Typography is a foundational element of graphic design.
Careful selection and formatting of typefaces can dramatically improve the aesthetics, readability, and efficacy of a design.
Mastering core typography principles is essential for any graphic designer.
Choosing the right typefaces is crucial. Designers must weigh factors like:
- Serif vs. sans-serif - Serif fonts have extra details on letterforms with lines, curls, and flourishes. This can aid readability in long blocks of printed text. Sans-serif fonts have clean lines and a more minimalist, modern look. Sans-serif headers pair well with serif body text.
- Personality - Typefaces impart different personalities - from fun and casual to elegant and authoritative. Pair typeface personality with the desired tone of the design. Script and handwritten fonts convey informality, while bold and geometric fonts feel stable and professional.
- Pairings - Using just one typeface can feel flat. Combine two complementary fonts for visual interest. Maintain a clear contrast between headers and body text. Avoid overly complex or decorative pairings.
- Context - Consider your context. Geometric sans-serif fonts suit modern, minimalist designs. Serif fonts work for traditional applications like long-form articles. Display and script fonts are great for communicative, brand-driven designs.
Strategic font sizing establishes hierarchy and improves readability. Consider:
- Headers - Headers denote structure and should feel prominent. Use larger font sizes for headings compared to body text. Be consistent with same-level headers.
- Body text - Small body text hampers readability. For printed materials, 12 point size is a good minimum for body paragraphs. Online, sizes around 15-18 pixels ensure comfortable reading. Provide sufficient line-height.
- Consistency - Maintain consistency between same-level headers and similar text elements. Avoid random variations in sizing.
- Context - Larger font sizes can feel imposing in some contexts like long-form writing. Smaller sizes may suit data-driven documents for precision. Evaluate your overall goals.
Line Height & Letter Spacing
Line height, spacing between lines of text, is crucial for readability. Properly adjusted letter spacing also improves legibility:
- Line height - Insufficient line height causes a crowded look and hampers legibility. For body text, have line height around 1.5 to 2 times font size. For headers, line height around 1.2 to 1.4 times font size often looks best.
- Letter spacing - Letter spacing, or tracking, improves legibility by decreasing text density. Avoid cramming letters too tightly together. Subtle letter spacing for headers can aid readability when appropriately used. Don't apply tracking to body text.
- Alignment - Left aligned body text is most readable since the left edge creates a consistent starting point. Centered text works well for concise headlines. Right alignment can cause uneven spacing. Avoid large blocks of justified text as spacing between words may become uneven.
Properly adjusting typography variables like type selection, sizing, spacing, and alignment requires thought but elevates the quality of design work.
These core principles help create polished, professional visual communication.