How typography can frustrate a child.

This story starts with a young boy reading Dr. Seuss. I believe the book was "One fish, Two fish, Red fish, Blue fish." The boy was riding in the car with his mother and sister to visit their grandmother. The little boy was tearing though this book at speeds previously thought impossible.

And then it happened. 

The boy encountered a letter he had never seen before. How could this be? Surely his mother hadn't lied to him? She said twenty-six. He knew the song. It must be a trick he thought. With little options the boy decided his best course of action would be to start the book over. Maybe the troublesome letter would go away and he would be able to finish the book. With a look of determination he closed the glossy cardboard cover and began again.

And it happened again...

The boy was now shocked. How could his plan fail like this? Again, he must do it again. With new fire in his eyes he finished the book - up to the troublesome letter - five more times before arriving at his grandmothers. As he was being unstrapped from the car he pleaded his mother to answer his question. Pointing to the page as if this new letter was physically hurting him, and must be stopped. Without missing a beat the mother said, "Mike, that's a "q." Of course! Quiet! The tiger was without a doubt silent upon his flimsy paper throne. 

So why did Mike have such trouble with the letter "q"? It was well within the constraints of the legendary twenty-six. The answer is simple. It all comes down to typography.

The typeface that was used in Dr. Seuss's books was a derivative of Garamond. A typeface deemed as one of the most legible fonts for print. My childhood self seemed to disagree. The reason why I couldn't understand that the letter I was looking at was a "q" was because of its descender. A descender is the part of a letter that extends below it's base. In school I was taught that "q" possessed a descender with a tiny curl. As if "J" and "Q" had a baby. In the Garamond used within Dr. Seuss's books the lowercase "q" does not have such a descender and looks exactly like a backwards "p". Even this current typeface you are reading flaunts a similar issue. 

As a graphic designer I have learned just how the selection of a typeface can make or break a publication or advertisement. My advice? Research your audience. Learn who will read what you have designed and what they will say. Hopefully you can avoid a small child thinking you don't understand the alphabet.