Join Jill Butler for an in-depth discussion in this video 01 Distrust default software settings, part of The 33 Laws of Typography.
Law one: distrust default software settings. When you start a new document, the software has some built in defaults that it's going to use for formatting your document. And a lot of these settings have to do with typographic choices that you would make, like the typeface you'll be using. The type size. Line spacing. Margin sizes. And text alignment. And these defaults exist because the software has to start somewhere.
But your job is to change all of these defaults. You wanna change these settings and in fact, most, if not all of these default settings should be changed for every document you create. So here are two business cards that both contain the same information. This first card was created using software defaults, but on the second card, those defaults were changed and typographic decisions were made by the card's designer. Now this first card contains all the information we need, but it really doesn't tell us anything else about the company.
It lacks personality and it's really not that visually appealing or exciting to look at. It's not very memorable. On top of that, it fails to communicate anything about the style and essence of The Mad Hatter. The second card does a much better job of telling us more about the company. It contains all the same necessary text information, but here we're also getting some clues. We're learning a little more about The Mad Hatter. And we get the feeling that this company is fancy, it's a little upscale and it's slightly formal.
And we're getting a lot of these clues from the typographic choices that were made by the designer. So let's examine each card piece by piece to learn more about these choices that were made and how they affect the overall feel of this card. So first, the typeface. On the first card, the typeface being used is called Minion Pro, and that's the default typeface in the software that we used to create the card. And on the second card, two different typefaces are being used, and these specific typefaces were chosen to create a more sophisticated tone.
And when the typefaces that you choose match the intended tone of the content, your message is going to be more memorable, and it's also going to be much more powerful. So let's look at the type size. On the first card, all of the text is the exact same size. It's all 12 points, the default type size. But on the second card, you can see that there's a few different sizes being used. We've got large text, then we've got smaller text, and then we've got even smaller text.
And this mix of type sizes is helping to provide a visual hierarchy, and what a visual hierarchy is going to do for your documents is create a start point and an end point. A visual hierarchy tells readers where they should begin in your document, and it provides a flow through that document. It tells readers where they should focus their attention. Now let's look at text alignment. The first card is using all flush left, ragged right type, which is the default text alignment.
But on the second card, that default alignment has been changed, and all the text on this card is horizontally centered. And what a horizontally centered alignment does, is it's creating a more balanced business card, and it's also adding to the formal, fancy tone. Now line spacing. On the first card, all the space between each line of text is the exact same. It's all 2.4 points, which is the default line spacing. But on the second card, the line spacing's been customized and it's been changed.
You can see the line spacing is bigger in some places and it's smaller in other places. What this line spacing does, or what these changes in line spacing do is they provide a visual rhythm, and that's helping to chunk information, it's also providing pauses between these chunks. Let's summarize. You're going to want to replace default software settings with appropriate typographic settings, and when you do this, your documents are going to be more aesthetically pleasing, more interesting, and more memorable.
When you can align these settings and these choices to the personality and tone of the content, you're going to achieve maximum effect. Your messages will be more powerful, more memorable, and therefore, more effective. That's law one: distrust default software settings.
- Maintaining a visual hierarchy
- Avoiding bad paragraph breaks and line-breaking hyphens
- Staying away from all caps and underlined text
- Using proper punctuation
- Choosing the right typeface