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Katie Rothery Graphic Design Design Principles OUGD404 Fred Bates Type & Colour

A short book on what I think the 10 most important things within Graphic Design are.

Type & Colour

Type Origins


Font & Typeface




Readability & Legibility


Type Anatomy


Serif vs. Sans Serif


Colour Additive & Subtractive


Colour Contrasts


Partitive Colour







Font and Typeface

Type is the means by which an idea is written and given visual form. Many typefaces in use today are based upon designs created in earlier historical epochs, and the characters themselves have a lineage that extends back thousands of years to the first mark-making by primitive man, when characters were devised to represent objects or concepts.

In common usage, the words typeface and font are used synonymously. In most cases there is no harm in doign so as the substituation is virtually universal and more people including designers, would be hard pressed to state each word’s true definition.

The idea of communication can be traced back to near enough the beginning of human life on the Earth. Cave paintings that included symbols are a sign of communication and this has allowed us to discover history.

What is a font?

What is a typeface?

In traditional typography, a font is a particular size, weight and style of a typeface. Each font was a matched set of metal type, one piece (called a “sort”) for each glyph, and a typeface comprised a range of fonts that shared an overall design.

A typeface is a collection of characters, letters, numerals, symbols and punctuation, which have the same distinct design.

As more complex ideas needed to be recorded, written language became more complex as more pictograms were needed. Eventually there were over 750 individual Egyptian pictograms. Phoenician Characters

Cuneiform Tablets The phoenicians lived in the eastern Mediterranean in what is modern day Lebanon. They developed the basis of the modern Latin Alphabet around 1600 BC and formalised a system of 22 ‘magic signs’ or symbols that represented sounds rather than objects. The symbols could be put together in different combinations to construct thousands of words, even though the alphabet only contained consonants and had no vowels. Phoencian was written horizontally from right to left without spaces between words, although dots were sometimes used to denote word breaks.

Cuneiform uses a wedge shaped stylus to make impressions into a wet clay tablet and is the earliest standardised writing-system, which was developed in ancient Mesopotamia, the region that is now east of the Mediterranean from about 4,000 BC until about 100 BC. Early forms of cuneiform were written in columns from top to bottom, but later changed to be written in rows from left to right. With this change the cuneiform signs were turned on their sides. Cuneiform began to die out as other language systems such as Aramaic spread through the region in the 7th and 6th centuries BC, and as the use of Phoenician script increased.

The Roman Alphabet The 26 letter Roman alphabet that we use today was formed from the Greek alphabet and spread through the Roman empire. Uppercase letters derive directly from the forms carved in stone by the Romans, which serve as a basis for many modern day typefaces and from where we get the name Roman.

Hieroglyphs Hieroglyphs are a pictogrammatic writing system developed by several cultures including the ancient Egyptians and Incas. Each pictogram represents an object such as an animal, tool or personrather than vocal sounds. In Egypt, they were developed by scribes to record the possessions of the Pharaoh, by drawing a picture of a cow or boat for example.


The mid-1970s saw all of the major typeface technologies and all their fonts in use: letterpress, continuous casting machines, phototypositors, computer-controlled phototypesetters.

Brief History Type foundries have cast fonts in lead alloys from the 1450s until the present, although wood served as the material for some large fonts called wood type during the 19th century, particularly in the United States. In the 1890s the mechanization of typesetting allowed automated casting of fonts on the fly as lines of type in the size and length needed. This was known as continuous casting, and remained profitable and widespread until its demise in the 1970s. The first machine of this type was the Linotype machine, invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler.

Digital Type/Computer Font Digital type became the dominant form of type in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Digital fonts store the image of each character either as a bitmap in a bitmap font, or by mathematical description of lines and curves in an outline font, also called a vector font. Bitmap fonts were more commonly used in the earlier stages of digital type, and are rarely used today. A computer font (or font) is an electronic data file containing a set of glyphs, characters, or symbols such as dingbats. Although the term font first referred to a set of metal type sorts in one style and size, since the 1990s it is generally used to refer to a scalable set of digital shapes that may be printed at many different sizes.

