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The second of the ten principles of design is emphasis. What exactly does emphasis mean? Merriam-Webster defines emphasis as force or intensity of expression that gives impressiveness or importance to something. Okay, so what exactly does emphasis mean? In plain English and with regard to web design, emphasis occurs when attention is focused on a single area within a design, to assist the viewer in understanding visually that this particular area is more important than other areas.
Okay, so we need to find a way to show the viewer What's most important in our design. Certainly, we can easily accomplish this with size and placement of certain key elements like a set of large photos, or one big rotating banner. But what about text? How do we teach web visitors what they should and should not focus on when they come to a new website? The answer is simple: using harmonious hierarchical font styles or what some designers call typographic hierarchy.
This term refers to the specific way of using fonts that creates a sense of flow and emphasis on a page. By deliberately varying the size, weight, color and spacing of your text Your text not only looks great, but it also aids visitors in understanding which elements on your site are more important than others. For instance, you can make certain text bold, italic, or all caps, and you can tier the size of your elements in pixels, percentages, or m's, or any other unit of measure using cascading style sheets.
When working with text on a website, you really need to understand how HTML and CSS work together. The HTML is used to mark up your content in such a way that key areas of the text such as paragraphs and headers are identified even before you apply any CSS. So for instance, in this example, we have four text blocks with what looks like the same size text. Now, if we imagine we've marked up the content with HTML, we can identify which part should be paragraph text, and which part should be marked as heading one and heading two.
Once our content is properly marked up in the HTML, we can then create CSS styles for our pages. In this case, we make styles for PH1 and H2 tags. With each web project you design, there will be a standard set of styles that you'll need to create. These include headings one through six, paragraphs, lead copy style and adding emphasis using tags like small, bold, and M. There are also styles for ordered and unordered lists. For description lists and tables, forms, buttons, icons and images.
You can convey meaning through color, like these colors, here, which represent the warnings, over here on the right. error, warning, success, and information. Of course, you can use your own colors, but these are fairly standard. For examples of these HTML CSS style types, visit the Base CSS site shown here. When choosing your fonts, think about how they visually pair together. For instance, you want there to be contrast, while preserving a sense of harmony. For this reason many designers will choose to pair a serif and a sans serif together for a heading and paragraph rather than put two serifs or two sans serifs next to each other.
You can also use color to convey meaning. For instance, you can use size, case, and color to emphasize text as seen here. So, In The News is 28 points all caps, Apple Pie Recipes is 18 points and blue. You have the Paragraph Texts 16 points, and that Learn More is all caps but it's 14 points. The sizing and coloration helps the visitor see which areas they should focus on and which ones they can skim. Here's another example using size, case, and color to emphasize the text.
In this example, the fonts are quite large yet still tiered in size which is a popular trend these days. In this next example, the font is the same for the headings and the paragraph text in both the top and bottom rows. The top row is set in Georgia, while the bottom row is set in Gill Sans. Since the size and color are different for the heading one, heading two and paragraph text, you might think that there's enough emphasis to show visitors which parts are more important than others. This is definitely true, but this set is missing one important element that can really improve readability.
It's harmony. Using the same font for all three elements is static. Now look at the same text when the heading 1 text is set with a contrasting font. As you can see the whole text block becomes more dynamic and visually interesting. Learning how to pair fonts harmoniously is not as difficult as it sounds. There's a wonderful online game at typeconnection.com shown here that can help you better understand the value of smart font pairings. Once you get to the website, you'll click the Play button and then follow along to answer the, questions and choose the fonts that you think pair well together.
You can also see some matches to have ideas of what looks good. And this is a really wonderful site. I encourage you to check it out. As you can see, deliberately varying the size, weight, color, leading, and spacing of your text really creates the emphasis necessary to assist visitors in understanding which elements on your site's design are more important than others.
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