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Rosa J. Johnsen

Rosa J. Johnsen

A little book about typography rules and terms that every designer should know

Col ophon Published in 2016 by Blurb Copyright Š 2006 - 2016 Blurb

ISBN 890-0-7225-3487-8 Design and editing: Rosa J. Johnsen Typeset in Adriane Text My font: My Adriane Paper: Premium Matte Printed in Australia

A big thank you to all the awesome graphic design bloggers whom I have greatfully borrowed my content from.

from the very beginning of my studies in

When I started my education I didn't knew

graphic design I found typography extremely

very much about typography and did naturally

interesting and fun, but found out very

many rooky mistakes, but these guidelines will

quickly that it's very important to drill the

hopefully make you avoid the most common

most basics terms and rules of typography as

ones. All in all this book is about fundamental

early as possible. There is no doubt plenty of

concepts and terminology in words that you

golden rules out there, therefore I wanted to

can understand.

make this book about highlighting what I find the most important basic rules of typography.

typography is, quite simply, the art and technique of arranging type. It’s central to the work and skills of a designer and is about much more than making the words legible. Your choice of typeface and how you make it work with your layout, grid, colour scheme, design theme and so on will make the difference between a good, bad and great design. There are lots of typo-graphy tutorials around to help you master the discipline, but good typo-graphy is often down to creative intuition. Once you’re comfortable with the basics, visit some typography resources to investigate font families and discover some font pairings that are made for each other.

12 22 42

chapter one

Keep calm and learn the basics

chapter two

Terms of Typography (A to X)

chapter three

Do's and dont's

101 on typography


typographic characters have basic component parts. The easiest way to differentiate characteristics of type designs is by comparing the structure of these components.

basi ca na tomy Arm bowl ascender line Median


Baseline Descender line Tail

101 on typography








cap height


spur loop


t r a ck i ng leading Read more about tracking, leading and kerning on

page 20-21

k ernin g 101 on typography


101 on typography


T h e re ’s a n a s t o n i s h i n g a r ray o f p a i d - f o r and f ree fonts to choose f rom online, but with great power comes great responsibility.

just because you can choose from a vast library doesn’t mean you have to; there’s something to be said for painting with a limited palette, and tried and tested fonts like Helvetica continue to serve us well. A typeface, like any form of design, is created by craftsmen over a substantial period of time, using the talent and experience they’ve been honing for many years. And the benefits of a professionally designed font – various weights and styles to form a complete family, carefully considered kerning pairs, multi-language support with international characters, expressive alternate glyphs to add character and variety to type-setting – are not always found in a font available for free. Here are some of the most important typographic considerations designers needs to take into account.

101 on typography


rule no.

101 on typography



all typefaces are not created equally, some are fat and wide; some are thin and narrow. So words set in different typefaces can take up a very different amount of space on the page. The height of each character is known as its ‘x-height’ (quite simply because it’s based on the letter ‘x’). When pairing typefaces – such as when using a different face to denote an area of attention – it’s generally wise to use those that share a similar x-height. The width of each character is known as the ‘set width’, which spans the body of the letter plus a space that acts as a buffer with other letter. The most common method used to measure type is the point system, which dates back to the eighteenth century. One point is 1/72 inch. 12 points make one pica, a unit used to measure column widths. Type sizes can also be measured in inches, millimeters, or pixels.

101 on typography


2 Leading

Leading describes the vertical space between each line of type. It’s called this because strips of lead were originally used to separate lines of type in the days of metal typesetting. For legible body text that’s comfortable to read, a general rule is that your leading value should be greater than the font size; any-where from 1.25 to 1.5 times.

101 on typography


Tracking and kerning Kerning describes the act of adjusting the space between characters to create a harmonious pairing. For example, where an uppercase ‘A’ meets an uppercase ‘V’, their diagonal strokes are usually kerned so that the top left of the ‘V’ sits above the bottom right of the ‘A’. Kerning similar to, but not the same as, ‘tracking’; this relates to the spacing of all characters and is applied evenly.


Measure The term ‘measure’ describes the width of a text block. If you’re seeking to achieve the optimum reading experience, it’s clearly an important consideration.


