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Explore the numerous type options, type-related features, and type-specific preferences of Adobe InDesign. Using practical, real-world examples, instructor and designer Nigel French dissects the anatomy of a typeface and defines the vocabulary of typography. The course moves from the micro to the macro level, addressing issues such as choosing page size, determining the size of margins, adjusting number columns, and achieving a clean look with baseline grids. This course takes you from laying out a page to delving into the hows and whys of typography.
Now, I know we're in the middle of a chapter talking about alignment. I just want to take a little time out and talk about our column measure. How many characters we get on each of the lines in our column, and how do we determine how many characters is enough? Well firstly, I must say that it's going to vary according to the type of document that you're working in. A newspaper is going to require a different number--fewer most likely--than a work of literature would require. So, common sense should be a big factor here.
But we often have to work with less than optimal conditions. And the less than optimal condition here is that I'm working with the page size, and margins, and number of columns that are predetermined. These are big design decisions that have been made by somebody else. So, I need to figure out how many characters I can get for each line of my three columns and have the text be readable. So, to do that, I'm going to switch to my Type tool and create a single column of text which I will fill with placeholder text.
Incidentally, if you hold down your Command key or your Ctrl key when you do this in InDesign CS6 or above, you can choose the alphabet that you want to use for the Placeholder Text. I'm going to fill it with Roman text, and let's just see how that looks. So, this is our starting point and our starting point is the default font, Minion Pro Regular, 12 point, Auto Leading. And this is not going to give us enough characters per line, 12 points is too big for continuous reading in print, different rules apply on screen.
But in print, it's going to look big and clunky and rather inelegant. The Leading value is off as well. These are things that all relate to each other. Everything relates to everything else, and that's a point I can't make enough, so I'll be making that point repeatedly throughout this course, and that's certainly the case here when setting your Column Measure. Okay. So, how many characters do I have on the line? And we can use the Info panel to tell me this. If I come and choose my Info panel, part of my saved workspace, we can see that this line has 34 characters, and I just need to get a sort of average take on how many characters I have per line. Obviously, it's going to vary.
But we're seeing it's generally in the low to mid 30s. How many is enough? Well, different people have different standards and different standards apply to different types of document. One standard is take your Point Size, multiply it by 2 in Picas, and that gives you your optimum column width. So, let's see, my Type Size is 12 points, which means that my column width would need to be 24 picas, almost double what it currently is.
So, let's see what happens when I do that. If I come to the Width and type in 24, and that may be completely appropriate if we're designing a journal or if we are doing the layout of a novel. But we don't have the luxury of having so many characters per line in the kind of document that I am preparing here. So, that's not going to work. I'm just going to back up a bit. Another standard and one that's a bit more flexible is that we need to try and have two alphabets per line, 52 characters.
Obviously, we're still coming in way below that. So my own personal standard for a document such as this where we have narrow columns is that if we aim for somewhere between about 35 to 40 characters per line, then I think we're going to be in good shape. So long as we pay particular attention to all the other aspects that go into formatting the type, are we going to use hyphenation, what kind of alignment are we using, are we using indentations and paragraph spacing to clearly break up the chunks of information? So, I'm going to now come and select this type, and I'm going to change its size to 10 points, and I'm going to specify its Leading as being a fixed amount rather than an auto amount.
Now, let's go and revisit our Info panel, and we can see that we have somewhere between about high 30s to low 40s per line, and I think so long as we keep our text left aligned in this context, because I think if we were to try and justify the text, given a narrow column, we would likely incur ugly spaces between the words. But if we're working with left-aligned text, I think the column measure that we have here is going to work very well.
So, those are some considerations for how to determine the width of your column.
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