November 8, 2015

What is Typography?

In its most simple form, typography is the art and technique of displaying type.

A sound understanding and application of typography is an essential factor in any successful website design or print project. Typography is much more important than just choosing a typeface and ensuring the words are legible.

There are many factors that contribute to typography, including typeface choice, color scheme, theme, layout and so on. All of these elements combine to produce an experience that is either easy for the viewer to read and understand or not.

Good typography is based on rules, values, creativity and a lot of intuition. These rules are intended as a base for typography and a skilled designer knows where and when to adhere, bend and break them.

Choosing a typeface

There are millions of typefaces available for use but don’t be fooled. A high quality professional typeface is always your best option. Before we go running off into the decorative sections of our typeface library, let’s think about what we will need. What is an appropriate typeface for the intended purpose? When we are dealing with body copy its important to ensure it is easy to read. As a general rule, sans-serif typefaces are the easiest to read because they do not have the small decorative flourishes on the letters like serif typefaces do.

Font size

The size of your font is just as important as the category of typeface. In print, the most comfortable size for reading body copy is between 10 and 12 point. Anything smaller than this is too hard to read and anything larger takes up too much space and can be cumbersome to focus on. Online, the most appropriate sizes are between 14 and 16 pixels. It is important to note that not all typefaces were created equal. Some typefaces are larger and some are smaller. Be ready to adjust your text size accordingly.

Line spacing

Line spacing is the vertical distance between your lines of copy. The general consensus regarding line height from typographic literature and online resources is the 1.5 value rule.

Copy font size x 1.5 = Line height

Show a clear hierarchy

A well developed hierarchy will not only look great, it will clearly indicate to your viewers the order in which you wish them to proceed viewing your page. Different typefaces, fonts, colours and weights will help to develop your hierarchy styles.

Type color

Taking time when determining your type color is always wise. You need to think about how your color choice will look on different monitors and different devices. We have all visited a site when the type color is only a few shades off the color of the background – making it difficult to read. Dark text on a light background is your most common color combo to ensure readability. Light text on a dark background will also work but ensure you use this as a feature, not the bulk of your copy.

Type alignment

Left aligned, right aligned, centred and justified. Which do you use? It all depends on what you’re making. Left aligned copy is always your safe go to. Its easy to read and pleasant to look at. Use right aligned sparingly. It can create an interesting effect for headings or short sentences but will become uncomfortable to read across large amounts of copy. Centred copy is great for titles, sentences and short paragraph. Justified copy is easy to read and attractive and it also gives a formal feel to your content. Just watch the width of your paragraphs, if they are too small you’ll get big gaps between your words.

Typography is easily one of the most important features of any creative work and its unfortunately often overlooked. It may seem a laborious task to ensure your type is following the typography rules but I guarantee you, you’re more likely to increase your attention rate with correct typography practices in place.