Typography Tips and Tricks – Errors and Mistakes

Man doing typography and writing lines of textNow that you’ve read on how to create a good logo, your design project looks great. The colours are on point, the illustrations are perfect, but wait! Are you sure you used the right font? You sure you spelled that word right? Designers, you all know how typography makes or breaks a project. So here are some typography tips and tricks to make sure your great masterpiece stays a masterpiece.

1. Increase line spacing, or leading

Leading (it rhymes with “wedding”), is the space between a line of text and the next line of text. Remember when our teachers would insist that we write our text on alternate lines in our exercise book? That is actually really good advice.

The bigger the line spacing, the easier it is to read a block of text. A common typographical error is setting a small leading to your paragraph, which makes all those words appear cramped and messy. Due to this, it is easy for readers to lose their place when reading.

Fonts differ from each other, so there is no leading that is “one-fit-for-all”. It is important to judge how far apart line spacing should be for different fonts.

2. Change tracking for different fonts

Tracking, or letter-spacing, literally refers to the space between letters of a word. It works to prevent letters from running into each other. We don’t like people invading our personal space, we also don’t want letters doing the same.

Lowercase letters or the capital letter of a word needs no letter-spacing since they fit quite nicely with the letter next to them. However it becomes different when you type a word with your “caps lock” button on. The spacing between capital letters would appear too narrow if you don’t increase the tracking.

3. Kerning is not tracking

Instead, kerning is the space between a letter pair in a word. It functions to reduce or add the space between a pair of letters in a word. Kerning is best used when dealing with logos, full capital letters, and headlines, as it helps improve readability.

A good typography trick is to not set the kerning by computer default. Tweak around with the kerning until you find the one most suitable for your text.

4. Avoid too many words in a line

Did you know, our eyes only record groups of three to four words in a sentence for a couple of times before feeling tired? Writing long lines of words really exhausts your readers. Moving their eyes and heads so often, reading line after line after line… (and it goes on).

Optimally, you’d only need around 9-12 words in a line, which is approximately 50-60 characters. Anything shorter than 9 words may break the flow of the sentence; and anything more than 12 can be tiring to read. Not to mention, we also forget that sometimes we tend to miss a line or even reread the same sentence!

5. Use consistent typeface and weights

Typography example of a design with a mixture of various typefaces and weightsFonts are like personalities, some go well with others; some don’t. Choosing which typeface to go with which is not easy, even more so in trying to get them to work harmoniously.  A mix of too many different typefaces can be distracting and disorienting, which is a grave typographical error. Limit each project to contain three different fonts at most.

Using too many different weights might confuse readers since they won’t be able to tell what the text is actually trying to highlight. This can cause misinformation.  

If you do insist on a variety of typefaces and weights, a good tip is to pair serifs with sans serifs. Try Futura and Rockwell for that playful feel!

6. Use serifs for long paragraphs

It’s not a myth. Serifs do work better for lengthy text, like in books or newspapers. They typically have a flowing mark at points which is said to direct the reader to the next letter, improving readability and preventing eye strain.

The trick between choosing serifs or sans serifs is to figure out what platform you’re writing for. In high resolutions, like for newspapers, use the serifs. Sans serifs are actually optimized for pixel-based displays, like on blog posts.

7. Pair different value of colours together

There is no such thing as a bad combination of colours, but there is bad combination of colour saturation and hues. Imagine printing pale yellow text on a white background; or dark blue text on black. The only time those combinations would work is if you’re trying to send a hidden message. It makes reading that much harder.

The best way to overcome this common typography mistake is by pairing colours opposite of the color wheel together. For example, orange and blue.

8. Use contrasting colours

Typography of light colored font on dark background Print light coloured text on dark backgrounds. If you can’t remember this typography tip, remember zebras. They’re black-skinned with white stripes on top.

Printing white text on anything less than 50% tint makes the design look less distinct and hard to read. The words become less visible as they get lost in the background. Good practice is to pay attention to how one colour interacts with one another. You don’t want to place clashing colours together.

9. Hold back on the center align

If you’re designing a restaurant menu or a wedding invitation, please, by all means, use the center align all you like. However, for the times you are not, justify your text to the left or right, depending on which suits your graphics.

Centered text can sometimes be seen as amateurish as the sentences may appear broken and jagged. They also appear disconnecting, breaking the flow of a sentence, which will make readers feel dull and bored.

10. Write small body copies

Once again, you need to take into consideration what platform you’re writing for. Text for print and for online viewing are very different. If you’re designing an online ad, take a step back and try font sizes smaller than your standard 12pt. With a monitor screen, readers will be able to zoom in if they need to read something easier.

Larger font sizes would be fine for a children’s book, but for professional design projects, it is important that your body copy looks concise and straightforward.

Bear this typography trick in mind: Always use font sizes of 7pt or more. Fine prints, like the one in terms and conditions, really just means you want to make it hard for your readers.

11. Learn the Grid System

The Grid System is a guideline in which designers can use to arrange and structure their content, to maximize readability and enable easier navigation. You will be able to design your projects in proportions, as well as balance the text and use of other media forms contained in your design.

With the system, your designs will appear clearer and more interactive. You can refer to The Grid System site to find more information and ideas on how to utilize it better.

 

Now that you’re a typography guru and want to take it up a notch, check out how to write an appealing “About Me” page to level-up your blog, website or social media! Or if your typography journey has you worn out, young Jedi, just kick back and refuel at these food stops that has fed us while we work to bring you more good stuff!