During a brief transitional period (c. 1950s – 1990s), photographic technology, known as phototypesetting, utilized tiny high-resolution images of individual glyphs on a film strip (in the form of a film negative, with the letters as clear areas on an opaque black background). A high-intensity light source behind the film strip projected the image of each glyph through an optical system, which focused the desired letter onto the light-sensitive phototypesetting paper at a specific size and position. This photographic typesetting process permitted optical scaling, allowing designers to produce multiple sizes from a single font, although physical constraints on the reproduction system used still required design changes at different sizes. 4



Point Size

Point Size

The traditional system of typographic measurement utilizes two basic units: the point and the pica. The height of type is measured in points, and the width of a letter or a line of type is measured in picas. Point size is the height of the body of a letter in a typeface; originating in metal type, it was a slug of lead the typeface was set upon. The width of a typeface is measured in characters per pica. Pica Here’s why: the actual appearance of a typeface at a particular size varies with the size of its ascenders, descenders and x-height. Therefore, a design with a tall x-height and/or short ascenders and descenders will usually look larger than one with opposite traits.

A pica is a hair less than 1/6 inch, and contains 12 points. Picas are typically used to represent fixed horizontal measurements, most often column width. They are commonly used when designing newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and ads. Picas are designated with the letter p, such as 16p. For instance, the standard width for one column of text on a three-column grid on an 8.5” x 11” document is 14 picas and 4 points, or 14p4.

Point size doesn’t tell you everything about how big a particular typeface will actually look, select type size optically. That is, let your eye guide you, not the numerical value of the font. Repeat the optical decision-making process every time you change typefaces, whether it’s for subheads, captions, lengthy quoted passages, or another reason. This is especially important in text sizes, where readability is strongly determined by point size.

Point Size A point is equal to 1/72 inch. To be extremely precise, 1 point is equal to .013836 inch, so 72 points are actually .996264 inch. For practical purposes, this is rounded up. Points are the measurement most commonly used in print to indicate the size of type, as well as the space between lines, referred to as line spacing or leading. In some instances, points are also used to measure the width and depth of a column. Points are routinely abbreviated as ‘pt’; typographers and typesetters have traditionally specified a given type setting as 12/16, to indicate 12 point type with 16 point leading.

Dif­fer­ent fonts set at the same point size won’t nec­es­sar­i­ly ap­pear the same on the page. Times New Roman, 12pt Dif­fer­ent fonts set at the same point size won’t nec­es­sar­i­ly ap­pear the same on the page. Helvetica, 12pt Dif­fer­ent fonts set at the same point size won’t nec­es­sar­i­ly ap­pear the same on the page. Copperplate 12pt

Point Size Names

Choosing a point size he point system is still used today, although in digital type the original determining factors (ascenders and descenders) are not strictly adhered to. In print, 72 points equals about an inch. Does it then follow that all fonts set in 72 point look alike in size? Absolutely not!





Long Primer






Great Primer


2-Line Pica 2 Line Great Primer









Readability can be defined not on a letter by letter basis, but how he combination of letter are read within a larger body of text. In other words, readability is defined by the amount of effort one needs to make to read text, not single characters.

Legibility can be defined as the ability a human reader to read something without effort. It can depend on many things. Often, the size of font chosen restricts legibility. For our purposes though, legibility is discussed in light of typeface choice.

What is Readability?

What is Legibility?

Simple Letterforms

Legibility is concerned with how easy it is to distinguish individual letters. The simpler a type design is, the more legible it is. So why do lessthan-legible typefaces even exist? Because typeface designers love to create unique and distinctive designs, of course. While it is generally better to always choose a legible type, there are times when distinctiveness may be more important than legibility. For example, when selecting a font for a unique and distinctive company logo.

