Going Back to Basics: Typography in Design

When working in design, being mindful of type is essential to producing quality work. Today I outline five common typography mistakes you should be sure to avoid:

1. Not Enough Leading – Leading/line-spacing can improve the overall readability of large blocks of text on a page, making it easier on readers to follow lines of text without losing their place. Too little can cause a cramped feeling. It’s important to remember that different fonts need different line-spacing. Varying heights in letterforms may demand more or less.

2. Not Enough Tracking – Tracking is applied to increase or decrease the spacing between letters. It prevents letters from running into each other or, conversely, keeps the text from being too spaced out. It’s similar to leading in that it can improve or hinder readability, flow of text, and the density/weight of a block of text.

3. Lengthy Lines of Text – Reading many long lines of type causes eye fatigue. Readers are forced to move their heads and eyes more often from one line to the next. Various sources suggest keeping lines of text under 50–60 characters, which, to me, is a bit of overkill.

4. Mixing Too Many Typefaces and Weights – Too many typefaces on one page can become distracting and disconnecting (lacking unity). Try using three or fewer fonts per project. Too many weights can cause a reader to be unclear about where important elements are on a page. This creates the possibility of the reader missing something important.

5. Lengthy Text Material: Serif or Sans Serif? – Serifs are alleged to make it easier to read lengthy material, such as books and magazines, for longer periods of time and reduce eye strain/fatigue. Also, serifs seem to sit better on the baseline. This is debatable to say the least. Sans-serif fonts, however, have become the de facto standard for body text on-screen, especially online. This is partly because interlaced displays may show twittering on the fine details of the horizontal serifs. Additionally, the low resolution of digital displays in general can make fine details like serifs disappear or appear too large.


Author: Eric Swenson with assistance by Will Lovell


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