Typography exists to honor content. It’s an art that is often misused. It’s a craft by which the meaning of text can be clarified, honored, and shared. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with messages, typography must draw attention to itself before it will be read. Once you get the reader's attention, you must relinquish the attention it has drawn to ensure legibility.
The organization of letters on a page (or a screen)—this is the challenge for all those involved in creating marketing and communications materials. What font should you use? How big should it be? How should I align, space, order, and manipulate all those letters?
By following some basic guidelines, you can create typography that gets the reader’s attention and effectively communicates your message.
Sounds simple enough, but it’s amazing how many examples of bad typography you can find when you look for it. Typography’s task is to interpret and communicate the text. Its tone, tempo, structure, size, and color all determine its form. The typographer is to the text as the musician is to the score.
The typeface you use should match the design style of your publication. For body copy, serif text fonts are easier to read than sans serif. For headlines, there is virtually no difference in the readability.
This includes bold and italics of the same family, and make your choices count—avoid using two serifs that are similar. Use different fonts to create contrast and visual interest.
Nothing shows you’re a novice more than using double spaces between sentences; it’s a typographic crime that rolled over from the days of typewriters. You can do a find and replace if you’ve imported a document that is full of them.
All caps are much harder to read and should be used only for short phrases and words to create emphasis. The type will read like a graphic element—useful in creating hierarchy, but making legibility a challenge.
Newspapers use justified type in order to make columns easy to track, but can also create problems—rivers of white space and funky word spacing. Centered justification works well for headlines and short copy, but is much harder to read for longer passages of type. Right-aligned text may work for your layout, but can create legibility issues.
Once the design is complete, spell check all the text. First run spell check. Second, print it out and read it. There may be wrong word usage issues that your software program’s spell check doesn’t pick up. Third, keep a dictionary handy and use it.