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I n t e r n a t i o n a l

S c h o o l

Type &








Since the introduction of personal computers, desktop publishing and more recently the World Wide Web, more and more people have become accustomed to using fonts and working with type. With the increased awareness has come the need for the user to understand how to create good–looking, professional typography that emphasizes the message, typography that is pleasing to the reader, and that invites readers in and keeps them there. But if you asked anyone to explain what typography, readability or legibility was, many are unclear of its boundaries or possibilities. “Typography is concerned with the structuring and arranging of visual language. Type design is concerned with the creation of the units to be arranged, the characters which make up a typeface. Both type form and typography are designed to convey a message” (6, Baines and Haslam, 2005). This places typography as part of the discipline of graphic design. These terms have meant slightly different things at different times. How typography is used to convey a message is divided into two parts. The first concerns typography’s appearance or style. This can change with time or place, or designer and client. Secondary to this is the invisible role of reflecting inspiration of the designer in creating ‘art’. Typography: The mechanical notation and arrangement of language.

Typography surrounds us in daily life. It enables, guides and directs us with signs, timetables, commercial agreements, advertisements, promotions, receipts, bank notes, tickets and stamps and takes us on intellectual journeys through literature and poetry. Language, through type, envelops us in our environment. Everyday we wake to type, typography underpins our lives. From our first glimpse of an alarm clock, tuning the radio, the various brand–named products at breakfast, we are bombarded by typographic messages all vying for our attention - even before we have looked at the newspaper. Today type carries a multiplicity of messages in the most diverse range of formats. Some of the guidelines in this booklet are too time–consuming for many everyday jobs, and I don’t want you to think that unless you follow every suggestion here, your type will be inferior. But the key to creating good type and layout is knowing what the options are in the first place.

Approaches to Design

Legibility and Readability These two terms are often confused, and although they are related they are possible to separate. Legibility refers to the typeform, how easy an individual character or alphabet is to recognize when presented in a particular font. Readability encompasses both typeform and arrangement - how easily a text can be read. When designing a simple page of text, you need to make ten decisions: 1, typeface; 2, type size; 3, colour; 4, line length and horizontal space; 5, vertical space (leading); 6, alignment of text; 7, paragraph articulation; 8, column depth; 9, the position of text on the page; and 10, format. The typeface choice may be influenced by what is legible, what is available on the computer and by the nature of the text. Some typefaces are selected for historical reasons. But what really matters is that the text is readable and attractive to its intended audience today. Text typefaces (often regarded as being less than 14pt) should generally be rather modest: the idea is to read the words rather than notice the font. For a flyer, poster, websites or logos - you should choose something more attention-grabbing. Different kinds of publications have their own type size requirements. Books and magazines for adults are normally set around 8.5 to 10pt, but children and the elderly may need a larger type. When reading we do not read individual letters, or even individual words; the eye travels along each line, reading groups of words. In running text, the three factors which have the most bearing on readability are type size, line length and leading.

Lines of twelve words are considered optimum for easy reading. These lines contain only ten at best but because of the nature and brevity of the text, readability is not compromised. Very short lines are tiresome to read, especially if justified.

Longer lines can be made more readable by using more generous leading. The intercharacter spacing can be tightened, or opened out. This should be used subtly to improve the readability and look of text rather than to make it fill a predetermined space. Type and the Web Working with the web, the designer is faced with an environment which is less controlled than a print medium. In order to try and get some uniformity of appearance, web designers generally limit the fonts they use and use something from the sans serif font families (easier to read on a monitor).

Georgia Times Sans Serif, eg Arial Verdana Serif, eg

Vertical Space: Leading Leading is the invisible framework running vertically down a page, and together with type size and line length it has the greatest effect on the readability of a piece of printed text.

In the days of metal type the ‘leading’ was used to refer to the strips of lead which could be inserted between each line of type as an aid to readability and, to a degree, aesthetic effect. This example would have been described as 24pt type with 36pt leading. Leading is now used to describe the distance from one baseline to the next. Because type is now computer data and not a material object, it is possible to specify negative leading and to create a visual texture. There is a time and a place for effects like this, which draw attention to themselves and arguablby engage the reader more - although they make reading very difficult. The opposite effect is shown here with 70pt leading: far too much for these few lines: it

destroys the unity of the text.

Conventions Abbreviations

Column, page and paragraph endings

Common abbreviations such as Co, Inc, Rev do not need a full stop in most usage. Abbreviations for dimensions do not need a full stop, nor should they be pluralised. 51cm not 51cms

Never end or begin a column or page with a single line of a paragraph (the normal minimum is two or three lines), and try avoiding ending a paragraph with a single word. A single word is called a ‘widow’, and a single word at the top of a page or column is called an ‘orphan’.

In abbreviations for ‘volume’, ‘page’ and ‘circa’ a full stop without a space is used. Vol.III p.245 c.1997

UK and US usage differs slightly, we will use the British format

The abbreviations for ‘that is’ and ‘for example’ can look untidy if used with full stops; a neater alternative; ie not i.e. eg not e.g.

