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Typography for Web Designers

Understanding how fonts convey meaning


From:

Typography for Web Designers

with Laura Franz

Video: Understanding how fonts convey meaning

We have learned to associate moods or feelings with fonts. For example, we've learned to read serif fonts as feeling older or more traditional. This is a learned association. Cloister is a black letter web font and feels old. After black letter, the first typefaces were serif. based on how people wrote with pen and ink. Calluna is web font with Venetian characteristics. The terminal on the lowercase A looks pen formed and the crossbar on the lowercase E rises.
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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

Understanding how fonts convey meaning

We have learned to associate moods or feelings with fonts. For example, we've learned to read serif fonts as feeling older or more traditional. This is a learned association. Cloister is a black letter web font and feels old. After black letter, the first typefaces were serif. based on how people wrote with pen and ink. Calluna is web font with Venetian characteristics. The terminal on the lowercase A looks pen formed and the crossbar on the lowercase E rises.

It isn't horizontal like most fonts. Old books are all set in serif fonts. Most old inscriptions use serif letters. Andron is an old-style web font. Old-style fonts still reference writing with pen and ink. Even more contemporary serif fonts tend to feel older to us. Georgia is a transitional font and has more substantial thin strokes and serifs, than older looking fonts. Serif 72 has modern characteristics. Modern fonts doesn't mean contemporary, but rather these fonts were modern in the late 18th century.

They look more drawn than written and tend to have very thin thins and thick thicks. They feel elegant when used for big type but are hard to read in text. Slab serif fonts like Museo tend to feel less traditional. Sans serif fonts on the other hand did not gain popularity until the rise of modernism after World War I. Arial is what we call an anonymous sans serif font. Modern books and posters are usually set in sans serif fonts.

Verdana, a sans serif font designed for the screen, is a humanist sans serif font. It's less systematic than Arial. For instance, the C doesn't look like an O with part of the stroke missing. So while our sans serif letterforms have been around since the 5th century BCE, we've learned to associate them with technology and clarity. Our last sans serif here is Museo, which has characteristics of a geometric sans-serif. Notice how the O and C are based on perfect circles.

It's not only fonts that communicate meaning. We have learned to associate all caps with power and stability. Lowercase is seen as more friendly. Capital letters are bigger and more demanding; they have fewer round or softer forms. Lowercase letters are softer. Early Greek and Roman alphabets did not have lowercase letters, so when important ideas were carved into stone, all caps were used. And today we usually write in lowercase letters. If we type in all caps, it looks like we are yelling.

We've also learned to associate italics with a more personal human voice, because it looks more like cursive writing. Serif italics usually feel more like handwriting than sans serif obliques. We call them oblique because they aren't really italic. That is, they don't have curved forms. They would just look sort of like they were slanted over. Some contemporary sans serif fonts are designed with italics instead of oblique forms. We will use one later in this course. It's quite lovely. You can really see the italic forms here in the word face.

See how the F in the bottom sans serif has the same form as the serif italic up on the left? Finally, we have learned to associate specific fonts with specific situations, because we have seen them before. The fonts are iconic, which means they look like the thing they represent. For example, Comic Sans looks like a comic strip font, Courier looks like it was typed on a typewriter, and England hand looks like it was written over a hundred years ago with a split nib pen or something.

Our association with the fonts is so strong, the meaning of the font becomes more important than the message itself. For example, we wouldn't expect to see the US Declaration of Independence set in Comic Sans, unless the designer was making a political statement and Courier doesn't work because there weren't any typewriters at the time, and England Hand doesn't work because it's hard to read. So sometimes a nice neutral font is the best choice and we can use what we know about how fonts convey meaning to decide what font and styles to use.

Serif is still more traditional, which works here. Caps can feel more important, so they might make a good headline, but they don't work for the rest of the text. And italics feel more humanists and while they add a bit of elegance, they may feel too personal for this kind of text. But if we combined our knowledge of serif and caps in italics, we can compose an appropriate typographic version of the Declaration of Independence.

So in choosing a font to communicate a mood or feeling, the trick is to remember that no font can completely and clearly communicate the emotional associations of a text. Choose a font that could work. Choose a font that doesn't jar your reader because it's hard to read, feels out of place with the text, or has obvious design elements. Use the basic associations we all have with serif, sans-serif, capital, lowercase and italic fonts to help support the meaning of the text.

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


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