Introduction to Typography
Whether you're a professional graphic designer or just find the written word interesting, you can benefit from learning about typography. Since expensive equipment like the printing press is no longer necessary to engage with the art of arranging letters on a page, typography is a skill that anyone with a computer can learn. In this guide, we'll cover some of the basics to help get you started.
Aspects of Typography
|Typefaces||Families of fonts|
|Point sizes||How large or small the type is|
|Line lengths||Measured in inches, points, or characters per line|
|Leading||Also known as line spacing|
|Tracking||Also known as letter spacing|
|Kerning||Adjusting the space between specific pairs of characters|
The 3 Main Goals of Typography
- Legibility: Each character is clear & distinct
- Readability: The body of text as a whole is easy to read
- Appearance: The end result is aesthetically pleasing
Where is Typography Used?
Anywhere you see words that have been printed or typed, principles of typography have been used to make sure the content looks good and is easy to read. Here are just a few examples:
The Power of Typography
Typography is the art of arranging and presenting printed or typed words. It's done to make text both readable and aesthetically pleasing. Not to be confused with "type design," which only deals with the creation of typefaces, the term "typography" mostly refers to the design, selection, and actual use of fonts in a publication.
Its history can be traced all the way to the invention of the printing press in the 15th century. The development of this technology is largely attributed to Johannes Gutenberg, a German Inventor. During the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, innovations were put in place to help speed up the printing process. This trend continued until the Digital Age, where the art of typography can now be practiced by almost anyone with access to a computer.
Aside from choosing a font, there are other aspects of design that typographers have to worry about. First of all, there's line-spacing, also known as "leading." This refers to the vertical distance between each line of text. Proper leading is important as it helps improve the readability of text, and it prevents certain letters from clashing with one another.
Next is "kerning," which refers to the space between a pair of characters. Some fonts may have what's called "bad kerning," which results in letters looking unevenly spaced. In cases like these, a typographer should either manually adjust each problem area, or just use a completely different font.
We also have "tracking." Unlike kerning, tracking refers to the overall space between each letter in a line of text. This is best applied on large bodies of text because it's often too tedious to manually kern each letter in, for example, a paragraph. This is also used to deal with "widows" and "orphans," which are terms used to describe a single word, or a very short line, left at the beginning or end of a paragraph.
There are three main principles of typography. The first one is legibility, which deals with how easy it is to distinguish individual characters from one another in a certain typeface. When choosing a font, a typographer has to make sure that certain letters cannot be mistaken for another. For example, in some script fonts, the letter "u" may look like an "n" or a "v".
The second one is readability. This one deals with how easy it is to read an entire line or body of text. Unlike legibility, which focuses more on the reader's perception, readability is all about comprehension. This goes hand in hand with the previous principle, because even if a typographer chooses a legible font, the actual text may still be considered unreadable due to poor spacing.
The third, and last one, is aesthetic. This deals with the overall appearance of the text. As a typographer, one should learn how to lay out elements in a visually appealing manner. One way to do this is by limiting the amount of fonts used in a single page.
Typography is used in all kinds of print and digital media. Generally speaking, it has the potential to influence how a reader thinks and feels. For example, an advertisement that practices good typography can convey a deep message with just a single word or line of text.
For websites, it's important to have a consistent aesthetic, especially since text plays a major role in web design. Most web designers recommend the use of only around two to four typefaces when creating a site. One should also make sure that their selected fonts are legible and displays correctly on other devices.
Comic books are a good example of media where the use of typography is heavily emphasized. Letterers, which are responsible for writing dialogue in word bubbles, also draw logos for the cover and "sound effects" in the comic itself. These are often made with custom fonts and are presented in a way that'll easily catch the attention of the reader.
Typography is a skill that every designer, especially those that work with a lot of text, should learn. Whether you're designing a webpage or a poster, knowing how to properly convey your message and evoke emotion through text can prove to be very advantageous for your brand. Even if you only work with text documents, just knowing the fundamentals of typography can go a long way.