Hierarchy and scale

If all type was the same size, then it would be difficult to know which was the most important information on the page. In order to guide the reader, then, headings are usually large, sub-headings are smaller, and body type is smaller still. Size is not the only way to define hierarchy – it can also be achieved with colour, spacing and weight.

101 on typography


101 on typography


Aesc (phonetic: ash)

A ligature of two letters –‘a’ and ‘e’. The aesc derives from Old English, where it represented a diphthong vowel, and has successfully migrated to other alphabets including Danish and Icelandic.


The constricted opening of a glyph, as seen in the letter ‘e’. Varying the size of the aperture has a direct effect on the leg-ibility of a letterform and, ulti-mately, readability.


The point at the top of a character where the left and right strokes meet. The example shown here is the top point of an uppercase a.

101 on typography



A horizontal stroke that does not connect to a stroke or stem at one or both ends – such as the top of the capital T.


The part of a lower case letterform that projects above the x-height of the font. Ascenders are important for ease of prolonged reading, though the combination of too much ascender-height and not enough x-height can cause problems.


The baseline is where the feet of your capital letters sit. Below this line are descenders and loops.


The shapely, enclosed parts of letters such as ‘p’ and ‘b’.


The beak-shaped terminal at the top of letters such as ‘a’, ‘c’, ‘f’ and ‘r’.


(as opposed to Unicameral) Bicameral refers to alphabets that have upper and lower case letterforms, such as Roman and Cyrillic – as opposed to the likes of Hebrew and Arabic.


A wedge-like shape that joins a serif to the stem of a font in some typefaces.

101 on typography


Cap height

The height of a capital letter above the baseline.


The job of adjusting point size and letter spacing in a bid to make text occupy its allotted space in a harmonious fashion.


The enclosed – or partially enclosed – portion of letter-forms such as ‘c’, the lower part of ‘e’ and ‘g’; easy to get mixed up with the bowl.

101 on typography



The crossbar connects two strokes, as in ‘H’. Not to be confused with the crossstroke that cuts through the stem of letterforms such as ‘t’.


These are typefaces that imitate handwriting. Ever popular with Joe Public, the design community is often less than thrilled by these sometimes flowery fonts.


The part of the letterform that falls below the baseline. In lowercase terms, this means ‘p’, ‘y’ and ‘q’, and sometimes applies to uppercase ‘J’ and ‘Q’.


Is it so critical that you might die? No. Diacriticals refer to accents applied to letterforms by languages including French, Czech and German in a bid to enhance the function of the glyph.

Display fonts

Any typeface intended to be used in short bursts can be defined as a display font. They’re often created just for use at large point sizes, as with headlines and titles.

Drop cap

This is an oversized capital letter often used at the start of a para-graph that ‘drops’ into two or more lines of text, but can also climb upwards.


Once known as printer’s flowers, dingbats are decorative elements that can vary from simple bullets to delicate fauna and flora often formed into themed collections.

101 on typography



A small stroke extending from the upperright side of the bowl of lowercase g, It can also appear in a lowercase r.


A ligature of the letters ‘o’ and ‘e’.


Often referred to as ‘Mutton’ to distinguish it from the very similar-sounding En, Em is a horizontal space equal to the current point size of text.

101 on typography



‘Nut’ to its friends, the En is a horizontal measure one half the size of an Em. That being the case, ‘lamb’ might have been more appropriate.


The eye is similar to a counter, but instead refers specifically to the enclosed part of the letter ‘e’.


A tapered or curved end, which appears on letters such as e and c.


A subcategory of, or the precursor to, the dingbat. Fleurons are floral marks dreamed up by printers of the past to help decorate text.


The HTML5 tag that brings typography to the internet with typefaces directly embedded in web pages.

101 on typography






Any singular mark that makes part of a font, whether a letter, number, punctuation mark or even a dingbat. Glyphs are the building blocks of typography.

Very similar to glyph, but possibly a bit broader. A grapheme is a fundamental unit of language, such as a Chinese pictogram, an exclamation mark or a letterform. Still with us in our guide to what is typography? Great! Because weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve got more terms coming your way!


The spaces between facing pages of, and very often columns of text.

101 on typography


In a paragraph of justified text, the contents are arranged so that there is no white space at the end of a line: each begins flush left and finishes flush right.

The art of adjusting the proximity of adjacent letters to optimise their visual appeal and readability.


