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Applying typography skills when making design decisions

From: Typography for Web Designers

Video: Applying typography skills when making design decisions

When first presented with a new design problem, it's easy to fall into the trap of looking at a blank screen and saying, what am I going to do to make this look good? As a typographer, you don't have to start with a blank screen. You know how people read. You can figure out the underlying theme of the site asking, does the contents of the writings suggest a more traditional approach or more modernist approach and how can I be inspired by both historical approaches? Then keep true to how people read.

Applying typography skills when making design decisions

When first presented with a new design problem, it's easy to fall into the trap of looking at a blank screen and saying, what am I going to do to make this look good? As a typographer, you don't have to start with a blank screen. You know how people read. You can figure out the underlying theme of the site asking, does the contents of the writings suggest a more traditional approach or more modernist approach and how can I be inspired by both historical approaches? Then keep true to how people read.

Instead of saying to yourself, what font am I dying to use, pick a font that is legible and meaningful and has all the styles and weights you need. Instead of saying to yourself, I want to fill up this amount of space here with an introduction, a caption and the text, find a good font size, line height, and line length for each and let the text decide how much space to fill. Figure out how to organize the elements on the page so they work together to create rhythm and tension.

How do you do that? Create the focal point. I used a larger font for the intro and placed the text block so it hangs out into open space, calling attention to itself. Create a strong vertical line. Here I used an almost central left edge on the block of text. Pay attention to the spaces and edges around the page. I've avoided equal margins, both top to bottom and left to right. Figure out your hierarchy.

Is your heading here or there? Do you incorporate a second font? You don't have to. Let the levels of hierarchy create counterpoints to the texture of the text. And before you know it, after a lot of hard work, a pleasing readable page develops and it doesn't start from a blank screen and it doesn't start from preconceived ideas. It starts from understanding the text itself and how people read. It also requires respect for words. Respect for all kinds of words, regardless of whether they are captions or footers or links, will help you design beautiful webpages.

Caption exists to explain an image. A lot of times people read captions first before reading the text. Yet I have seen captions get too small to read or have too long a line length or too short a line length for comfortable reading. I have even seen captions set in a fake italic, which loses the presence of a human hand, and in this case why even use an italic? Footers contain both extremely important information like a copyright date and at the same time boring information like a copyright date.

I've seen footers ignored and set in default text. On the other extreme, I've seen them spiced up a bit and set with fun text to try and make them more interesting. This usually draws the reader's eye to the footer, when really it's supposed to just sit there quietly, unless someone is looking for that kind of information. It also makes the information pretty hard to actually read, so we get two problems for the price of one. Links are supposed to help a reader see where they can click to get to other parts of the site or go to external sites.

Links are magical, especially to those of us who were born before the personal computer. But they should be treated much like any other text on the page. I've seen links made too big, perhaps because links are important? I've seen them made too small, perhaps because they're not as important as the text? And I've seen them made three-dimensional. Perhaps because we are suppose to click on them. I've seen them in hard to read fonts, hard to read colors, and hard to read long lists.

Long lists, by the way, can always benefit from chunking. These links have a sort of wonky shape,= because they're centered, but at least they're organized. I've also seen links spaced too close together to read as separate links, and set too far apart so they no longer feel like they belong together. Links by their very nature feel different than regular text, but they still need to be treated with respect. If you want to create a truly beautiful typographic page, you need to respect all the typographic elements.

You need to carefully consider font, style, weight, case, size, line height, line length, color, and readability. If all the typographic elements are not attended to, you will always have a weak spot in your page design.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Typography for Web Designers
Typography for Web Designers

