Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Basics of Design - Typography

Wikipedia defines Typography as the art and techniques of type design, modifying type glyphs, and arranging type. Type glyphs (characters) are created and modified using a variety of illustration techniques. The arrangement of type is the selection of typefaces, point size, line length, leading (line spacing) and letter spacing.

Typography may seem like the boring stuff but it can make all the difference in your piece being appealing and read or being passed over for something else. Here are some general tips to think about when dealing with the Typography.

You can speed up reading by using an optimum column width of 39 to 52 characters. This will allow the reader's eyes to rest when they need to and move on to the next line allowing them to feel comfortable as well as speed up their reading. Do not use smaller than a 9 point type for your body copy and do not go larger than 14 points. Smaller than this will be hard to read and larger will make the larger amount of text uncomfortable to read. When using more than one type face, make sure they are very different (e.g., Kuenstler (fancy script) and Helvetica (sans-serif).). Avoid using more than two different type families in one project. Safely use one typeface with two different styles (e.g., use a light or regular weight with a bold or extra bold weighted font). Try to skip a weight (e.g., light and bold vs. light and medium). When you can't skip a weight increase the size of the heavier font. You should never use all caps for body copy and never use all caps with highly decorative typefaces.

Hyphenation, Orphans, and Widows
Here are some tips to use when the copy just does not seem to want to play fairly. You should avoid hyphenating more than two consecutive lines, and don't leave orphans! (a word or short line at the top of a column or page). Avoid widows! (a single word on a line by itself at the end of a paragraph with no one to love) and never hyphenate a widow.

Justification is always a popular topic...right? Well don't use a short line width with justified text. Use justified text to be more formal (the left and right margins are parallel) and it is also good for flyers to give your text a nice shape. This is a visual appeal thing so if you do not like how the justified text looks then go with traditional left justified if it works best with your design. Be careful when using justified text. Ensure the column width, the size of the type, and the number of characters per line don't leave big gaps between words or push the words together making the line hard to read. Left justified ragged right is more personal (left margin aligns and the right margin ends at different places depending on the characters/words in the line).
Adjust centered and right-aligned type, use soft returns (keeps lines within the same paragraph) to force line breaks when necessary to make the line lengths noticeably different. Take care when shaping the text around a graphic. With text wrap, justified text gives a better over-all look, but be careful of big gaps between words. Text wrap requires extra work to make it look good including editing the copy.

Proofing is one of the most important parts of any design because you need to make sure the content is accurate...both for content and for grammar. Always have someone who did not write the copy, edit the copy and always proof your copy for misspelled words. Remember sometimes spellchecker is wrong! Maybe you used the wrong version of a word such as there instead of their. Always have another person proof for typos and inconsistencies in style. It's very easy to overlook your own mistakes - just like in life. Don't forget that one misspelled word can undermine the credibility of the entire piece.

Text on Background
Be careful when reversing type, white or light color, out of a background. Ensure that the type is big and bold enough, minimum point size should be 14 points and the type style should be bold. Avoid delicate serif fonts. Avoid ornate patterns. Avoid four-color photographs if the material is going to be printed. Make sure you have enough visual separation between the type and the background. When reversing copy the minimum gray value should be 40%.

Use color and type carefully. Contrast, separation, and vibration are all important issues that effect readability. When using colors on top of other colors you need to make sure that the colors are complimentary and do not fight one another. Avoid using colors on a red background as you may get a sense of vibration around the text making it difficult to read. Basically follow the rule of having people proof it and take their critique and make the necessary changes.

Next up will be tips on using Color!


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