Written By Adam Diestelkamp


June 17, 2011 | design

Typography, simply put, is the manipulation of type and letterforms, and it is an essential part of all design. In the past, the tools to manipulate and create type were limited and painstakingly slow. However, today these tools are available to the masses, opening up worlds of opportunity, but at the same time, cheapening the art of typography. The skillful use of typography can set a design on the next level, and  make the difference between a good piece and a professional piece. We have all had to witness logos and websites that cause us to cringe and cry out loud, but we have also seen the effective use of type create a powerful impact. 

This is the power of type. The power to attract, engage, and then compel. Unfortunately, bad typography can distract from the message and eliminate an opportunity to engage a potential customer. Good typography both effectively communicates large amounts of information and plays, perhaps, an even more important role of the bold communicator in logos and advertising. In the past, typography played a large role in print because of the expense and technology involved in using photography. Typographical design is in vogue yet again, but this time pervading web, television, and print and should not be ignored. Effective layout of copy will always be essential to good design, and using typography as the primary element for a design can be exciting and a very effective tool. There are a few things to keep in mind though when laying out copy and working with type that will help achieve the desired impact.

1) Keep it short

  • “Less is more.”
  • One of the biggest turnoffs is to be overwhelmed by swarms of letters. “Less is more” is incredibly true in this situation. Nobody will start to read the ever so important copy you have written unless you can draw them in with smaller bites. If you want someone to remember it, keep it short. 

2) Make it Clear

  • Visual Hierarchy
  • We are a very visually driven society, and we rely on visual cues to tell us what is most important. Keep your information clearly laid out by using the size, weight, and position of the type to quickly indicate the important elements. 

3) Keep it Sharp

  • Classy is still classy.
  • Unless it's signs for your yard sale, think twice about what fonts are used. On second thought, even if it is for a yard sale there are some fonts that should just never be used. Everybody has Brush Script and nobody wants to see it again. Good visual impact is not based on how crazy it looks or how unique the font is, but the wise use of complimentary fonts and visual hierarchy.

4) Make it your own

  • Customization
  • When branding, it should be unique. I should not be able to pull up my text editor and type out a logo. One of the neatest things to do is to build a logo or brand off a popular or common font, but to break it apart and create your own version of it. Doing this maintains the elegance of the typeface but allows you to break away from the overused font itself. 

5) Type as image

  • Forget it is text.
  • When working with text as your primary element, think about it not as a word but as graphical element;  not as a paragraph but as a large shape. Think about the individual shapes of letters and how they interact with each other and the surrounding space. Take your type even further and use the letterforms and words to as individual shapes and elements of a larger object or image. If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much more is a picture made of words?


6) Attend to the details

  • Little things set you apart.
  • Paying attention to the small things will improve the overall quality of your design. Concentrate on the kerning (space between letters) in your titles and headings. Sometimes certain letters in fonts just do not fit well together and need to be adjusted to fit naturally, especially in many script fonts. Also, some fonts include alternate variations of characters that will fit better with other letters and help keep “hand-written” fonts from becoming too repetitive. When dealing with sections of copy, be careful if you “justify” your type, although it gives really nice straight edges it also can create little rivers of white through your block of text. You may need to adjust the tracking (space between words) or even the actual copy, to eliminate these. 


Remember, type is more than type, it is an image!


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