Now that we have covered all of the basic typography technical terms and font classes, we can get to the good stuff! (Learning the Basics of Typography: Part I, Part II, Part III) This is where all of these things come together and can be put into practice. In the 4th part of our Typography 101 series we are going to talk about some simple, easy to do best practices for laying out typography. Let’s start designing!
We are going to start with just some short pieces of text for the time being, something that would be common place for a logo of sorts. Believe me, there are still endless possibilities for something that has as little type as a logo! All of these topics we are going to go over are also very intertwined and very much work in tandem with each other.
The layout of text is the foundation to creating an interesting, engaging composition. Considering things like placement of text (down to the letters and words), order and spacing will all have an impact on the overall feel and behavior, and how the text is relaying information.
Finding the right hierarchy for the text being laid out is important in creating not only an interesting and visually appealing layout, but also helps the viewer digest the information being presented in smaller, easily understood pieces. This goes back to helping the viewer understand the information by drawing them in with an interesting composition, then walking them through the text in order of importance. This does not always have to happen in a “1, 2, 3” type of manner, but think of it more as, “which words or text has the most visual presence?” or “where are your eyes drawn first?”. On the opposite side of the playing field, knowing how to leverage where the hierarchy of text is allows us to be a viewer tour guide of sorts and tell the viewer what the most important words or phrases are (even if they are not necessarily in order).
Font selection is a critical part of putting together an interesting type layout. Different styles of fonts can evoke many different emotions and can reference time periods, cultures and even specific parts of the world. So choosing a font that evokes the right feelings for the message you are trying to accomplish with the text you are laying out plays a big role. For example, using a grungy, distressed, textured, stencil painted, slab-serif font that looks as though it would belong on the side of a military truck, probably would not be a very good fit for a daycare logo!
Diversifying the type layout can definitely be a good thing, to an extent. Doing things like adding contrast between words or lines of text can add a unique dynamic and a lot of interest. It can also help further establish a system of hierarchy. This can be done by doing things like making some of the words or lines of text all caps with a lot of tracking (remember tracking?) while keeping other lines of text all lowercase and maybe italics. There are endless possibilities! Using different font weights (how bold a font is; light vs heavy, thin vs thick. most fonts have multiple, different weights), using italics, all caps and even different fonts can all add diversity to a text layout. However, as with anything, moderation is the key. Having more than 2 or 3 text styles and sizes can very easily take a turn for the worse and become too busy and overwhelming. This same principal also works well in a variety of different applications, even in larger groupings of text alongside other groups of text (paragraphs, headlines, pull quotes… etc.).
The examples you see under each section above are just a few ways that text can be laid out in an effective way. This is by no means implying that in order for a text layout to be effective it must look just like this. There are many, many different ways that text can be laid out in interesting, eye catching ways that are just as, if not more, effective than this one! Again, the possibilities are endless.
All of this being said, rules are made to be broken. There are plenty of designers and typographers out there that have broken just about all of these “rules” (I like to think of them more as just best practices, but you get the point) and have pulled off very successful and innovative pieces. These are just a few fundamental principals of laying out type. Like many abstract fine artists, even though they may break just about all of the “rules” with their work, most still have an education in classic painting and composition techniques. Sometimes you just have to know the rules before you can break them.