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In this video I'm going to talk about two different kinds of type in 3D. But don't worry, you won't need any special glasses to watch this video. First, there is type that uses a lot of special effects to appear three-dimensional, though it's on a flat surface. And second, type that is actually physically three-dimensional. Programs like InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator make it very easy to create three-dimensional effects using typography, there are plenty of great lynda.com movies that can show you how to do that.
But I'm going to talk about some pitfalls you should try to avoid and to give you some advice about how to make your 3D type really pop from the page and to be readable. Drop-shadows, glows, highlights, outlines, extruded, and beveled type, and combinations of filters and effect can be overwhelming. So my advice to you is that less is more. Even one or two of the filters or special effects are probably fine for most uses. Illusions of depth are fun and even a bit addictive.
But the more you pile on the effects, the easier it is to obscure the type's counter spaces or the parts of the letters that define its character and then you weaken the most essential function of type, its ability to be read. It's fun to explore all of the tempting options this software offers, but it takes some mastery to make these effects work well. It needs to do more than just look cool. In this book cover the type is coming forward in anatomy and the type appears to be receding into the distance in the word design.
Highlights, bevels, and extrusion are used very effectively and yet the type retains its legibility. Then we have the truly three-dimensional letters, these are another story. You can think of these as more like type sculptures, typographic forms that you can walk around and admire from many angles. I love to collect three-dimensional type because it's a reminder that once upon a time and still today for letterpress shops, all type was physical, expressed in 3D, height, width, and depth.
The depth of three-dimensional type adds to its drama. This sign is emphasized by the shadow it creates mid-day. If it were a painted sign it wouldn't give that impression of depth. And at night, neon tubing brightens the typography on this classic landmark. In this signage the type actually wraps around the edge of the building. It gives different effects as the light changes from day to night. And this three-dimensional signage appears to float above the building.
Designing for three-dimensional typography requires special considerations. It should be legible at a distance, readable from different angles, and under distracting circumstances. I recommend keeping a swipe file of three-dimensional type effects and having a close look at why they are working well. Then you can try creating those same effects on your own projects. That's a good way to start understanding the advantages and limitations of 3D effects using type.
Whether you're creating the illusion of 3D type or designing actual 3D type, the effective depth can make your typography more powerful. In the next chapter we're going to take a look at more three-dimensional typography within the context of environmental graphics.
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