so just move on from that. Century is the daddy of Century Schoolbook, when the design was first being muddled out. But then there’s a grand-daddy.. Century Roman was designed by Linn Boyd Benton, under the direction to make a typeface manlier than Bodoni for use in Century Magazine.
His son, Morris Fuller Benton, later redesigned the type to fit Typographical Union standards in 1892. And that brings me to the current topic.

MF Benton designed Century Schoolbook in 1919 at the request of a textbook publisher needing an easier to read typeface. As luck would have it, the design totally fits the purpose.  Since its creation and use in textbooks, studies have actually shown that the contrast in line weights and the spacing are ideal for young readers.  But that’s not all! The Supreme Court apparently has young eyes, as the require all briefs to be presented in Century Schoolbook.

It’s kind of a fun typeface, too. If you look at the letterforms independently, just by themselves, the curves draw the eye along in a playful manner.  It’s easy to imagine a playground, a ball bouncing along, the curve of a merry-go-round.  It’s not a silly typeface, though. As I say in the title, it’s nostalgic.  All this and it was designed by an American… so… I’ll say it. It’s Rockwellian.

Speaking of being Rockwellian, many young Americans learned to read from books that use Century Schoolbook. These phrases look awfully familiar when presented in the apropos type.

I don’t have a lot of examples of this type in pop culture… It is also used in The Tonight Show logotype, but I’m not posting that :/ eff Jay Leno.  But here’s a nice friendly movie poster!


Holy Shmow that’s cute!

I think that about wraps up all I have to say about Century Schoolbook.  I enjoy seeing it used in large bodies of type, and it has been argues that readers retain information better when compared to reading passages set in Times New Roman.  The spacing and the weights are artistic and without gender, but I do think there is some humor in it.  This is a set with a personality.

Oh, one final note… Linn Benton is the inventor of the Benton Pantograph, which changed how type would be produced forever. Google it.


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