Dates 15 January 1954

Decimal Points 78·5cm not 78.5cm

Quantities and Monetary Units

Ampersand The abbreviation for ‘and’ is usually confined to lists, where it saves space, and in company names. Lavers & Barrack

When dealing with quantities it is usual to indicate thousands with a comma:

1,000 not 1000 When dealing with monetary units, figures must be aligned right and on the decimal point.

Apostrophe This is used to indicate that a word is possessive or that a letter is missing. It’s Fred’s picture on the cover page

Hyphens Hyphens are useful to avoid ambiguity in a sentence. It is used to join two words that would not normally go together. eg mid-morning

Brackets An afterthought, a subordinate clause and references can be contained within round brackets. cast in stucco (1, 2 & 3) or carved

$1,456·09 $45.00

Hierarchies Most pieces of information have some sort of hierarchy which needs to be articulated clearly.

The use of capitals is a complicated issue. The rule in English is that all proper names should begin with a capital. Words like ‘the’, ‘and’, ‘of ’, etc., should be lowercase in titles.

CAPITAL LETTERS no tracking: cramped CAPITAL LETTERS with tracking: elegant With titles over several lines, care should be taken with leading to make sure the space between the lines looks larger than the space between the words.


Heading Level 2 (Helevtica, bold 14pt) Heading Level 3 (Helevtica, bold 10pt)



Q: Do Initial Capital Letters Really Make Headings Clearer? A: No, initial capital letters do not make headings clearer. When setting text in all capitals some adjustment needs to made to their spacing - using tracking - to avoid the letters looking too crowded.

Heading Level 1 (Helevtica, bold 18pt)

P A Baines not P.A. Baines

Qualifications Catherine Dixon PhD

Italics Italics originated as typefaces in their own right but modern–day practice sue them in 3 main ways: 1. They denote the titles of artistic works, whether books, newspapers, paintings or plays:

He reads the The West Australian daily

2. They indicate foreign words and phrases:

but ate en route today

3. They can also denote a particular tone of voice, but can be irritating if overused:

now that was a surprise.

Good design is as easy as...

1 2 3

Learn the principles. They’re simpler than you might think Recognise when you’re not using them. Put it into words - name the problem Apply the principles You’ll be amazed

Serifs v sans serif fonts

Serif typefaces are more legible in print than sans serif faces. This is because the serifs give the eye a place to stop and we recognise the shapes of letters. Body text set entirely in a sans serif typeface can make for a dull and attractive reading – the page is all of one “colour”, with nowhere for the eye to rest. This monotony can be avoided by using various devices in the setting of the text – using subheadings, breaking paragraphs, adding graphics, etc – to break up the text.

Background Tint Reading white type on a black background is more difficult than black on white, although small quantities can be used in an attractive way to draw the eye to a display.

Emphasizing Type Every page of type contains at least a few words or headlines that need to stand out, either because they are important content, or perhaps the words need a visual interest to attract the reader. No matter what the reason, there are appropriate and inappropriate ways to call attention to particular words.

DO NOT USE UNDERLINE The inappropriate ways of emphasizing certain words or phrases are generally holdovers from using typewriters, when our only options were to type words in ALL CAPS or underline them. Rarely should you use all caps, and never, ever use underlined words in paragraph text. When words are set in all caps, we lose recognition of the shape of the word and are forced to read the word letter by letter.

Italic, not underline Typewriters, obviously, could not type in italic, so an underline on a typewriter was meant to fake an italic; that’s why you were taught to type book titles with underlines, and why you underline words in mid– paragraph when you want to emphasize them. But on a computer you have true typesetting choices–you don’t have to fake it anymore, you can actually type in italic. Besides, the underline is usually too close to the bottoms of the letters and actually cuts the descenders (strokes of letters that fall below the baseline). Also, underlining an italic word is simply redundant.

But you can do this You have other options for emphasizing type that will create a more sophisticated look, as well as help in the organisation of information. Using italic instead of an underline, where appropriate, is one way you can emphasize text in a subtle way. Another stronger way is using bold or bold italic.

Alignment The alignment of your text plays a vital part in the look and the readability of your work. Left aligned is the most readable. Text aligned to the right creates a definite look. When you justify text, the computer program forces the lines to extend to a certain length by adding or deleting space between the words, and sometimes between the letters. The greatest problem with justified text is the uneven spacing, which is visually disturbing and interrupts reading.

Style Sheets Using style sheets not only makes your job easier but gives your documents a consistent look. Another goal is to enable the user to spend more time writing and less time formatting. To apply the styles, click in the paragraph or select the text you want to change. Then select a style from the Styles group. You can override all style formats. For example, after applying a style, you decide to modify the font size. Simply select the text and make the change. If you want to save your changes for future applications of the style, right-click the style, choose Styles in the shortcut menu, and then choose Update Style Name to Match Selection.


Baines, Phil & Haslam, Andrew, 2005, Type & Typography, Laurence King Publishing, London. Williams, Robin, 2008, The Non-Designer’s Design Book, Peachpit Press, Berkeley.

Type and Typography  

A guide to style and conventions in type.

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