Join Ina Saltz for an in-depth discussion in this video Other typographic best practices, part of Foundations of Typography.
As a professor and critic of typographic design, I see a lot of the same mistakes made over and over again by beginners. I'd like to point them out and suggest some alternatives to make your type usage more professional. In some programs and with some older type file formats, it's possible to artificially create a bold or italic version of a font. It may seem like it saves time, but you will only get the correct italic or bold designed for the typeface by selecting them from the Font menu.
Remember to use Smart Quotes. Dumb Quotes, also called prime marks, may be used to indicate feet and inches, but for quotes and apostrophes be sure to use Smart Quotes, also known as curly quotes. I also see a lot of small type which is outlined by adding a stroke, but letter forms are distorted when a stroke is added. The stroke overlaps the shape of the type on both sides of its defined edges. It changes the outer shape of the type and the counter spaces get tight or fill-in.
It's okay to use large type with a thin stroke. This doesn't cause much of a problem because the proportion of the stroke is so tiny compared to the letter, but otherwise don't add strokes to small type. Here are some examples of what not to do. I took these pictures in my travels, but I'm not going to say where. On this menu board, by adding strokes to these letters, they are much harder to read. Although I'm sure that was not the intent. Another word to the wise, avoid stacking type.
The irregular widths of these letters create a rough edge on both sides of the type. The irregular spaces make it harder to read and our eye has to jump from one letter to the next, because we read from left to right not top to bottom. In this example, the longer the text, the worse the effect and stacked lowercase is the worst of all. Look how lonely that poor little I is in its narrow little space. With stacked upper and lower case, you can't create even spacing because of the varying heights of the ascenders, descenders, and caps.
Instead, look at this example from Kids Discover. In the headline charging particles, the type is oriented sideways. So there is a perfectly aligned baseline and cap height. If you have acronyms in your text, a good practice is to reduce them by a point or a point and a half, so they do not visually jump out of your text. Even better, use the font's small caps, if it has a set. The goal is to keep an even color within your text which aids readability.
The same goes for numbers. Use the set with varying heights or reduce the numbers exactly the same amount as the caps. Adding a bit of extra space between caps improves their appearance. Spacing out lowercase letters is not advisable. So to recap, use the proper bold and italic versions of your fonts. Don't add strokes to small type. Use Smart Quotes, not Dumb Quotes and avoid stacking type vertically. Do downsize acronyms and numbers to blend with the surrounding type.
Give extra space to caps, but not lowercase. These are some of the practices that will help you on your way to good type usage.
- What is typography?
- Differentiating type characteristics
- Using ornamental and decorative type
- Combining typefaces
- Using contrast and scale
- Kerning and kerning pairs
- Choosing the optimum line length
- Aligning and spacing characters, words, and paragraphs
- Understanding factors affecting legibility
- Working with three-dimensional type
- Putting type in motion