Category Archives: Typography

A Must-Own Reference For All Graphic Design Pros

How do I love thee, Graphics Master, 8th Edition? Let me count the ways. It’s a geeky kind of love, right up there with my love of Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings. This love affair began when I was a young designer in the late 80s. I was an in-house designer at Giorgio Beverly Hills and came across a copy (at the time it was Graphics Master 4) at work one day and immediately thought, Where have you been all my life? Oh how much simpler my work life would have been had I met you earlier.

This book is a comprehensive resource guide filled with virtually every piece of technical data a web and graphic design professional may need and is a must-own for young designers and seasoned professionals alike. Digital imaging, typography specs, measurements, color conversions, dot gain, you name it, GM8 has it.

I read this book like Scotty reads starship technical manuals. Perusing its pages tells me that an A-6 envelope fits into an A-7; I can only saddle stitch about 32 sheets before I need to switch to perfect bound; that Arial is Microsoft’s ugly knock-off of Helvetica (don’t ever use it); a roll fold brochure is a better self-mailer than an accordion fold; the RGB equivalent of a CMYK color I chose; the maximum pixel width of a standard web page. Please let me go on.

I still reference its voluminous archives on a regular basis for much-needed information. Make an investment in your design career and buy this book!

GraphicsMaster8.com

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Filed under Book Recommendations, Color, Graphic Design, Printing, Typography

Type Tip #3: Widows and Orphans

Sounds like the plot of a Charles Dickens novel. Despite these curious typographic terms, avoiding widows and orphans is an important concept graphic designers, and writers for that matter, should remember.

Widows
A widow is a single word or two very short words at the end of a paragraph or column. It is considered poor typography because it leaves too much white space between paragraphs and tends to draw the eye toward the hanging word. It interrupts the reader’s flow, diminishing readability, and gives an unintended visual emphasis on this dangling word. The rule of thumb is at least two words, three if the words are short, on the last line of a paragraph.

To accomplish this, the designer should manually break the previous sentence apart. Keep in mind that doing this requires a “soft return,” (shift + return key) rather than a “hard return” (return key), the difference being that a soft return is a simple manual line break whereas a hard return inserts an invisible paragraph marker in the middle of the sentence. This bad habit will cause problems with text formatting and style sheets.

Orphans
Creating a similar visual distraction, an orphan is a single line of type that appears at the top of a column or page. This creates poor horizontal alignment at the top of the page. Again, the rule of thumb is at least two lines of a sentence at the top of a column.

Writers
These rules apply to writers as well as designers. Screenwriter Mark Sanderson’s informative article on avoiding widow words when writing scripts is an interesting read. He observes that widows in scripts look sloppy and notes that the cumulative effect of dozens of widowed paragraphs can add unnecessary pages to a script. The effect is even more pronounced in novels where hundreds of widowed paragraphs can really add up.

Look professional by assiduously avoiding widows and orphans in your typography. Remember, if it’s not good type, it’s not good design.

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Type Tip #2: Script Fonts

Formal script fonts, sometimes thought of as the divas of fonts, can convey a visual effect like none other, but they don’t take kindly to being “modified” like one might do with one of their sturdier sans-serifed cousins. Not all script fonts are formal — in fact, some can give a design an extremely casual look — but for elegance and charm, nothing beats a beautiful script font. But as I said, they can easily be misused by overeager designers. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Avoid all caps
Most scripts have decorative capital letters that are designed to be read with their less decorative lowercase letters. These caps are much too ornate to be easily read together so setting scripts in all caps should be avoided.

Don’t set on a curve
Scripts usually have a right-handed tilt, which, when set on a curve, is exaggerated as the word progresses around the curve. Symmetry is lost. Additionally, most scripts have connecting strokes that join each letter to the next and, if set on a curve, distort this connection and break the letters apart so they no longer read as a single word but as a series of floating letters with little tails. You can compensate for this by decreasing the tracking but a better design solution should be explored.

No tracking
Along the same line, you should not change the tracking or kerning of scripts with connecting strokes. This will break apart the carefully designed letterspace joiners and look like a series of floating letters with little tails. Very amateurish. With non-connecting scripts, proceed with care, keeping in mind that each letterform has been painstakingly designed to fit together visually.

Go easy on the swashes
Many formal scripts have alternate swash characters that are even more ornate than the original letters. Nothing beats a well-chosen swash for that special flourish but a little goes a long way. Less is more.

Let them shine
You picked a script for a reason… it’s a big personality and needs to be the star of the show without any competition. Don’t combine different script fonts, they’ll clash, and when choosing non-script fonts (serif or sans-serif) to accompany, choose something more neutral—you don’t want the divas pitching a fit and ruining your design.

Look professional and avoid committing type crimes by using script fonts properly. Remember, if it’s not good type, it’s not good design.

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