The simpler a letterform, the more legible it is. Sans serif types are generally more legible than their serif counterparts because they do not have any serifs interfering with the shapes of the letters. However, this does not mean that sans serifs are necessarily easier to READ in text. Actually, serif types are generally considered MORE readable. The exception to this rule is on-screen. Because of onscreen distortion, sans serif is the best choice for readability.

This leaves plenty of space for each line in large blocks of text to be read. As with line length, too much or too little space between lines, can make comprehension difficult.

We talk about readability a lot when it comes to design. But readability, and readable or legible text, are not quite the same thing. If someone can make out letters, text is considered readable. That does not mean, though, that words are necessarily easy to read or comprehend; they are just decipherable.. Readability also factors in the words themselves and how easy they are to comprehend and understand.

Hyphenation and Word Breaks One of the most irritating things to come across as a reader is a giant hyphen in the middle of a headline or a subhead that spans three or four lines deep. Pay particular attention to these details when setting type because they can be both aggravating to readers and difficult to comprehend. A few hyphens are acceptable in large copy blocks, but consider setting a limited number of hyphens per paragraph.

Line Length Lines of type, especially in large blocks, that are too long can cause the eyes to tire and make reading difficult. Line that are too short often result in awkward breaks. If hyphenation is used, short lines will also result in many hyphenated words, which can also break up the flow of reading.

Alignment Whether text is in the center, to the left, or to the right side of a document or screen, is also important and can greatly impact readability. Generally speaking, the strong alignment for text is left-aligned. Left alignment works because it mirrors the way you read – from left to right. You know where each line ends and where the next begins.

Where you want text to fall is somewhere in that happy medium. Text should be large enough to read with ease, but not so large that it causes odd pauses or breaks in reading. Space and Contrast Space and proper contrast are key components when it comes to readability. Lettering must live in its own space – not share with other lettering or images – and the color of text and the background must be different enough to be distinguishable.

Right and justified alignments can be the most difficult to use. Right alignment is best reserved for small blocks of text, such as big quotes or artistic text elements.

As with line length, space between lines is important. It is recommended that the space between lines of type (called leading) is at least equal to the point size of type and most digital designers opt for a minimum of 150 percent of text size.

Centered text, while popular, does not lend itself to readability. It can work for small text blocks but should not be used for more than a few lines.


Display vs. Text Some typefaces were designed to be used large, such as in headlines. Usually these typefaces are less readable at smaller sizes and should not be used for body copy. These are called display faces. Other typefaces are designed specifically to be used in large areas of smaller body copy. X- Height Another characteristic to note is x-height. This typically applies to using type at body text sizes. The x-height is, well, the measurement of the height of the lowercase “x” in a given font. It doesn’t take into account the height of the ascenders or descenders. You may be surprised to know how much difference there is in x-height from one face to another. When used small, typefaces with larger x-heights are typically more readable. Large Counters The negative space within a letter is called a counter. When a typeface has large counters, it is easier to distinguish the shape of each individual letter.






Typographical characters have an array of attributes and forms that are described through a variety of different terms, in much the same way as the different names for every part of the human body. Ascender



Any part in a lowercase letter that extends above the x-height, found for example in b, d, f, h, k, etc.

Typically found on the lower case ‘g’, an ear is a decorative flourish usually on the upper right side of the bowl.

In typography, a serif is a small line attached to the end of a stroke in a letter or symbol, such as when handwriting is separated into distinct units for a typewriter or typsetter.

Axis Eye


An imaginary line drawn from top to bottom of a glyph bisecting the upper and lower strokes is the axis.

Much like a counter, the eye refers specifically to the enclosed space in a lowercase ‘e’.



The curved part of the character that encloses the circular or curved parts (counter) of some letters such as ‘d’, ‘b’, ‘o’, ‘D’, and ‘B’ is the bowl.

The part of a letter known as a finial is usually a somewhat tapered curved end on letters such as the bottom of c or e.

The stem is the main, usually vertical stroke of a letterform excluding any serifs.




