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5 top tips for perfect typography

Typography is a perfect blend of art and science. Over the years, research has informed what are generally accepted typographic rules – but your own needs might skew or even break these rules. Here are our top tips for perfecting your typography.

1 - Font choice

Fonts have personality. Some wear suits all the time, others go for a more casual look. It’s the reason that fonts have names (besides them being handy labels). Like anything, some won’t be suited for particular jobs. Formal settings require formal typefaces and more creative scenarios might require something a bit more daring.

Consider your context and the meaning you want to convey with your typography, your font selection should reflect and support that.

2 - One, or many?

Try not to splash too fonts many together in one place – very few contexts will require more than three and even subtle differences between them will be very obvious when you view them together. Pairing typefaces will also depend on your context and meaning and you may want to consider different weights and styles of the same font rather than going for multiple families.

3 - Size, weight, colour

Context and meaning is important for how you display your chosen font/s too. Your design might call for a rigid, formal application of standardised typographic rules – or it might require something more experimental. Whatever you do, always keep in mind what you want the typography to express (beyond the meaning of the words themselves)

Colours have meaning, but are you supporting that or subverting it? Different weights will be suited for different uses, and the size might be dictated by practicality or how you want it to look, or both! Lots to consider when applying type to your project.

4 - Leading, tracking and kerning

With large blocks of text (copy) these three typographic elements are particularly important. Leading is the space between the baselines of your text (in digital space it’s more commonly known as line-height), tracking is the general space between characters in your copy and kerning is the individual space between these characters.

Generally speaking, you want all three of these typographic elements to be crafted to provide the best reading experience. This means finding a balance between your copy being too tightly squashed together and it being too widely spaced and floaty. Both of which make copy difficult to read.

Tracking helps to set a default amount of space for characters in your copy, but it’s likely you will still need to kern certain parts individually.

Kerning takes a practised eye and a feel for typography. The basic premise is to equal the volume of whitespace between characters; you can practice some here.

Leading is also done by eye, but you can usually apply a formula depending on the pt size of your chosen font. E.g. if your pt size is 12pt then you might set your leading at 14pt, if your pt size is 14pt then you might set your leading at 16pt and so on.

A good tip is to take your copy and rotate it through 180° – if you see large runs of whitespace (known typographically as ‘rivers’) then your typography is too widely spaced.

5 - Details, details, details

Typography is a very delicate area of expertise. Even if the type seems wild, bold and brash, we can promise you that an inordinate amount of care and consideration would’ve gone into designing it that way. Fine-tune every detail of your type, check for errors and if a minutiae design decision can’t be justified, then it’s probably the wrong one.

6 - Learn to hate widows and orphans

It sounds grim, but in actual fact we mean typographic widows and orphans. They are a menace to blocks of copy, they break up readability and look wrong.

An orphan is a single letter that occupies a line of copy on its own.

A widow is a single word that occupies a line of copy on its own.

In print, you can remove widows and orphans by dropping other words down from lines above, or by addressing other parts of the typography to suit – just remember not to ruin the rest of the design in doing so!

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