The 5 Rules to Follow in Typography (and When to Break Them)

Nick Mann
Nick Mann
Jan 31 · 7 min read
Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

Typography is an easy skill to get into but tough to master. A lot of times it can even be frustrating about the different directions, testing, experimenting, outside the box, trends, and criticism. Full stop. Whether you are a type of dispute in Microsoft Word or InDesign, we are ready to lose sight of what makes good typography.

Now, with a design or other creative projects, you want to be thinking about the principles. You cannot do this. You cannot do that. You used this typeface. Like that of a double-spacing following, a period is a callback from days of typewriters. Sometimes you want to mimic this for specific many reasons, right? That’s all OK. Use that double space so you meant to. The problem with sweeping generalization for typography is the type this is involved with distinct usages. Typesetting for a book can be night and day difference from using type in logo design or web design.

A couple of basic typographic rules apply to many use cases. It’s what makes design principles such a strong foundation not only for learning but for breaking. Also to keep in mind that in conclusion, every design choice can be a judgment call. This is why ‘breaking’ the rules are welcomed, they create unique results to stand out from the rest.

So here are my tips for having a better use in typography:

Mistake 1: Forgetting your font combinations

For many, the most typical typographic errors come when a person is too careful to use a lot of different typefaces. /Stick to less or 2! /they say. Here is the thing: a few of the most intriguing, forward-thinking design comes from using a large number of typefaces.

To be fair though, the other side of the coin is that it takes some experience to do that, but it is not the hardest aspect either. While I don’t suggest using, the entire suite of Google Fonts in a project, there is no reason to restrict your typographic projects to only two fonts if you have a logical reason to do so. Among many aspects to consider, contrast, hierarchy, and the personality of your typeface options will go a considerable way in determining whether using multiple typefaces will produce the right results. Things such as typographic classification. Serif vs. Slab vs. Script, or weight, contrast, and size all have to be considered if you like to tackle an enlarged typographic palette in one job.

Mistake 2: Overlooking measure

The typographic measure is the length of a lineup of content in a block of text. When you are typesetting content, you need to make sure you’ve chosen a measure that is not only pleasing to the eye but also not distracts the reading experience. In conjunction with the whitespace you can allow inline spacing, your text measure is the main factor of readability.

A great starting place to test your text measure is with two alphabets values. Finding a comfortable line length that will determine all the variables. First of all, your typeface’s contrast, x-height, and width all come into play in determining the experience to your reader.

Chances are, you’ll need to get your hands dirty and finesse your typographic details while keeping in mind you’ll need to balance these functional aspects with the aesthetic direction of your typesetting. Font size, page sizes, column sizes, and baseline grids come into account as well. When it can become a little nitpick, spending some time to experiment with your types' measure will contribute to crafting blocks of copy.

Error 3: Shifting script letter spacing

Most designers enjoy a script typeface, they’re flowing, expressive, personal, and elegant grace that fits any whimsical brand. Well designed attached scripts are constructed so every constitute letterform easily interacts with the letters beside it. Sometimes, people disrupt the lovely contiguous stream of script fonts by altering the lead or messing with the spacing between a string of script letters.

Most frequently, this will result in gaps, particularly with lowercase script letters. This leads to a stilted visual appearance. It is the typographic equivalent of using a series, where only a couple of connections are closed; it’s clumsy, aesthetically questionable, and possibly even a danger to the end-user themselves.

To be fair, occasionally these unpleasant visuals aren’t an option, at least not an obvious one. Some design programs offer adjustment for kerning, where the application itself overrides the cautiously spacing designed for letter pairs selected by the font’s designer. This too might result in script typefaces getting jostled around and looking unsightly with cramped or openings. The moral of the story here is to be careful with creating spacing adjustments to connected script typefaces, and certainly, ensure you assess your design app’s kerning settings so you do not unintentionally set your scripts askew.

Mistake 4: Ignoring display glyph size & kerning

When you have a big honking piece of the type you are working with, some issues that are kerning will be huge in scale. What may look like a little adjustment between two letterforms in caption size will probably look like a mountain valley whenever you push them up to show dimensions. Knowing this, often you will want your typesetting to be a little more difficult for headlines, specifically for all those using capital letters, it will add a feeling of drama and may help decrease the more generous letter-spacing.

Second of all, there are characters that may be toned down a little once they’re used at larger dimensions. Think ampersands, currency signs, percent signs, at symbols, octothorps. Do not be afraid to drop them down by ten percent or 20% from the get-go if you know you will be setting them large. In fact, sometimes you may also get away with decreasing their size a little more so experimentation. Again, the person typeface and the weight you are using will dictate some alterations you make. Since symbols in this way are so unique, in contrast with the vast bulk of your layout’s other letterforms, a little can’t fight up to your reader’s attention so often.

Mistake 5: Stretching your own type.

Unless you have a reason to do so, avoid stretching your type at all costs. Typefaces are painstakingly designed with unbelievable precision to the interaction of the stroke of each letterform. Messing with a typeface’s natural proportions is comparable to the impact a mirror has on an individual, the final results might be goofy at best, however disjointed and unpleasant at worst.

Now, perhaps you unintentionally forgot to constrain proportions while you had been resizing a text component, which happens. No judgment there. But vertically or horizontally stretching kind just to fill the space is a successful practice. To be transparent, occasionally typographers will scale glyphs inside blocks of body copy with a few percentage points to help attain better spacing. But that is nearly invisible to the naked eye, along with the final results are worth marginally fudging the rules.

Again, this warning does not apply if that is the aesthetic you’re especially going for. Nevertheless, if you need your type to match a distance, make sure your typefaces come in a robust selection of weights and widths. Families arrive with varying extremes of condensed and extended widths to complement the regular embodiment of the typeface. Use these, in conjunction with the available gradations in weight, to assist your kind match with the space allocated. Factor by paying attention to a few details which will assist typographers easily discover the balance between beautiful blocks of a kind and the distance of the type.

Conclusion

Typography is not easy, but a rewarding experience to know the details in the devils. These tips are foundations to be applied but there are times I can see the rules being purposely broken, it’s that are you sure you want to intentionally break them is the real question.

If you want to work together on a design project, I am currently available at www.NickMannDesigner.com and sell a variety of motivational art prints at www.TyypoPrints.com

Nick Mann

Written by

Nick Mann

Freelance Web/Graphic Designer & Founder of TyypoPrints, Motivational Art Prints for Your Home & Office. @MannDesigner www.NickMannDesigner.com

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