Monday, January 28

On Type and Text - DISCUSSION #3

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Design is all about communication. Ads, magazines, packages, brochures, logos, etc. all communicate to the viewer through visual and verbal cues. The complexity of the information can vary but the targeted result is the same. Create desire and encourage comprehension. The challenge of publication design is to simultaneously make an enjoyable environment for the eyes and make text easily readable for long periods of time. Unlike a poster or package, however, a publication tends to be based heavily upon the written word. Comfort while reading those words is a must. We've already discovered that our Publication Design Workbook, while an excellent text on the topic, is difficult to read for a sustained time. The text is small, condensed and grey - three factors that strain the eye and prevent enjoyable reading.

The easy part of using large amounts of text is picking a typeface. Designers feel no fear of going through the font list in any given program. Pick a serif and san serif. Find two that go well together. Place them into your layout. Piece of cake. Or is it? Text isn't merely the way the letters look individually. It's also how they look line to line, paragraph to paragraph and page to page. A font may look great as a subhead yet not read well as a paragraph.

Think about it as tones of color. Each paragraph on the page create a block of color. It's not merely lines, it creates a shape on the page. It creates relationships with other shapes on the page. Column width and length, choice of alignment, size of type, size of leading and tracking, and color can all affect how the shapes of type appear to a reader. How does your type flow. Is your x-height too high and your leading too tight creating big solid blocks of tone? Is your font too tiny and too pale creating washed out tones like PDW? Where is that balance? How do you get a nice even tone? Many other elements come into play; elements not always thought of when setting paragraphs. Long line lengths can create difficulty finding one's place at the beginning of the next sentence. Too short of a line length can create choppy sentences can cause a staccato effect when reading. Sometimes a poorly designed font will have too much space between words or too tight tracking. All factors in promoting difficult comprehension. It's the overall effect that affects reading more than any individual line. Finding that balance takes time and effort. Finding that balance also means you may have to put more attention on your text than just placing the story and saying "done." You have to pay attention to the size, the leading, the kerning/tracking, the alignment, the column width, the column length, the type color, the space between columns... need I go on?

In addition to all of this (you mean there's more?), it's also a necessity to create clear hierarchy so the reader can navigate the article or story. Which, leads me to the next factor which can affect readability and goes hand-in-hand with hierarchy, space. Type cannot read without adequate space, both between lines and paragraphs but also in relation to the page. Type squeezed onto a page, no mater how legible it may be, will always be less readable due to the lack of breathing room around the shapes it creates. Readers need space for their thumbs to hold the page, they need adequate distance between paragraphs, both top to bottom and side to side, in order to navigate a page and a picture will have more visual impact if the type is not right up next to it. Misuse of the previous statements can create tension on a page negating any effect your other efforts to make reading the publication pleasant. In lay man's terms? Don't crowd the page. It's not necessary to fill every corner and every inch of the page.

So now that I'm done with the soap box, what does this all mean to you? What can you, as a designer, do to ensure your publication is as enjoyable to read as it is to look at? Why it it so important to make this effort when it comes to designing with text? Possibly share examples of text in publication which read well and ones that don't and explain your findings and how you can use it in your own design work. Or possibly offer your own design thoughts on the matter.

PS - curious about who makes decisions about the color of the year and other color related trends? See the new post below this one.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

The topic of fonts and choosing the perfect font for a project has always given me a rash. Not literally, but I find that I am not as skilled when it comes to finding that font which will connect the viewer to the meaning of the words. Its a delicate operation, but one I find to be exciting, especially when I stumble upon a great match up of two fonts.
I like the idea of looking at large amounts of type as colored shapes rather then just lines of type. That will really help me as I go through designing for my magazine.
I can think of one terrible example of a bad design of text. It was the graphic design history book for Historical Survey. The whole book was created with sans serif type. It was murder trying to read that thing. If there had not been pretty pictures, I would have abandoned the readings!
JanelD_EC_GD11

Anonymous said...

This subject matter for this post is quite foreign to me. I have never been the Pharaoh of fonts as I strive to be. There are a few top choices in my arsenal, but they can be troublesome to work with in regards to matching with a complimentary font. The font match worksheet that was provided to us in the previous class worked well for the most part, but lacked the majority of my arsenal.