Leading describes the vertical space between each line of type. In olden times actual strips of lead were used to separate lines of text vertically; the naming convention persists.


The ease with which one letter-form can be distinguished from the next. It feeds into but is not the same as readability.


The lower part of the letter ‘g’ is known as its loop or lobe. Sometimes called the tail – a term that also takes in the lower portion of letter ‘y’.


The lettered part of any marque or identity. The logotype can be taken separately from its graphic companion.


The conjoined but non-identical twins of the typographic universe. Ligatures pull two forms together to produce a new glyph.


Also known as the bishop’s fist (stop sniggering at the back), the pointing hand symbol is a popular dingbat.

101 on typography



Fonts in which every letter-form occupies the same hori-zontal space.


Designed by Microsoft and Adobe, OpenType supplanted and improved upon TrueType and PostScript fonts.

oblique or sloped roman To be distinguished from italics, in which the letterforms are purposefully drawn to be different to their upright cousins. Oblique letters are merely slanted versions of the standard roman form, often arrived at by mechanical means.

101 on typography



The first line of a new paragraph stranded at the bottom of a page. This is considered to be as bad as the name suggests.


One sixth of an inch in length, the pica is associated with line-length and column width. There are 12 points or 16 pixels in one pica.


The paragraph symbol, it now marks the presence of a carriage return but at one time is thought to have denoted a change of theme in flowing text.


Readability refers to the ease with which a block of text can be scanned by eye.


A standard typographical mea-surement equal to 1/12 of a pica or 1/72 of an inch.

101 on typography



A flare or terminating flourish at the end of a letterformâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s strokes believed to originate with the Roman tendency to paint letters onto marble before chiselling them out. Typefaces are often described as being serif or sans serif. The most common serif type-face is Times Roman. A common sans serif typeface is Helvetica.


The horizontal space to either side of a letterform, separating it from other letters.

101 on typography



The main curved stroke of a lower-case or capital S.


This is the inadvisable process of squashing or expanding a typeface digitally either to fit a space or for visual effect. If you do it, make sure you keep it to yourself.


A small projection from the curve of a letterform, sometimes known as a beak or a beard. G provides a good example.





A vertical, full-length stroke in upright characters.

The Type Directors Club is a typo-graphy organisation based in NY.


A type of curve at the end of a stroke. Examples include the teardrop shapes in: ‘finial’, ‘ball’, ‘beak’ and ‘lachrymal’.

The brilliantly suggestive name for the dot above letters ‘i’ and ‘j’.

The height of the lowercase x in any given typeface. This delimits the size of the glyph’s detail and therefore also of its ascenders and descenders.

101 on typography


101 on typography


Just like with any profession or discipline, design comes with some rules. while breaking design rules is allowed and even (in some circumstances) encouraged, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s important to at least be aware of the rules you are breaking so you can break them the right way. From typography to layout, right through to colour and special effects, this list runs through a few basic rules, tips, tricks and guides to some common errors and how to banish them from your design.

101 on typography


a typographic hierarchy can be established by using a variety of methods such as size, weight, color, and contrast. Its purpose is to give pages structure and guide the user through the content. Without a clear hierarchy the text becomes much harder to scan and therefore generally harder to read. Just take a look at the examples below. On the left the text is one size and one weight so itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hard to differentiate between headings and body text. Meanwhile, on the right, we have the same content but with a clear typographic hierarchy, so itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s much easier to distinguish between the different elements.

101 on typography


Dear Jane, you are invited to

Dear Jane, you are invited to John's 21st Birthday Party Come eat, drink and be merry with John as he turns the big two-three! Saturday, May 19th 7.00PM - 12.00AM 12 Street Road, Suburb Town RSVP by May 5th

John's 21st Birthday Party

Come eat, drink and be merry with John as he turns the big two-three!

Saturday, May 19th 7.00PM - 12.00AM 12 Street Road, Suburb Town

RSVP by May 5th

101 on typography


Somebody once said that if you truly hate someone, teach them how to recognise bad kerning. A shoddy kerning job is one of the cardinal sins in the world of design. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s an important skill to nail down early on. Kerning is the adjustment of space between characters. It doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t sound like much, but a good kerning job can make a world of difference. The ultimate goal of kerning is to ensure that the space between each letter is visually even to make for a neat and orderly piece of text.