The bracket is a curved or wedge-like connection between the stem and serif of some fonts. Not all serifs are bracketed serifs.

Much like a counter, the eye refers specifically to the enclosed space in a lowercase ‘e’.

In typography, the descending, often decorative stroke on the letter ‘Q’ or the descending, often curved diagonal stroke on ‘K’ or ‘R’ is the tail.

Loop Counter In a double-storey ‘g’, the loop is the enclosed or partially enclosed counter below the baseline that is connected to the bowl by a link. The enclosed or partially enclosed extenders on cursive ‘p’, ‘b’, ‘l’, and similiar letters are also called loops.

The enclosed or partially enclosed circular or curved negative space (white space) of some letters such as d, o, and s is the counter. Crossbar

Overshoot The (usually) horizontal stroke across the middle of uppercase ‘A’ and ‘H’ is a crossbar.

In typeface design, the overshoot of a round or pointed capital letter (like O or A) is the degree to which it extends higher or lower than a comparably sized “flat” letter (like X or H), to achieve an optical effect of being the same size.

Descender Any part in a lowercase letter that extends below the baseline, found for example in g, j, p, q, y, etc. Some types of descenders have specific names. 9

The curve at the beginning of a leg of a character, such as in an “m.” Stem

Terminal The end (straight or curved) of any stroke that doesn’t include a serif.



Serif vs. Sans Serif

Serif vs. Sans Serif

There is an ongoing debate among designers – both print and digital – about what makes an ideal typeface for a project. The debate almost always breaks down to a single question: serif or sans serif? Serif

Examples of Serifs’

Sans Serif

Examples of Sans Serifs’

In typography, a serif is a small line attached to the end of a stroke in a letter or symbol.

Old Style


(The Adobe Garamond typeface, an example of an old style serif)

In typography, a sans-serif, sans serif, gothic, san serif or simply sans typeface is one that does not have the small projecting features called “serifs” at the end of strokes.


Sans Serif fonts are easier to read on the web

(The Times New Roman typeface, an example of a of a transitional serif)

This is because an important exception must be made for the web. Printed works generally have a resolution of at least 1,000 dots per inch; whereas, computer moniters are typically around 100 dots per inch.

Serif fonts are easier to read in printed works This is because the serif make the individual letters more distinctive and easier for our brains to recognise quickly. Without the serif, the brain has to spend longer identifying the letter because the shape is less distinctive.

Modern Classification (The Bondoni typeface, an example of a modern serif)

Serifs are used to guide the horizontal “flow” of the eyes; serifs are use to increase contrast and spacing between different letters and improve identification.

Slab Serif (The Rockwell typeface, an example of slab serif)

They are used for body text as it is more legible and less likely to cause fatigue.

(The Franklin Gothic typeface) Transitional (The Helvetica typeface) Humanist (The Tahoma typeface) Geometric


(The Futura typeface)

Sans serif is used for smaller text size as the fonts survive reproduction and smearing because of their simple forms. Sans serif is also used in schools as it is better for children learning to read since the simplicity of the letter shapes makes them more recognisable.

There are two types of serif fonts, organic and blocky.



Colour Theory

Colour Theory

Additive & Subtractive

Additive & Subtractive

The three primary colours that we all grew to know throughout our childhood are red, yellow and blue. Yet, as we have seen, the true primary colours of light-those that stimulate the receptors in our eyes-have been identified as red, green, and blue. The reason for the difference is that when we see the colours of a painting, we are not looking at light emitted at those wavelengths, but at light reflected from the surface.

When we mix colors using paint, or through the printing process, we are using the subtractive color method. Subtractive color mixing means that one begins with white and ends with black; as one adds color, the result gets darker and tends to black.

Additive Mixing (RGB Model)

Subtractive Mixing (CYM Model)


Red R+G=Y




Green R+B=C Blue


Magenta Yellow

R+G+B=White The primary colours are not the only colours that can be mixed of course. We can use prisms or coloured filters to produce any wavelength of light and combine it with any other to give a particular colour. Equally, we can mix paint colours and see what results. The reason for using primary colours is that if the proportions are right, we can accurately produce any colour within the visible spectrum.

