The other day, when I was working on one of my projects, I realized how crucial the choice of fonts and the text layout can be when designing a message. It can make reading so much easier and change the way that words, sentences, paragraphs and texts make us feel when we look at it.
Good typography can link your content with a desired overall theme, tone and message itself. In fact, one of the only college courses Steve Jobs took was on calligraphy and typography, which he believes played a critical role in the success of Apple.
“If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts.“
Can you imagine a world where Apple products didn’t have a focus on beautiful design? Well, I don’t. That’s why this post explains you the key terms and basics of typography, showing what you have to be aware of when creating your designs and messages.
The little details do matter.
Good typography starts by paying attention to the details. Every little change you make to a word or a body of text can make a huge difference in the overall piece, for example an email, ebook, website or image for social media.
Font or typeface?
Well guys, there is actually a difference. However, even professional designers are often unsure of the difference between these two and most people other than specific type designers just say font. I still want to get this one cleared up straight away, so just FYI: the difference between a font and a typeface is the same as that between a song and an album. The songs make up the album, just like a font makes up a typeface.
Typeface: Font: Arial italic size 12pt
The two most common classifications of typefaces are ‘Serif’ and ‘Sans Serif’. Serif typefaces are generally the more traditional ones, like Times New Roman, Georgia and Garamond. These fonts are distinguished by a short finishing stroke on the end of a character. Sans Serifs, as the masters of French language would already know, are distinguished by the lack of any serifs. They are considered more modern since they only became popular in the 19th century.
You might want to keep in mind that Serifs are much easier to read in long, printed works because of the uniqueness of letters.
The measure is the column width or also called the length of lines of text. Both, long and short lines can be tiring confusing for a reader, which is why you should take care of your measure to achieve good readability. A text will be difficult to read when a measure is too long, as the eyes have to move a lot after reading each line and it can be difficult to locate the correct following one. On the contrary, short measures should only be used with small amounts of text, as the constant line skipping can get exhausting. A good rule of thumb is are 52-78 characters per line (including spaces).
In typography and print, leading is the space between text lines. You should pay attention to your leading because it also adds up to good readability. Moreover, correctly spaced lines will improve the overall appearance of your text. The longer the measure, the more leading is needed- makes sense right?A good rule for leading is to set it 2-5pt larger than your type size. So if you set your type at 11pt, a 14pt or 15pt leading should work well.
Tracking & Kerning
These two are often confused but I’m sure we’ll get down to it. While tracking affects how close all the characters of a word or sentence are, kerning is a more microscopic view at the space between two letters. Kerning and tracking always differ from font to font but if you pay attention to it, it can enhance the flow while reading. The way I remember these two is that tracking sounds like a long railway track and kerning reminds me of kernel, which is an individual object.
Alignment (right, centered, justified)
The alignment of your text has a huge impact on how people will perceive and read it. Generally you should align your text to the left, simply because that’s the way we are used to read. Without a good reason, please only consider centring or right aligning your text if it concerns a small amount, like a caption or your header. So if you only have 2-3 lines of text, it can look classy and elegant if well centred.
Justifying is when your text has straight edges on both sides. Although justified alignment looks nice and neat, you should use it moderately because it can also make your layout look rigid and boring. Additionally justifying can cause irregular spacing between words- better drop it.
Widows & orphans
…sounds sad already, right? If a single word or very short line is left at the end of a paragraph it is called a Widow. If the same is left at the beginning or end of a column that is separated from the rest of the paragraph, it is called an Orphan. You should avoid both- its considered very bad typography, as it’s distracting in reading as well as in design. You can avoid Widows & Orphans by adjusting the type size, leading, measure or word-spacing.
Working with typography in Photoshop and Illustrator
As most of you probably use one or both of these software, I wanted to show you how you can actually implement the concepts discussed above. Fortunately they are all available to you in Photoshop and Illustrator already. If you type a text and open the Character Panel (Window > Character) and Paragraph Panel (Window > Paragraph) you’ll be able to find all tools you need to apply your new skills.
When planning your design or layout you should always try to identify how you can get structure in it. How big or bold should your headline be? What about sub-headings or citations? Now that you know the typography basics, your will be able to enhance the readability and overall look of your work with just a few simple tricks.
Leave your questions and comments below! A new helpful article will follow next week. 🙂