Project 2 — Typesetting

Prompt: Using what you’ve learned to date (structure, hierarchy), your research, and the copy that you’ve developed, create a two-page spread that introduces the reader to the typeface you selected. Your goal is to employ one or more of the six principles of design — Unity/Harmony, Balance, Hierarchy, Scale/Proportion, Dominance/Emphasis, Similarity and Contrast — to develop an engaging and readable book spread.

In our next project, we were tasked with creating a spread introducing our respective fonts. To start, I first wanted to gain a deeper understanding of my typeface—to discover some of the proportions to the typeface, and see if it was designed using a grid.

From my research, I learned a lot about the evolution of type from print media to screens. Federo was remodeled from the original Feder Grotesk, a calligraphic font that was one of the first fonts in Jackob Erbar’s Erbar series—a revolutionary new set of geometric typefaces that were created to be purely typographical, easy-to-read, and developed from a circle. I thought it was really interesting to look at the different considerations that went into each, such as proportions and widths — since digital type has to exist on multiple screens and be readable in multiple environments, the type typically has a taller x-height and reduced stroke contrast. I discovered the evolution of geometric type — moving from creating type from calligraphy to designing using shapes.

Federo typeface

After some studying of the type, a few adjectives I would use to describe it are:

Contemporary, Bold, Academic

Federo was unique in the sense that it strictly followed the proportions of a 8x8 grid—for uppercase letters, arms of the letters were places 5/8ths from the baseline, for for lowercase letters they were placed 1/2 from the baseline. Curves on the glyphs started 3/8ths from the vertical, and diagonals in the letter hade a slope of 1/8th of the x-hieght. Overall, the type seemed relatively simple, but because of contrasts in line weight and the occasional diagonals in glyphs, the font seemed very contemporary and elegant.

I started my type experiments by looking at how other fonts paired with Federo. I wanted to see what fonts worked the best as a sub-header and body text.

Federo worked well header text—not only did it communicate what the font looked like, but it’s simplicity and contrast worked well when enlarged.

I decided that I wanted to use a sans-serif as my body text—sans serif text when paired with Federo made it seem as if Federo was an old and traditional font due to its elegant appearance; however, that is not the case, as Federo was a font recently created to adapt to the computer screen. Neue Haas Grotesk provided a good contrast in line weight when compared to Federo, and it was was the most readable when compared to other sans-serifs.

Next, I looked at different ways I could place the text in columns, and which method would be the best in working the readability of the body paragraphs.

Some things that I noticed were:

. One column text seemed to cause reader fatigue, and text would seem to go on and on—it could work if the text was enlarged to fill up more of the space.

. Three column text seemed too short and sporadic, I would want to read more to my text, but before I could get to the end a new line had started. It was as if someone was taking too many breaths when they were talking

. Two column text seemed to be the perfect middle ground. My eyes would not get tired, and I would have enough time to both “read and breath.”

Next, I explored a variety of quick thumbnails. I wanted to create a composition that best represented the qualities to my font—something that highlighted the typeface’s geometric nature as well as the adjectives that I selected to describe the font.

Designing a spread is different that designing a poster. Compared to a poster, a spread’s purpose is not to capture the reader’s attention from far away—rather, it is supposed to be as readable and legible as possible. As a result, color choices and composition should be used to aid the reader’s understanding of the (very small) text of a magazine spread rather than to draw the reader in and understand the (very big) text of a poster.

After this first set of explorations, I realized that I enjoyed it when the composition spread from one page to another. Not only did it seem the most visually interesting, but it also aided the visual flow—it provided an appropriate contrast to the stagnant text confined to columns and rows. I wanted to do more explorations with creating compositions out of the text, whether that be from using the glyphs, or warping the letters of “federo.”

Feedback from Maggie

Overall, Maggie enjoyed the compositions where I created images out of the type. Since Federo has many geometric relationships, I could easily piece letters together and find ways to align the letters. Thus, moving forward, I decided to do more work exploring how to create compositions out of the letters to best convey both the geometric nature of the type and many circles that exist within the glyphs.

Something that was really interesting that was how the sub-header text and body text should be paired together—when Neue Haas Grotesk at 10 pt font was paired with Federo at 18 points font, the x-height of Neue Haas Grotesk seemed to tall. When pairing two fonts together, if the body text x-height is larger than the subheader x-height, the body text may seem very big—taking away from the importance of the subheader. Moving forward, I would have to try to make the body text seem smaller.

Type explorations

Attempting create an image out of the letters in Federo allowed me to more clearly understand the geometric relationships that existed within the type. Letters aligned and fit perfectly together, and when curves were placed next to curved lines, they seemed pop out in the sea of straight, perpendicular lines. I decided to go with the image that was the tallest since it demonstrated how the grid-like strucuture of federo could extend very long and curves that exist within Federo the best.

Initial layout compositions.

When looking at the image created by letters, I enjoyed it when the letters filled up the page and even extend past it—not only did it create more interesting compositions, but when the type fit within the page, there seemed to be a very clear divide between one page and another. When the type filled and extended past the page, the font seemed very “bold” and also allowed the composition to flow “elegantly” from one page to another.

I did not know how to approach the fold of the spread a first. It seemed bold to extend past the page marker, but at the same time, it felt as if I should do something to acknowledge the fold—a change of color or avoiding the fold line. At the end, I made sure that there were no unwanted compositional elements created by the line of the fold.

Color explorations

Finally I began to explore with color. Knowing that I wanted to really highlight the elegance and simplicity of Federo, I wanted to use a color palette that was seemingly easy(2 to 3 colors), but very rich and full. Purple, blue, and green seemed to do this very well, but when being used a background color, it was easy to get lost in the emotional connections to each of the colors (blue = sad, red = angry).