Above: When working with emitted light, colours can be mixed from the three primary colours to which our eyes respond: red, green and blue. The diagram shows the theoretical results with yellow, magenta, and cyan produced as secondary colours where two primary colours are equally mixed, and white as the result of mixing all three primary colours at full strength. Note that what we mean by “white� is neutral gray, which seems lighter when more illumination is present (or when the contrast between the illuminated area and its surroundings is greater)

Instead of pigments that absorb a certain primary, we use pigments that only absorb a certain primary. Starting from white (the assumed colour of our canvas), we can reverse the additive process by applying more pigment, subtracting more of each primary, until we finally reach black. The colours that absorb the primaries are their complements. Cyan (a blue-green colour) absorbs red; magenta (a pinkish colour) absorbs green; and yellow absorbs blue.

Above: Cyan pigments absorb only red light, magenta only green, and yellow only blue, so we can use these colours to mix reflected light as purely as possible. Modern colour printing uses these primaries.

In mechanical colour printing cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) are now used as primariesto generate a broad spectrum of colours.



Colour Theory

Colour Theory Colour Contrasts

Colour Contrasts

Johannes Itten was one of the first people to define and identify strategies for successful color combinations. Through his research he devised seven methodologies for coordinating colors utilizing the hue’s contrasting properties. These contrasts add other variations with respect to the intensity of the respective hues; i.e. contrasts may be obtained due to light, moderate, or dark value.

“The real meaning of form is made clearer by its opposite. We would not recognize day as day if night did not exist. The ways to achieve contrast are endless: the simplest are large/small, light/dark, horizontal/ vertical, square/round, smooth/rough, closed/open, coloured/plain; all offer many possibilities of effective design.” Jan Tschichold, Typographer “The New Typography”

The contrast of saturation

The contrast of light and dark

The contrast of extension

The contrast is formed by the juxtaposition of light and dark values and their relative saturation.

The contrast is formed by the juxtaposition of light and dark values. This could be a monochromatic composition.

Also known as the Contrast of Proportion. The contrast is formed by assigning proportional field sizes in relation to the visual weight of a color.

The contrast of compliments

Simultaneous contrast

The contrast of hue-primaries

The contrast is formed by the juxtaposition of primary hues.

The contrast of warm and cold

The contrast is formed by the juxtaposition of hues considered ‘warm’ or ‘cool.’

Colour Contrasts

The contrast of hue

Yellow Green Yellow

Yellow Orange Orange


Red Orange

Blue Green

The contrast is formed by the juxtaposition of color wheel or perceptual opposites.

The contrast is formed when the boundaries between colors perceptually vibrate. Some interesting illusions are accomplished with this contrast.

The contrast is formed by the juxtaposition of different hues. The greater the distance between hues on a color wheel, the greater the contrast.


Blue Red Blue

Red Violet Violet

“When we survey the characteristics of color effects, we can detect seven different kinds of contrast… Each unique in character and artistic value, in visual, expressive, and symbolic effect; and together they constitute the fundamental resourse of color design.” Johannes Itten,

Colour Theory Partitive Colour Simultaneous contrast affects our perception of black and white images: a midgray object will look darker on white background than on a black background. Its effect on combinations of black and white with colours is slightly more complicated: not only will a given red, for example, look brighter on a black background; it will also appear warmer. A special case of additive color mixture presents a confusing paradox for some readers. In partitive mixture, an image composed of small, separate but closely crowded color dots or pixels are fused by the eye into a visually smooth or continuous color area. Thus, the text and every image in this web page are generated on your color monitor as thousands of tiny RGB lights that are blended into color by partitive mixture.

Red on Black

Red on White

Red on Cyan

On a back background, a field of red appears hot and vibrant with clearly defined edges.

