Every day millions of students, young and old, receive literature with poorly designed typefaces, undersized leading, not enough letter spacing, lack of organization, and poor writing techniques that are taught from elementary school to college. This is where the proper use of Typography comes into play. Typography is more than metal carved squares, ink to a page, or letters on a keyboard; it is a career and skill that everyone should obtain in order to convey a message or a proper design. Unfortunately, typography is one of the overlooked elements of design. Primarily because of the amateurish and DIY designers, who do not understand the importance of typography and typically focus their efforts on attractive graphics and layouts, and less on the design and readability with the type itself.
Typography is the process of printing with type, arranging, and setting the general appearance and characters of the printed matter. From Business Communication Quarterly, Valerie Vance believes that, “Typography is about creating a written document that is balanced, harmonious and consistent. It should be part of the education of business students if they are to produce quality technical reports, resumes, newsletters and other documents”. (Vance).
At a younger age, students are taught how to read and write, and are trained with specific typefaces and letterforms that are large Sans Serifs, such as Arial, Helvetica, and Myriad Pro. These typefaces are designed for children to become enhanced readers. Students are taught with Sans Serifs, as they are easy to recognize at stages when a child’s mind is developing. These letterforms also accommodate enough space between each individual letter and have familiar letterforms, allowing younger students to comprehend the material being given to them.As we get older, typefaces slowly change into Serifs. Size decreases, the leading is pushed to its limits, and the letter spacing is practically non-existent. Designers and authors of books are tending to push additional words to a sentence, therefore, creating fewer pages and expenses on printing. By increasing the amount of words per page and decreasing the leading and letter spacing, they do not realize that it is causing the reader to read the same line multiple times.
Lets say we have the standard eight and half by eleven-inch sheet of paper. How can you determine what typeface and size would be correct for this page size. First think about what the assignment is about, what message do you want to portray? Lets say you have to write a short essay for a homework assignment, but this time you have to create a layout that is an easy read and are allowed to use whatever typeface and type size chosen, as long as it fits on one to two pages and has a maximum of twenty words to a sentence. Now that you know your page size and requirements, how do you design the proper typography for the assignment? Listed below is combined rules to remember when working with type, this list is pulled from multiple sources and designers that have all come up with similar simple rules for the proper use of working with type:
1. So You Need A Typeface,“If at first you don’t succeed, try a different typeface.”
Image designed and copyrighted by Stephanie Orma / Orma Design & She's SO Creative
To tackle this problem, graphic designer Julie Katrine Andersen came out with a flowchart to help marketers and designers understand their needs and options of typeface. The flowchart is by no means a perfect guideline to choose a typeface, but it is helpful a step towards selecting a suitable typeface.
2. Legibility, is important in text typefaces. Simply put, the legibility of a typeface is the ease with which it can be read. Legibility is a quality of the actual design of the typeface (as opposed to how the type is set). Factors that affect legibility include weight, character shapes, ascender and descender length, size of counters, stroke contrast, and character width.
3. Letter Spacing, a typeface that is well-spaced looks neither too tight nor too open. Most importantly, it has even spacing overall between characters throughout the design. NOTE: Those “free” fonts that you can find on the Internet are notorious for poor spacing, and are generally unsuitable for professional use.
4. Leading, is the space between the lines of type in a body of text that plays a big role in readability. Correctly spaced lines make it easier for a reader to follow the type and improve the overall appearance of the text. Many factors affect leading: typeface, type size, weight, case, measure, letterspacing, etc. The longer the measure, the more leading is needed. Also, the larger the type size, the less leading is required. A good rule is to set the leading 2-5pt larger than the type size, depending on the typeface. So if you set the type at 12pt, a 15pt or 16pt leading should work well.
5. Measure, is the length of a line of type. To a reader’s eye, long or short lines can be tiring and distracting. A long measure disrupts the rhythm because the reader has a hard time locating the next line or reads the same line multiple times. The only time a narrow measure is acceptable is with a small amount of text. For optimum readability you want the measure to be between forty – eighty characters, including spaces. For a single-column design sixty-five characters is considered ideal.
6. Less Than Three Typefaces- The only exception to this rule is when two fonts are so similar, and technically you need to use two separate typefaces because one appears better at a smaller/larger scale. Be careful when mixing multiple typefaces. Using different typefaces can help the reader differentiate between elements. Related text or elements can be set using one typeface while other elements are set in a different typeface. But this takes practice. Each typeface sends a different message. Overdoing this or selecting typefaces that do not coordinate well can create the exact opposite effect, making things confusing for the reader. If you are new to typesetting or unsure of how to combine typefaces, try using a typeface family that has several weights and variations designed to work together.
7. Emphasis- Giving emphasis to a word without interrupting the reader is important. Italic is widely considered to be the ideal form of emphasis. Some other common forms of emphasis are: bold, caps, small caps, type size, color, underline or a different typeface. No matter which you choose, try to limit yourself to using only one. Combinations such as caps-bold-italic are disruptive and look clumsy on a page.
8. Sans Serifs or Serifs- Serifs are the small lines or hooks on the ends of characters in fonts such as Times, Garamond or Georgia. Sans serif fonts such as Arial, Helvetica or Futura do not have serifs. Generally, serif fonts are used for large bodies of text. It is thought that the serifs help make the letters more distinctive, recognizable and readable than sans serif. There has been an exception to this rule on the web because small serif fonts do not display as well at low screen resolutions. Sans serifs fonts are always a good choice for small amounts of text such as logos, headlines and captions. There has been a long debate over whether to use serif or sans serif for reading off of electronic devices. Statistically, sans-serif fonts work better on-screen for legibility, while serif fonts were intended for reading print. However, we see many designers everyday using serif fonts on the web, and we can see that if used correctly, they can work. The main point to using serif fonts for the web is to add additional whitespace in and between the characters. This can mean line-height, letter spacing, word-spacing, and font size. Without additional whitespace, the serifs on the font can make things merge together and become illegible.
Typography involves numerous steps, and there are multiple books on Typography that will help individuals understand proper typography, such as a well known book by Ellen Lupton titled Thinking With Type. Ellen Lupton shows the reader how to understand typography, how to use typefaces/sizes correctly, and gives facts about individual letterforms and typefaces.