July 8, 2019 Typography

Ch 7: Typography


Writing is one of the most fundamental forms of communication. We can trace its roots back to Sumer in southern Mesopotamia, circa 3,500 -3,000 BCE. This early writing was called cuneiform and consisted of making specific marks in wet clay with a reed implement. Used by ancient civilizations of the world to represent ideas, these images soon evolved into alphabets and phonographic writing, which led to the development of various typographic systems.

Typography is a crucial aspect of graphic design. Graphic designers need to have a thorough understanding of typography in order to incorporate type properly in their designs. Understanding the various visual communication principles in typography can help designers develop a more informed and cohesive style.

Stated simply, typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable, and appealing when displayed. The arrangement of type involves selecting typefaces, point size, line length (measure), line-spacing (leading), letter-spacing (tracking), and adjusting the space within letters pairs (kerning). Every little change you make to a word or a body of text can make a huge difference in the overall piece. The little details do matter.

Typography is absolutely everywhere – just look at your phone, a billboard, your coffee cup, or even the different styles used on a web page. Once you’re conscious of the fact that typography is used everywhere, you’ll start to recognize the differences between typefaces and why they might have been selected.




View the Typography Anatomy chart for more information on the different aspects of type


The most important guiding principle to keep in mind is that typography exists to enhance the subject matter, or the content. In other words, typography does not exist for typography’s sake. Every typographic action—the typeface you choose, the point size, leading, and line width, for example—should enhance, or at the very least, not distract from what you’re writing about or what you’re trying to say. Easier said than done. How does one go about this?

Before choosing a typeface, examine it, print out some samples of it, and be aware of any images it brings to mind. What is the first thing it reminds you of? Chances are this typeface would have a similar effect on your readers. So then, logically you must ask yourself whether the image this typeface projects has anything to do with your subject matter. The choice is never easy, nor is anyone going to be able to offer the ultimate suggestion. But if you start with classic fonts, it’s easy to make changes and substitutions. There are many options available to you in terms of alternate font choices, style changes, leading options, and so on.

Once you have picked a typeface, get to know it. Set it in wide columns and narrow, at large point sizes and small, with lots of leading and with minimal leading. Try to avoid combining it with other typefaces, instead using the same typeface in a different style (bold or italic) or point size for headlines, subheads, page footers, captions, and so on. You’ll discover, first hand, how well or how poorly it works in certain situations, whether it’s a space-saver or line-hog, for instance, or whether it looks dark at small sizes or light.

Start with a serif text font and run it through the paces for a few days, or maybe even a few weeks. Then move on to one of the sans serif text fonts. Tell people “I’m in a Transitional phase. Divorce? No, Baskerville.” As with most things in life, practice makes perfect. The knowledge you gain about the font, however, will help you design better looking documents than owning a type library of several thousand fonts.

It will take time, but after a while, you’ll no longer feel wishy-washy or uncertain about your font choices. In fact, you’ll know exactly what font to use for any given document. And the knowledge and experience will apply to new fonts you’ve never before used as well; you’ll know what to look for when you do use them.

Here is a quick outline of Type Classifications: