Photo by Natalia Y on Unsplash

10 Ways to Alter Type

Take a source text and alter it ten times only altering a single feature at a time.

Task 1: Leading Only

Attempting to practice chunking I read the text to see common information. At first, I asked myself, “What would equal leading between sections look like?”

So I increased the leading to 25 in between chunks and I got this:

So then I increased certain sections of leading decided to prioritize each panel.

I think decided to increase the space around each talk a little more and to separate the panel from the rest of the presentations. I continued adjusting the leading until I felt like they were appropriately chunked.

This task was hard because I was resisting the urge to adjust the size, or the weight, or something else. I also knew that in a holistic approach I would want to take into consideration any background elements and typefaces used, but I was very happy with how this first typesetting exercise went.

Task 2: Horizontal Shift and Indentation

Okay, now we’re back to standard 20pt leading, and I can only indent or change the horizontal shift.

My first attempt was the result of me thinking “Okay, what if I adopt what I learned from taking notes in middle school?” That structure was a main point followed by supplemental points. In this case, level one would be presentations and each subsequent point would be time > presentation > speaker.

Then I worried about what would happen if the white panel didn’t read well. So I moved the timeslots back over. This felt a little easier to scan if timing was an issue

What about the title? Could I break that information up a little more? How about I balance it by horizontal indenting until it’s almost right-aligned without actually changing the alignment?

Wouldn’t work for a final product I was sending to a printer but works well enough for now to give the eye some breathing space.

What if I want registration to be its own separate point?

This felt like a good mix. If I could change the leading here I would increase space between each panel and make sure it took up the entire margin.

Task 3: Weight

There are 40 typefaces in the Myriad Pro Superfamily and I am allowed to use two of them.

For the purposes of this exercise, I assumed that the intent of this flier was to inform possible attendees of the content of the symposium. Keeping that in mind I thought the most important places to draw attention were the topics and the registration info.

First, I tried Bold and Light SemiExtended.

Looking at this, I wasn’t a fan of how the two families looks just different enough to be inconsistent. I decided to dial down the bold to semibold and use the semiextended version and liked that result much better

Task 4: Color

For this task I was allowed to use one spot color plus black. I decided to use a similar methodology to my weight exercise and prioritize the same aspects of the design.

For a color, since I couldn’t change the substrate, I wanted to make sure it had ample contrast. I also googled what cosmotechnics was so that I could try my best to match a color theme. Shades of purple tend to come up a lot in imagery of the cosmos so I started thinking about shades of purple.

So I picked a deep redish purple because I thought it had a celestial vibe that wasn’t a dark blue. The hexadecimal code for this number is #831645.

That looked like too much color though, so I reduced it to just the registration, type of presentation, and the symposium name.

Task 5: Leading and Point Size

Since I was allowed to use up to four point sizes I decided to look at this as heading levels. To me that meant that the title of the symposium was the most important thing (heading level one) and the types of discussions were second (heading level two). Last was the topics (heading level 3).

I decided on the following:

  • Heading 1: 24 pt
  • Heading 2: 20 pt
  • Heading 3: 18 pt
  • Normal Text: 14 pt

That looked something like this:

Note: the highlighted time above was not a change I made, it was just how I happened to capture this screenshot.

Once all the font sizes were changed I adjusted the leading accordingly referring back to my first task as a guidebook.

Task 6: Leading & Horizontal Shift

I really liked where my horizontal shift layout was going so I decided to pull that format into my sixth task. I adjusted the leading between each sections as follows and liked it enough that I left it alone for a while since I was pretty sure that I could see this as a default style on a webpage.

Task 7: Leading and Weight

For this one, I went back to the original weight exercise to see what I could manipulate the leading and I ended up with this:

Then I increased the padding a little bit:

Task 8: Weight and Color

For the weight and color exercise, I decided to bold my text from the weight exercise earlier and changed the color purple for a bit more contrast.

Then I remember that this was too much color so I set the presentations to just be bold black.

Task 9: Leading, Size, Weight, and Color

For this one I went back to one of my old leading exercises and tweaked it a little bit. I found it easier to instinctively change variables now even as they played off of each other.

I still struggle with color against white but I suspect it’s because I know instinctively that it won’t pass a color contrast analyzer check for accessibility.

Task 10: All Variables

For this one I did want to incorporate the horizontal shift in some fashion, so I went back to that exercise to see what went well before I started manipulating leading and weights. Then I proceeded to use elements from my other layouts including how I sized different fonts and how I applied the spot color.

Final Thoughts:

I learned a lot from slowing down and setting one variable at a time in the beginning and I think that process got easier the more I manipulated variables. At first, I found it frustrating but since I was able to play with and modify single variables it became easier to know what I thought would look good on the page.

See the full-resolution documents here.




a graduate student’s process blog where she explores: design, color, typography, and other nuances.

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Lauren Busser

Lauren Busser

Grad Student at NYU Tandon. Associate Editor for Tell-Tale TV. Pop Culture enthusiast. Writer with a dog. Knits.

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