101 on typography


This type is badly ker n ed.

This type is kerned well.

101 on typography


Developing some basic grid skills is probably one of the first steps any fledgling designer should undertake. A well-implemented grid is a bit like a fairy godmother, it can transform your design from something average to something clean, clear and effective. Grids come in many shapes and sizes and you can build them to be flexible, adaptable and to suit your design. It help designers align elements on the page in relation to each other which often produces a neater, more logical design. The fewer columns your grid has, the more uniform your design will be. Your elements may have a strong sense of alignment, but you wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have as much flexibility as you would with a grid with a few more columns.

101 on typography


Some elements stretch over a few columns and others remain within the set columns, allowing for a few different size text boxes and images without abandoning the alignment. Play around with a few different grids and find what works for you and your design.

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2 columns

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3 columns

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4 columns

101 on typography


Using a display font for body copy is a bit like wearing a ballgown to the supermarket – it’s not the right time or place, it can be confusing for others and it just isn’t a very smart move. Display fonts are fonts that are better suited to smaller areas of text, rather than body copy. They are usually a bit flashier than typefaces designed for body copy purposes, and thanks to this flashiness, they often better suit a short title, some-times a subheading, but never a bulk piece of text.

101 on typography


Since the typeface was designed with aesthetic value in mind, rather than legibility or readability, it gets tiring and tricky to read after a while. It is far better to balance it out with a typeface that is designed for body copy purposes, like ‘Georgia’. There’s a time and a place for display type, and body copy is not that place.

This is my title

This is a displayfont called "LeckerliOne" that doesn't work well within larger bodies of text. It's not readable at all and therefore a very bad choice.

This is my title This is a simple serif font called "Minion Pro" that works very well as bodycopy. As you see "Bakery" is still able to be used for tahe heading. Much wiser choice!

101 on typography


Just as you have a palette of colours, so should you have a carefully selected palette of fonts. Also like colours, certain fonts have certain ‘moods’ or ‘emotions’ associated with them – you probably wou-ldn’t use a curly calligraphy font for a law firm branding. A lot of designers recommend that 2-3 fonts should be a maximum in most cases to avoid overcomplicating the design. Try to choose fonts that complement each other and your communication to make for a logical and effective design.

101 on typography


Using lots of fonts can make for a design that is cluttered,

overcomplicated and just not very nice

But if you just use a small selection you can keep your design cleaner, clearer and just much easier to digest

101 on typography


Fonts are (most of the time) built with careful care and attention to the shapes and proportions of each letterform, so to distort this by stretching it can just take away from the effectiveness of the font. A lot of the reason people often stretch their type is they need it to be slightly taller or wider than it currently is. There is a solution to this that doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t involve distorting your type. With an endless supply of just about any kind of font you could ever want on the internet, you can play around with different type-faces that have that specific height and and shape that you're after in your design.

101 on typography


never ever

your type stretch


101 on typography


One of the easy-to-overlook errors that can happen when working with paragraphs of text is something called “orphans” and “widows.” The typographical lingo refer to words or short lines that appear by themselves at the top or bottom of a column or page of text, separated from the rest of the copy. It’s an easy fix: just manually change where the line breaks, or adjust line length or tracking slightly.

101 on typography


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Both of these represent poor design and should be adjusted so that they remain with the body of the paragraph or so that more of the paragraph is included at the top or bottom.

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101 on typography


Bi bl i ogra phy Intro, page 11: "What is typography?" Source: Quote on page: 14-15 "Typography is what language looks like" Ellen Lupton Chapter 1, page 17, 20-25 "Keep calm and learn the basics" "Choosing a font", "Size Matters", "Terms of typography" Source: Quote on page 40-41 "You have to know the rules before you can break them" A shorter version of Pablo Picasso's — 'Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist" Chapter 2, page 42-57 "Not Taking Care of “Orphans” and “Widows” Source: Chapter 3, page 42 "Do's and dont's" "Always use Hierarcy", "Don't forget to kern", "Always use a grid", "Never use display font for body copy", Never stretch type", Source:

101 on typography


101 on typography


Book "101 On Typo"  

A little book about typography for beginners.

Book "101 On Typo"  

A little book about typography for beginners.