Join John McWade for an in-depth discussion in this video Use display type with images, part of Learning to Set Display Type.
- Your type will often appear with images and the question is, where does it go? How do they interact? And there are basically two approaches. The type can be separate from the image, or type can be part of the image. Really common is that type will share space with images. But now we're getting into layout. That's for another course. Your tendency, at least if you're new, will be to get type and image arranged in some way. Pushing things here, moving them there, and so on. I'd like to suggest that the easiest approach is often to just keep the two separate.
Words here, pictures there. A very simple example is this cover, a Cyclist's Guide to Crater Lake. Beautiful type, beautiful picture, very clean. This approach, though, makes more rectangles. You can see the white ones above and below the image. Sometimes a rectangular look is perfect, very modern, but sometimes not, because you then have to fit your type into those rectangles. You can mitigate this in a couple of ways.
One is to color the background so it's more like the photo. It makes the edges softer, reduces the contrast. A midvalue background like this one, also gives you option to set your type dark and light, like you see here. This is black and white against the neutral, which gives you some nice depth, as well. Another option is to feather the edge like this. The top edge just faces to white, the bottom is colored to match the image, and now the photo just flows into the page.
The other option is to make your type part of the image. In this case, it's just been reversed to white and placed on top. This works best, of course, with smooth backgrounds, like this sky. You generally want to keep type off of busy backgrounds. You can also do a hybrid treatment, in which you create a field atop the image and put your type on the field. This can be tough to pull off, although sometimes it works, when nothing else will, like when your background is really busy, or you have an extreme space to work with.
Just draw a field, fill it white, black, you might even try a color, set some translucency, this is a white field at 70%, and set your type on top. Often with images, your tendency will be to find an open space for your type. The sky for example, because it's at the top, or perhaps against the dark of the mountains. In some cases that will work, but try the technique we saw earlier.
Type centered on the image. In this case, it projects grandeur and power, both of which befit the subject matter. And it goes without saying, that if the type crosses from dark to light, you need to watch your colors. What works on one, may not work on the other. What I most enjoy, is working with frameless images, where objects are just open on the page, like these seed pods. It's the best of both worlds because you can frame them if you need a rectangular look, but leaving them open, like this, is very organic and lifelike.
So in this example, the ribbony typeface just flows along with the image. It's beautiful. What you want to avoid is pairing the ribbony typeface with a rectangle, because the form factors are so different. You'll get clashing shapes, funny contrasts, big mess. Just as ineffective is trying to shoehorn type into leftover space. You're generally not going to get a nice result. What's happening in both cases is that your stuck designing rectangles instead of designing your material, which is the bread and the ribbony type.
To solve that, go with a full bleed, if you can, which eliminates the rectangles. You're now essentially back to an organic image, and place your type where it flows best. Even though the background is busier than I'd like and that subtitle is hard to read, of these three, this is the one I'd go with. So quick review. Type separate from the image. Type on top of the image. Type on top of a field on top of the image.
Watch your contrasts, and avoid being confined by rectangles whenever possible.
Join John McWade as he explains how to design in a variety of styles and voices using display type, which is type that's set at headline size and above. He discusses type families that include strikingly expressive characters, shows how to combine typefaces, shares how to avoid common design flaws, and takes you through working with type in photos. This art form is applicable to print advertising, brochures, magazines, posters, fliers, slide decks, and much more.
- What is display type?
- Form vs. function
- Setting display type
- Combining typefaces
- Tightening or loosening a setting
- Using display type with images
- Avoiding common mistakes
- Typographic voice