5 Things Every Graphic Designer Should Know About Typography

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Text is as important to a graphic design project as images and colors. Typeface styles impact the look and feel of the finished work, and font sizes influence the readability of the content. These five tips can help you polish your typography skills and create beautiful text that enhances your designs.

Avoid Typeface Overload

Try to limit the number of typefaces in any given project to two or three. Too many different styles creates visual confusion and makes it hard for readers to focus on the content. Having one typeface for headlines or headers and another for the body is often enough, but a third style is acceptable if you’re working with a lot of subheadings. Choose typefaces that share relatively similar sizes and shapes to maintain a balanced look. Letter heights should also be comparable so that no text on the page appears to tower over or shrink behind the rest.

Proper Spacing is Essential

Several important typographical concepts work together to create proper spacing in graphic design:

• Leading is the space between lines of type in a body of text.
• Tracking refers to the space between words.
• Kerning balances the space between letters.

The correct use of these elements promotes the flow of text by ensuring that type doesn’t appear too dense or crowded. Space for leading should be an average of 3pt larger than the font size. Kerning and tracking should leave enough room between letters and words so that the text is readable but doesn’t appear to be floating apart.

Use Size and Structure to Enhance Readability

All text should follow a consistent scale for size to create a visual hierarchy that draws the eye from one section to another. Making headers two to three times larger than body text separates them as important. Body text size should be determined by what is easiest for your target audience to read. Also consider whether or not your design will be viewed on a mobile device and how that will affect the way the text displays. The length of lines, called the measure, is important here since it creates a distinctive rhythm in the way text is read.

Create Balance with Contrast

A design with too little contrast appears bland and is often hard to read. Too much contrast, on the other hand, can strain the eyes. Getting the balance just right requires testing different forms of emphasis. Bold text makes headlines and important words stand out, but the same thing can be done with color if that looks better in the design. Highlight only those elements that need to stand out, and keep color choices to a minimum. Use the regular typeface for the rest of the text.

Set the Mood with Style

Think of typeface as the speaking voice you’re using to convey the message within your design. Tranquil designs should use text that creates the impression of murmuring or whispering. If your message needs to be shouted, choose a typeface that mimics the effect of a bullhorn. This is another place where color can make a big difference in the way content is perceived. Using bold colors and striking contrast conveys a feeling of importance and immediacy. Softer tones invite readers to take their time and absorb the message before acting on it.

Making typography an integral part of every project provides powerful support for the message you’re trying to express. Pay attention to details as you lay out the text to create the biggest possible impact with your final design and keep readers engaged through to the last word.

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