Going Back to Basics: Typography in Design – Part II

When working in design, being mindful of type is essential to producing quality work. Today I’ll outline part two of my two-part series on common typography mistakes you should be sure to avoid.

6. Overusing Centered Text – When using centered text, it tends to be serried and jumbled in appearance. It may even be perceived as sophomoric in most cases, so I suggest saving it to flyers and the like and nothing more. And while we’re on the subject, try to limit typographical alignments. If you have blocks of copy that mix left, right and centered text, you will have a very visually confusing page.

7. Body Copy is Too Large – Normally, non-designers will immediately use a 12-point font for body copy since that is the default setting for most applications. Smaller font sizes create a more professional look. Large body copy, on the other hand, can be clunky (unless you’re designing a children’s book). It’s also important to note that viewing text on a computer monitor is much different than print. In most instances, type on a screen appear smaller and less crisp. Get into the habit of looking at preliminary printouts of your design.

8. Know Your Grid System – Understanding the grid has become one of the most important things for a designer to learn. It’s the basis for creating clarity and making your type and layouts more cohesive. Plainly speaking, the typographic grid is an invisible two-dimensional structure made up of a series of intersecting vertical and horizontal axes used to structure content. The grid serves as an armature on which a designer can organize text and images in a rational, easy to absorb manner. It upholds the four basic principles of graphic design which are Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity. Check out the site called The Grid System (http://www.thegridsystem.org), for links and resources pertaining to grid systems. Or read the seminal book on the subject, Grid systems in graphic design by Müller-Brockmann. A blog post could be written on this subject alone.

9. Double Word Space After a Period – Remember when your grade school teachers told you to add a double space after a period? Well, forget it. Double spacing derives from the Victorian and typewriter days. It’s best to stay single. Unfortunately, the people who are supplying you the text usually don’t know any better, so it’s a problem designers have to put up with. In the meantime, use the “search-and-replace” feature of your software to eliminate unwanted double spaces.

10. Watch Those Rags – When aligning type on the right or left, the uneven or the ragged side of the text block should have good rhythm and be consistent. Make adjustments for the text to read properly and become more balanced. In Quark Xpress, for example, try to keep the tracking generally between +3 and -3. Only in dire circumstances should you exceed those numbers. The strategically placed shift-return will also help, as well as reduce hyphenation. Finally, remember to look out for widows at the end of a paragraph.


Author: Eric Swenson; Assistance by Will Lovell



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