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Top 10 tips to use typography in your design

Graphic designing has evolved over a period of time. Just drawing pretty shapes is not enough. The marketers want to have meaningful conversations with their target audience through every design. While a picture does speak a thousand words, the real magic lies in using real words or typography. Typography is the art of using letters in a way that adds value to the visual elements of a design. A valuable design is a combination of the right images and the right types or fonts.

When did the art of typography take birth?

Historically, all the symbols, letters and text written alongside the drawings on the cave walls by early human ancestors can be termed as typography. The word has its origin in the Greek word typos which means “to write”. The origin of typography used in printing can be traced back to ancient days when punches and dies were used to make currency and later brick stamps were found in Mesopotamian cities dating back to second millennium BC.

Phew! Typography has a long history and a very interesting journey indeed. Today, the art and science of using typography has evolved a lot but is still rooted in tradition and basic fundamentals of legibility. The purpose of fonts is to enable clear reading. This has not changed over so many years.

Where it is used?

Typography has widespread usage across many communications medium. The practice of typography is done in many forms like handwriting, calligraphy, or using digital type fonts. Some of the mediums on which typography is generally used are:

  • Clothing
  • Newsletters
  • Billboards
  • Documents
  • Presentations
  • Flyers
  • Emailers
  • Digitized embroidery

Importance in graphic design

The fundamental function of typography is to enhance readability, improve legibility and lift the aesthetic appeal of a message. Every graphic design is made with a purpose to communicate an important message to the customers. That message has to be weaved into powerful words and presented in an impactful manner with the use of images and words. The play of words which we call “copy” and its beautiful rendition makes a winning design. That is why typography is an extremely important element in graphic designing. It helps designers to connect with the target audience through the medium of words that convey the essence of a message beautifully.

Tips to use typography the right way

Now that we know how important typography is to design, let us try to see how we can make the most of this wonderful tool to enhance the appeal of graphic design.

  1. Select the right font classification: Fonts are generally classified into two main different categories: Serif and Sans serif. Serif fonts are those fonts that have a curved stroke at the end of the letter, for example, Times New Roman, Georgia etc. These fonts are regarded as classy, elegant and formal. Hence they are generally used in book publishing, newspapers etc. Sans Serif typefaces do not have the strokes at the end of the letters. These fonts are considered modern. Some examples are Helvetica, Arial, Calibri etc. It is advisable to use around two to three types in a design to make it clutter-free.
  2. Stick to using font from the font families: Fonts do not exist in isolation they are part of a font family. It is best to use a particular font family for one design for the purpose of uniformity. Few examples of font families are Times New Roman is the font family and italic, bold etc are different font styles. Using the same family fonts is a sure-shot way of ensuring the fonts look good together. After all, they were clubbed together in a family with a purpose. You can add variations by using different weights, sizes, cases, styles etc. For example, you can create a beautiful contract by using variations like a light style of font in uppercase and contrast it with a strong font in the same case. Be as creative as you like.
  3. Have clear rules about using specific point sizes: Size of the font decides its legibility and readability. It also helps in establishing a visual hierarchy of the message.  The most important thing to consider is that the text should be easily readable and clearly visible from a relative distance. For example, the font size of text on a billboard will be different from that used for a letterhead. It is better to take a printout or print a dummy of the collateral to check the legibility of the text.
  4. Understand the critical terms related to typography: Understanding the vocabulary of typography will increase your understanding of the medium. Your depth of knowledge will help you create works that no one can challenge. Few words that are critical to know include:
    • Kerning: it is the art of adjusting the space between letters of a word
    • Weight of a letter: It is different from the size of a font. It refers to the heaviness of the typeface like thin or regular
    • Alignment: It refers to margin alignment. It can be left, right, centre or justified

There are many more words and terms related to typography which you can read about. Make sure you practise them while designing and refer to them with their correct terms while discussing it with your client. This will establish you as an expert in the field and will also ensure more clarity of brief and feedback. 

  • Use colour and contrast to your benefit: A reader’s attention always moves to a text that has good colour and contrast. If you are using colours in your fonts, it is advisable to select from a pre-defined colour palette of the brand. Few brands like to use specific hues and shades of the colour that relate to the product and services. By regular usage of those colours, the readers get used to recognising the brand name as soon as they see those colours. When using contrast in your typography, you can be as creative as you like by playing with the contrast of not just colours but also font sizes or contrasting font types. Your level of experimentation depends on the message and your target audience.
  • Decide on using a background colour: Sometimes designers are not sure if they want to use a background colour. The decision depends on the aspect of readability of the message. If it does not hamper the readability, you can get creative with background colours and textures. Examine the message text contrast to the background colour. Try and see what looks better — dark text on a lighter background or a light text on a darker background.
  • Stick to the purpose of the message: A lot of times it is very easy to get carried away with the techniques of designing and creative usage of fonts. But a good designer always remembers that designing is all about a perfect combination of creativity and logic. The design should be as per the purpose of the message. For example, using comic sans font on a business card can be a disaster. Or conveying a jovial message in a serious serif font may not go well with the mood of the message. Letters speak, they emote and connect with your readers. You will be able to use this ability of words to the best only when you know the characteristics and moods of each font. 
  • Understand your target audience: The golden rule of communication is to talk to the target audience in the language they understand. For this, it is critical to understand the demographics, behaviour and preferences of your target audience. A message will be meaningful only if it is read by the desired readers. And a reader will only read the messages he finds relevant.
  • Check your spellings: Listen and silent are spelt with the same letters but their meanings are poles apart. What we are trying to say here is a small glitch in the spelling can completely turn around your message. Be very careful with spellings. You can use tools for grammar and spell-check to make sure your language and spelling are not offensive or incorrect.
  • Always keep learning: Last but not least, the best way to make sure you always remain on top of your game is to keep learning and exploring new techniques in typography. While the basic rules remain the same, there are always nuances that change and evolve with time and need of the market. The best way to keep abreast with these is to interact with as many people who are expert in the field, keep reviewing your work and benchmarking them to the best in the industry.

Author bio:

Mr. James is a Chief Graphic Designer at WebSocl specialising in graphic designing solutions like logo and artwork, website graphics, stationery, envelops, business cards, social media posts, E-books etc.