As a fellow Electra fan and book designer, I had to respond to this
question. I've never really figured out why I like Electra so much. Until
Michael Brady's message, I had never met anyone else who did.
The problems I can see in Electra which are still not enough to keep me
from using it most of the time: it tends to get awfully light on the page
at smaller sizes; it needs to be carefully leaded (right now I'm using it
in books at 10.2 pts on 13 pt leading); the ligatures strike many as odd
and even jarring. Detractors of the face will be able to come up with lots
more criticism I'm sure.
What I like about it? I'm not sure. I think part of it is that it strikes a
nice balance between informality and seriousness, which is a good quality
for a face used in university press books (which is what I design). It
gives a comfortable, inviting feel to scholarly monographs without
slighting their contents. In less serious applications, I think it also
succeeds in being "modern-looking" without looking trendy.
This quality is also present in Sabon, which is the other typeface I use
all the time. When I'm *not* restricted by high character counts, I also
like to use Bulmer (which seems to need a lot of leading). I like Berkeley
Oldstyle for smaller format books, especially fiction, but I think it's too
light to hold up at trade paperback size or larger. I also like Adobe
Janson for a general all-round face, especially for books needing a
distinctive italic. I'm using Weiss in a book right now, which I really am
liking a whole lot, but I don't think it's very widely usable due to some
of its quirky qualities (the 3/4-height numerals, ?, and !, for starters).
Our "house faces" include Sabon and Janson, as well as several others that
I have tried to like but can't: Trump Medieval, Galliard (Adobe), and Bembo
(don't flame me for this one, I know it's a favorite for a lot of people,
but I just can't get into it. It seems fussy ... dare I say,
anal-retentive? Please don't flame me for saying that, either. though I
probably deserve it.). I'm still trying to convince myself that the problem
is not the faces per se but rather the fact that I haven't figured out how
to use them. Another face which I haven't been able to figure out, though
I've seen it and liked it, is Minion.
As for sans serifs, I used to use Gill Sans all the time, but have moved on
to Myriad and Univers (although for text applications, Myriad's really
problematic because of the kerning surrounding punctuation). I also like
Syntax, but haven't had much experience with it since we don't own it.
For what it's worth.
Jean Lee Cole
Designer, U of TX Press