Happy Hump Day!
There are many terms to learn about in typography which can be overwhelming when just starting out in design. Learning the language and using type terminology is a hump to get over in itself.
Sometimes I’m scared shitless of saying ‘counter’ when I mean ‘bowl,’ and vice versa. Why? I might get jumped on by the type community for not using the correct terminology (these two terms I mix up often). So imagine my anxiety when I start saying the word the word ‘orphan.’ Why? Because the two terms ‘orphans’ and ‘widows’ are interchanged from the time to time.
I had originally thought that ‘widows’ were those lonely words on the last line of a paragraph and that ‘orphans’ were the lonely lines of a paragraph at the start or end of a column. However, when book designer Shannon Losorelli-Doronio started teaching with us, she learned it a different way and remembered them as “an orphan has no past; a widow has no future.”
I had no clue they were used so interchangeably. So I Googled the terms to get a straight answer.
And as I expected, there are four ways the internet defines these two terms. Here’s the full consensus.
By the way, no matter what their names really are, the agreement across the board is that both of these type crimes are still very painful to look at.
Who can stand the burden? Not knowing what is the correct term, the right part of the anatomy, or if you’re unknowingly committing a type crime! And after it is published to the world, what if the design community will troll your logotype on Twitter, laugh at your layout or worse, have absolutely no response? (((crickets)))
Perhaps this is part of the apprehension with learning typography.
I can understand. In 1999, 18 years ago, I was teaching interactive and motion design at a local university and I believed that learning typography was a dream.
Not the pie-in-the-sky kind of dream, where it’s something you are reaching for… the dream I’m talking about is when you think you either ‘got’ it as a designer, or you don’t. And I didn’t.
I believed that I didn’t have the talent to design, but I knew it when I saw good design, so I was hoping to figure how to get there over time.
And I was teaching design! Ugh. I was able to spot true talent in my students, but couldn’t distill or explain what made something ‘look good,’ or how to help those who weren’t doing so well, other than to explain the basic design principles.
And then in 2003, Michael asked me to partner with him to begin a design firm. We took on annual report and identity design work and with my multimedia skills (that’s what you used to call it back then), sold an interactive or motion element on top of most jobs.
Anyhow, through working with him I learned a LOT about good type, because he taught me how to see graphic design from an engineer‘s perspective. And, after 10 years of working with Michael, I learned his methodology and was able to design print comps alongside him in half the time it took when we first started Ramp Creative.
So I won’t sugarcoat this: learning typography isn’t instant, nor is it easy.
But it can definitely take longer if you try to wander your way through books and YouTube tutorials about what makes a page effective and create results for clients.
I know, because it took me 18 years to ‘get it.’
That’s why we built the TypeEd program in 2013. To use the typographic approach as a guide to not only help others understand what the fundamentals are but also how to apply them and why they facilitate effectiveness.
You can get a 15-week taste of intimately working with us through the JV and Varsity Team Programs (now open for enrollment). Our design mastermind groups are intimate and we teach you these principles through the application not on theoretical design pieces, but on your own work.
You won’t have to wonder, how can I apply this to my own work? We show you exactly how to do it. And it’s remote too, so you can participate from anywhere.
I hope you’ll join and learn with us, and I promise it won’t take 18 years.
P.S. Oh yeah, if you’re in the LA area, check our local calendar to join us for live in-person training.