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Most of this course is about the do's of type usage, but along the way I have to point out a few all too common errors. It is excruciatingly painful when I see type that has been abused and misused. I call these typographic abominations. Please, pay attention so that you will not be responsible for any of these. But proceed at your own peril. Being sensitive to good type usage is a good thing, but I warn you, once I point them out you too will see typographic abominations, and it will hurt.
Perhaps the most painful of all is seam type that has been thoughtlessly, carelessly, or ignorantly altered by stretching or squashing. This creates ugly proportions. Specifically, the relationships of the vertical strokes to the horizontal strokes is compromised by even the slightest change in its proportions, something a pro can spot immediately. Unfortunately most stretching and squashing is of the extreme variety. Remember, a skilled type designer took a great deal of time and trouble to design a typeface with harmonious balance, rhythm, and proportions.
If you manipulate those proportions, you are destroying the designer's work. Have you ever seen your reflection in a fun house mirror, it's always unflattering, it's a distortion of what you look like. So keep that in mind if you are tempted to stretch or squash. Instead, find a typeface that has the proportions you are looking for. With the stratospheric number of typefaces available today, you have plenty of choices. Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I'd like to remind you about two other common typographic abominations.
In some programs and with some older type file formats, it's possible to artificially bold or italicize type. This creates an unsightly and obvious distortion of the shape of the type. The software applies a default bulking up or slanting of the type without regard to the original design of the typeface, and it's properly designed bold and italic family members. Another amazingly common typographic abomination is using dumb quotes instead of smart quotes.
Dumb quotes--also called prime marks-- may be used to indicate feet and inches. Here is an example of dumb quotes being used correctly. But for quotes and apostrophes, smart quotes are the way to go. If you can avoid these three common typographic abominations, you won't offend anyone who knows anything about type. More important, you will make our visual world a better place.
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