The red colour appears duller againest a white background. Observing the effects colours have on each other is a starting point for understanding the relativity of colour.

Here the red colour looks briliiant againest the cyan background, but the red square looks somewhat smaller than on the black background.

When colours are combined with each other, all sorts of interactions are set off (simultaneous colour contrast), and the impression generated by the colours within an image can be highly unpredictable. The same colour used in different positions, for example, may look completely different as a result of being juxtaposed with other colours. Once these effects are understood, they can be harnessed to create an intensified colour experience, giving the impression of vibrant or luminous colour;or they can be deliberatley canceled. Because simultaneous contrast operates only in a small area around the division between two colours, the effect can be reduced or removed altogether by seperating the colour fields with a black or white outline. A more subtle way to prevent unwanted interactions is to identify which is the weaker colour of the pair and add a small amount of the others colour’s complement to it. By second guessing the brain’s response in this way, the artist is able to regain control of colour perception and produce a more predictable impression.

Another way to expolit colour interactions is partitive mixing. Instead of mixing pigments together before applying them to the canvas, the artist places fine dots or stripes of carefully chosen colours to create the impression of a new colour, which is mixed in the eye/brain rather than on the canvas. The process is a pseudoadditive one, since it attempts to combine the colours reflected by the pigments rather than combining the colours absorbed. Partitive colour is something we’ve all seen before. We see it in printing when printers use coarse screens and it’s the basis behind the short-lived pointillism movement in painting from the 1880′s. Also known as retinal mixing, it’s what happens when you look at small points of pure colour blended with other points of pure colour. Your eyes create the intended colour by optically mixing.


‘The whole world, as we experience it visually, comes to us through the mystic realm of colour’ Hans Hofmann

Red on Brown

Red on Magenta

Red on Magenta

As increasing amounts of magenta and yellow are added to the background colour, the red square begins to appear more and more lifeless.

When the red square is placed on a 100% magenta background, the tweo shapes become less and less distinguishable to the eye as distance increases.

On a yellow background the red stands out more as the yellow is lighter and this makes the red more vibrant.


Colour Theory RGB & CMYK As a designer, it is essential to know when to use CMYK: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (In the printing press days when plates were being used the black plate was typically call the “key” plate because it carried the important key information relating to the artistic detail.), and when to use RGB: red, green, blue colors on projects. A good rule of thumb is anything dealing with the web should always be in RGB and printed material should be in CMYK. RGB or CMYK?


The color systems used by scientists and artists are entirely different. An artist will mix blue and yellow paint to get a shade of green; a scientist will mix green and red light to create yellow. The printed page in a magazine is yet another system.

The CMYK color model (process color, four color) is a subtractive color model, used in color printing, and is also used to describe the printing process itself. CMYK refers to the four inks used in some color printing: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black).

It’s important to define the two different kinds of color that we see in the world as the first step in understanding color systems. First, there’s the color you can touch, such as the skin of an apple or a painted wall. These colors are part of the surface of an object. Next, there’s the color you can’t touch, such as a beam of red light and the colors produced by your computer monitor. Colors generated by light are part of one color system. The tangible colors which are on the surface of objects or on the printed page are another color system.


The “K” in CMYK stands for key because in fourcolor printing, cyan, magenta, and yellow printing plates are carefully keyed, or aligned, with the key of the black key plate. The CMYK model works by partially or entirely masking colors on a lighter, usually white, background. The ink reduces the light that would otherwise be reflected. Such a model is called subtractive because inks “subtract” brightness from white.


RGB The RGB color model is an additive color model in which red, green, and blue light are added together in various ways to reproduce a broad array of colors. The name of the model comes from the initials of the three additive primary colors, red, green, and blue. The main purpose of the RGB color model is for the sensing, representation, and display of images in electronic systems, such as televisions and computers, though it has also been used in conventional photography. Before the electronic age, the RGB color model already had a solid theory behind it, based in human perception of colors. 19


Design Principles  
Design Principles