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Typography for Web Designers

Choosing web-safe fonts to convey meaning


From:

Typography for Web Designers

with Laura Franz

Video: Choosing web-safe fonts to convey meaning

Fonts must either be on a reader's computer or linked from another source to display correctly in a browser. Fonts that we can expect to be on most computers so they display correctly are called web-safe fonts. There are a handful of web-safe fonts. If you stick with these fonts, you can expect them to load correctly in the browser, because most computers have them installed. They are Times New Roman, Georgia, Courier, Trebuchet MS, Arial, Comic Sans, Verdana, and Impact.
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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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Typography for Web Designers
6h 25m Appropriate for all Jul 14, 2011

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Learn how to choose fonts for a web site and create beautiful, legible type. Author Laura Franz shares how to create designs that maximize readability (and keep visitors on the page) by paying attention to details in size, line-height, line length, alignment, color, vertical space, and more. Laura also demonstrates how to incorporate web fonts, style type with CSS, and pick fonts that work well together.

Topics include:
  • Understanding how good typography promotes reading
  • Choosing web-safe fonts
  • Applying web fonts in CSS with @font-face
  • Adding and applying the Google Fonts syntax
  • Finding and applying a good font size, line height, and line length
  • Improving a color palette by improving contrast and reducing optical vibration
  • Understanding how people mentally organize, or chunk, visual elements
  • Applying a system of hierarchy in HTML and CSS
  • Applying vertical spacing in CSS
  • Adding emphasis within a heading
  • Understanding classic and modernist typographic pages
  • Adding a list of links
  • Creating drop caps
  • Fixing quotation marks, apostrophes, and dashes
Subjects:
Typography Web Web Design Web Fonts Web Foundations
Software:
TextWrangler
Author:
Laura Franz

Choosing web-safe fonts to convey meaning

Fonts must either be on a reader's computer or linked from another source to display correctly in a browser. Fonts that we can expect to be on most computers so they display correctly are called web-safe fonts. There are a handful of web-safe fonts. If you stick with these fonts, you can expect them to load correctly in the browser, because most computers have them installed. They are Times New Roman, Georgia, Courier, Trebuchet MS, Arial, Comic Sans, Verdana, and Impact.

Only five of these fonts are what I call neutral. They don't hit us over the head and say things like, "Hey, I look like I was typed on a typewriter!" Of these, three are more legible than the others, due to X-height and space in and around the letterforms. So, web-safe fonts can feel a little constricting. Personally, I love the creative freedom of linking fonts into my web pages. in fact, I do it on my own homepage. Linking web fonts can add variety of forms and can also add a layer of meaning into the design.

For example, some of my research is related to old signs and the environment, and the font I link to is based on a 1945 sign for a department store. But linking in web fonts from another source can create problems, most will cost you money, which may or may not be an option for your client or if you're a student. Those that are free tend to have quality issues. Either the system of letters is inconsistent, the spacing between letters is wonky, or the font doesn't include a bold or italic style to go with it.

Finally, linking to web fonts can slow down your web pages. Sometimes the time is not noticeable, but if you're working with a lot of text and a lot of web fonts, the time it takes for the fonts to load is very noticeable, So web-safe fonts, those eight fonts that are extremely likely to be on most computers, are the work horses of web topography. They are free, quality tested, and don't have to download, so they do not affect your page loading time. But can we use standard, sometimes boring web safe font to create a variety of forms and add specific meaning to text? Yes, we can.

For our first exercise, we're going to explore creating three meaningful versions of the word quiet and loud, using only web-safe fonts. We will start with our eight web-safe fonts. Let's get rid of the comic book look and the typewriter look and we are left with six fonts. I didn't expect to like Impact with the word quiet, but it looks to me like how I sound when I am yelling at my kids, like "Quiet!" So I think it works in a backwards kind of way. But I think I want the other two ways of setting the words to actually feel quiet.

I'm thinking of what I know about how we read fonts. Lowercase not too big and then italic could make the word feel really soft. I can contrast it with making the yelling quiet uppercase and really big. It makes a good contrast and further communicates that these two ways of communicating the word are really different. But I want yet another soft quiet and all the versions of the soft quiet feel the same right now. What might make a word feel soft besides italic? Well, I could make it even smaller and make it a lighter gray.

That makes it softer I think. Since the sans serif italics are as humanist, I would rather keep their italic version with one of the serif fonts and the sans serif fonts hold up in the lighter gray a little bit better. So I think I will use a sans serif for this version, and I can make the word feel a little bit lighter still by adding a little space between the letters. It's almost like a whisper now. I felt pretty good about the quiets. Now let's move on to the louds. We will start with our eight web-safe fonts for the word loud, and we will get rid of the comic book look and the typewriter look, and we are left with six fonts.

And I have to say I loved the loudness of my quiet version. I want to repeat it for one of my louds. But I think I want the other two ways of setting the word to feel loud without using such big bold capitalized letters. Can I suggest loud without being quite so cliche? Well, when I think of loud, what do I think of? Well, again, I think of my kids. They are the loudest people I know. So what if I make a loud that is a little more playful? So I can bring Comic Sans in again and this time I'll leave it all lowercase.

Lowercase letters have more variety and form and might better suggest the movement of loud children. I'll try making it a little bit bigger, because they are, after all, loud. But I still need another loud. I'm using a big lowercase and big uppercase word. So I think I'll try smaller word. Let's look at it all uppercase, so it has a shot of feeling loud. It's still not enough. It occurs to me, I used use the lighter gray to communicate quiet. Maybe I can use color to communicate loud.

So we can try red. Red is a loud color, but it's still not enough. I can try bolding the words, but now they're competing with the big loud that I set in Impact. I can add a little space between the letters to soften it up a bit. I think the sans serif works best across the board for loud. Something about the consistent thickness of the strokes and the letters. There are no quiet strokes at all. I feel pretty good about the three quiets and the three louds.

The fonts, case, style, weight, and color all help create meaning. Also by creating contrast between the words, meaning is enhanced. Finally, while I did use color changes in two of the six words, most of the meaning was created by the letterforms themselves, not through color. So web-safe fonts might feel constricted sometimes, but they are free, quality, and don't have download time. With a little attention to font choice, size, case, style, spacing, and maybe a little color, we can create a variety of typographic solutions using web-safe fonts.

Knowing how to get the most out of these fonts make the websites we design more beautiful and meaningful for the reader.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Typography for Web Designers.


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A: Discover more about this topic by visiting graphic design on lynda.com.
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