74 video lessons · 13543 viewers

Laura Franz
Author

 
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  1. 6m 18s
    1. Welcome
      1m 9s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 57s
    3. Things to consider before starting this course
      3m 12s
  2. 41m 3s
    1. Understanding how good typography promotes reading
      2m 9s
    2. Understanding legibility
      4m 41s
    3. Understanding how fonts convey meaning
      5m 19s
    4. Choosing web-safe fonts to convey meaning
      6m 13s
    5. Using font size, case, style, letter spacing, weight, and color to convey meaning
      6m 22s
    6. Choosing web fonts to convey meaning
      6m 23s
    7. Downloading web fonts
      4m 9s
    8. Applying web fonts in CSS with @font-face
      5m 47s
  3. 38m 0s
    1. Choosing a web-safe font for use in text
      4m 13s
    2. Applying the web-safe font to the text and the heading
      3m 4s
    3. Setting a class for the resource titles in the text
      3m 45s
    4. Choosing a second web-safe font for the heading
      2m 42s
    5. Applying the second font to the heading
      2m 16s
    6. Choosing a web font from the Google Font API for use in text
      5m 44s
    7. Adding and applying the Google Font API syntax
      4m 29s
    8. Choosing a second web font from the Google Font API for the heading
      2m 56s
    9. Adding and applying the second font to the heading
      4m 52s
    10. Analyzing the fonts on some professional sites
      3m 59s
  4. 55m 31s
    1. Understanding how we read
      4m 34s
    2. Finding and applying a good font size and line height
      4m 50s
    3. Finding and applying a good line length
      8m 6s
    4. Understanding ems
      6m 17s
    5. Using ems to set font size
      6m 9s
    6. Using ems to set line length
      3m 40s
    7. Understanding how color affects readability
      3m 58s
    8. Improving a color palette by improving contrast
      5m 39s
    9. Improving a color palette by reducing optical vibration
      4m 59s
    10. Analyzing text readability on the professional sites
      7m 19s
  5. 1h 11m
    1. Understanding how we "chunk" visual elements
      3m 59s
    2. Developing a system of hierarchy
      2m 17s
    3. Applying hierarchy in HTML and CSS
      7m 16s
    4. Developing a system to help chunk text for readers
      6m 1s
    5. Applying the system in the CSS
      4m 19s
    6. Changing an element by creating and applying a class
      5m 0s
    7. Using multiple columns to create hierarchy
      4m 12s
    8. Building a two-column system in HTML and CSS
      10m 56s
    9. Refining the horizontal space in a two-column layout
      6m 1s
    10. Adding rule lines to improve chunking
      5m 50s
    11. Adding emphasis within a heading
      4m 36s
    12. Analyzing the chunking on the professional sites
      11m 18s
  6. 17m 57s
    1. Understanding classic and modernist typographic pages
      7m 3s
    2. Understanding how to create rhythm and tension
      6m 0s
    3. Applying typography skills when making design decisions
      4m 54s
  7. 55m 47s
    1. Designing typographic links for the traditional page
      5m 54s
    2. Adding a list of links to the traditional page
      8m 44s
    3. Describing the link states in CSS
      6m 30s
    4. Returning links to their original "unvisited" style
      2m 38s
    5. Using different CSS for different kinds of links
      7m 28s
    6. Using CSS notation to organize syntax
      5m 34s
    7. Choosing a background color or image
      4m 0s
    8. Applying a repeating background image
      2m 58s
    9. Shaping the traditional page layout
      6m 38s
    10. Analyzing the traditional typographic elements on the professional sites
      5m 23s
  8. 43m 0s
    1. Designing typographic links for the modernist page
      6m 47s
    2. Making a list of links run across the page
      2m 14s
    3. Adding and removing space between the navigation links
      6m 50s
    4. Styling the inline links on the modernist page
      5m 33s
    5. Choosing a background color or image for the modernist bibliography
      4m 4s
    6. Applying a no-repeat background image
      4m 13s
    7. Shaping the modernist page layout
      6m 58s
    8. Analyzing the modernist typographic elements on the professional sites
      6m 21s
  9. 52m 53s
    1. Fixing quotation marks and apostrophes
      6m 59s
    2. Fixing dashes
      6m 33s
    3. Working with lining figures (numbers) and acronyms
      9m 28s
    4. Fixing characters that don't look right
      8m 19s
    5. Hanging punctuation
      2m 54s
    6. Applying typographic accents
      2m 36s
    7. Vertically centering text
      5m 18s
    8. Creating drop caps
      5m 59s
    9. Analyzing the typographic details on the professional sites
      4m 47s
  10. 3m 9s
    1. Additional resources
      3m 9s

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