Most effective color schemes

After experimenting with colors, I decided that a very rich green, purple, or orange was very effective in communicating a mood rather than an emotion. I wanted to continue to look at how to create a very elegant and luxurious color scheme.

Vicki + Maggie Feedback

In class we did a quick exercise where we generated a variety of ideas with respect to composition—a lot of people including myself were finding ourselves stuck in a place where we did not know how else to explore. As a result, Vicki encouraged us to generate quick thumbnails that represented differences in size, proportions, flops what we already committed to, as well as look at some different themes to explore how to approach the font (i.e history, cultural).

Something that I thought was really interesting was to explore my font through a historical context: I had been looking at some of the structural components of my font, and had not considered the history or cultural impact of my font. From this, I decided to explore how I could create a spread that represented how Federo evolved from Feder Grotesk: the story of the first geometric sans serif becoming a font for the computer screen.

However, although the idea was interesting, it did not provide me as much room to explore as aligning the text together to show proportional relationships—I liked the direction that I was going with exploring how to create an illustration with the text, and decided to stick to that route.

After talking to Vicki and Maggie, I learned how there could be more considerations to the scale and colors of my spread

  • Color Study: how can you better show sophistication/elegance? Green may be a little too dark—less contrast can provide a smoother transition
  • Read Check: make sure that the type has enough “breathing room” (tracking between the characters)
  • Continue to play with scale: type characteristics panel may be too big in scale.
  • Circle pop out too much against the background — looks decorative rather than showing emphasis to the typeface’s structure
  • Description placement may be awkward — results in eyes zig-zaging across the page.
  • Make sure that the sub-header text is softer to match better with body text

From this feedback, I wanted to explore more iterations of how I could:

  1. Utilize color better to highlight the sophistication and elegance of Federo
  2. Pair text together and look at leading and tracking to improve readability
  3. Better show structural proportions of the typeface through my illustration
Further color palette explorations

From these color explorations, I decided that I enjoyed a color palette that utilized green, pink and cream would be the most effective color palette—I thought that it best communicate the elegance and suave of my type. It was simple, but very relaxing and comforting to look at.

With regards to type choices, I did a bit more work to see how the differences in tracking and leading affected the readability of the text. Something that I had not considered before Vicki pointed it out was the tracking of the type—there should be a comfortable spacing between the letter when the type is small so the reader has enough room to “breathe”. Overall, I liked Proxima Nova as body text the best—it had more tracking between the letters and a smaller x-height, creating a nice contrast to Federo as the subheader.

Font pairing

To better show the structure of Federo, I continued to look at how I could show some of the geometric and grid-like relationships of my type through piecing the letters together.

Instead of using filled circles to highlight proportions, I moved to using a dotted stroke to point to how the glyphs would line up. However, a problem with this method was the dotted strokes seemed to be interfering with the type—due to the high contrast, it seemed to stand out to much, destroying the straight lines on the strokes of Federo.

When receiving some feedback from Jenny and Hayoon, I realized that I an issue of depth and complexity withy my composition—the illustration was very flat on the background. Jenny and Hayoon gave me a few pointers on how I could make the illustration look more dynamic by:

—Putting a frame around the illustration, it positions the illustration on the page.

—Arranging the illustration at an angle: it adds another level of complexity to the type. I thought that it also did a good job in helping the illustration seem more “illustrative”—when arranged at a perfect 90 degrees, it seemed to much like actual text. Viewers may attempt reading it, and becoming confused on what the type is saying rather than understanding the relationships created by the alignment of letters and negative space.

More color schemes

Working the rag of the text was a new concept to me. I didn’t know what an “organic” rag meant, and struggled with how I should manipulate the text to have the rag not look visually distracting.

When talking to Maggie, I learned that the edges of the type should not create any obvious relationships—shapes created by the edge could be visually confusing. In addition, em dashes should not be placed on the very edge of the text as it leads to blank space rather than the next word.

Spread for visitors on Tuesday

In the final critique there were many conversations about how we could use certain design decisions to inform the viewer about the emotions connected to the typeface, as well as considerations to the text with regards to rag, punctuation, and signals.

Design decisions:

  • Should symmetry be uniform throughout the spread?
  • Should the way that type is set reflect the font (the subject)?
  • Grids create continuity and rhythm through multiples pages.


  • Punctuation adds extra “breaths” when reading
  • No signals in the body text could signify that the text is a continuation of text from another page
  • What words do you want to keep together?

Something interesting that I noticed in class were the differences in methods that people took to handle the body text—some people chose to spread the text throughout their spread rather than to keep it on one page. Through this, the concept that when there is noticeable contrast on the page, and text that is connected is the same size, readers are able to make the connection that such text is connected and has a relationship.

Final Mockup

Overall I thought that the project was a really nice transition from the poster project—there was an added level of complexity with the large amount of text on the page and considering the legibility and readability of text. In addition, I thought it was really interesting to consider the different context that the user would be in when viewing a spread compared to a poster—rather than catching attention from far away like a poster, the main purpose of a magazine spread is to entice the reader to view the text. The same concepts of contrast, alignment, proximity, color, and scale —though seemingly simple—can be altered to design for a multitude of purposes and contexts.

When working on communications projects, something that I find myself enjoying is gradually finding constraints for myself that best communicate the purpose of my project—I enjoyed the process of understanding the history behind my font to understanding some of its unique characteristics to finding out a method that best highlights the proportions and geometric relationships in the typeface to experimenting with different ways to communicate this to finally choosing the method of communicating this by creating an illustration by aligning letters of the name of the typeface together. It is satisfying to look at a final project and understand the reasons why the certain design decisions are utilized.



Design Student @ Carnegie Mellon University

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