I agree with the previous post that the Historical Survey book by Meggs was quite cumbersome and reading became a bore rather quickly. I am not saying that a san serif font is a horrible choice for publications, it just depends on the usage. For instance, I just bought a copy of the book HAND JOB by Michael Perry; which uses a sleek sans serif throughout. Why does it work in this case? It is used in moderation, small paragraphs at a time, generous leading, even tracking, and is placed on top of extremely bright colors. The font is also a nice relaxation for the eyes in the majority hand done type, hence the name.
The easiest way to see if two fonts are working together, or if a single font is easy to read and working for the publication is to type a couple paragraphs with the intended leading, tracking, size etc, maybe through in a few images and print it. Your eyes get lost on the computer screen after awhile, its good to take a break and see the type how the reader will view it, in PRINT!!!
BillR_DB_GDII

Anonymous said...

I agree with my two predecessors. I feel for the most part that I also lack the knowledge and know-how to chose the most appropriate font. Right now I suppose it's a great deal of trial and error. My hope is that over time as I become a better designer things will just click, and the examples I have seen over time will lead me to the right choices.

I also agree with printing as much as possible and comparing slight alterations. While at times it may seem burdensome and a waste of ink it will ultimately lead to a better understanding of what makes good and what makes great.

Lastly, I suggest getting a variety of opinions. Everyone sees things differently and may catch something that someone else did not. I like explaining my topic to people that don't quite understand the principles of design and see what they think. While their suggestions may not turn out to be the best sometimes you'll get a piece of advice that could really make all the difference. Just listen- the answers are there it's finding them that's the hard part.

JennaP_EC_GDII

Anonymous said...

Type is tough. I was told once that you should use serif fonts for print due to greater reading flow, and sans serif fonts for on screen. While not always true, I still like a good serif face for print. You can't really follow any rules in my opinion because it's all based around how the face is used.
WesM_EC_GDII

Anonymous said...

Like many, I grew up reading comic books and they stuck with me, Therefore i feel like I need to compartmentalize text. Now I realize that most of the magazines I read currently are never very text heavy, only because my interests don't require the mass osmosis information. Overall, designing is tricky because I rarely pick-up text heavy publications. I have quite a bit of reading to do. Wish me luck.

AndyC_EC_GDII

Anonymous said...

I largely agree with the aforementioned comments. The matter of choosing fonts that work together well is no easy task. Additionally, for me it is sometimes one of the most, (if not the most) difficult part in the design. Generally I can get find at least one font to work that I like but I find it gets harder with the more fonts you use and the more type you have to use as well.

Then again, I haven't designed with type nearly as much with as I have graphics, so that may be part of the problem. The more I design with type and fonts the easier I hope it will become. With all the various aspects that one has to take into consideration when designing a text heavy piece, no wonder why at times it seems kinda overwhelming to find the perfect choice of font(s) for one's particular piece.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, the last comment was mine (JimG_DB_GDII). I forgot to include my name.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm unusual in comparison to the other comments left here – I've never had much trouble finding a single typeface that "fits." However, the matching of serifs and sans serifs always seemed arbitrary to me. You just pick two, and it magically works, because its a serif and a sans serif, duh. I was shown last class how wrong that was, and I have a much greater understanding of font matching now. And of course, in hindsight, it seems so logical, I don't know why I didn't figure it out before. I feel like I'm that much better of a designer with that knowledge. And that makes me very happy.

There is a question that's bugging me now, though. With the typeface decided upon and a grid system established, and the articles already written, widows and orphans and such are guaranteed to show up here and there throughout our magazines. We can't just go through and make subtle alterations to the leading, tracking, or point size from article to article to take care of them. How are we supposed to treat that situation?

DarbieB_DB_GDII

Anonymous said...

Finding the perfect font, for me, is like finding a needle in a haystack. I feel like I'm getting better, but still have far to go. Sometimes it's an obvious answer, but other times its not so easy. Matching a serif with a sans serif is particularly stressful. Personally, I would have liked to use Century Gothic for my magazine, but it's almost impossible to find a serif font to match because of the "a" in Century Gothic.

To compare fonts, I find it easier to print out the fonts in a larger size because looking at small fonts on screen makes my eyes go buggy. Also I agree with asking other people's opinions. It is always a good idea to get fresh eyes to look at your work, because I know that I start to hate all my projects after looking at them after a while.

KatrinaK_DB_GDII

Vitriolic Virchow said...

All I can say is Please, PLEASE give Helvetica and Times New Roman a rest. They're bloody boring!

Anonymous said...

I have an issue with using a sans serif font for large blocks of text, mostly thanks to Megg's History of Graphic Design, which was the textbook for our graphic design classes. The whole book was filled with enormous pages of text all set in a pristine sans serif. It looked great, but it made for terrible reading, especially in a poorly-lit dorm room at night. I really prefer to see a well-done serif for books and essays, it helps to make communication with the reader easier.
KelseyS_EC_GDII

Anonymous said...

Finding the perfect font for a project is quite hard. I'll admit it. There is so much preliminary thought that goes into a project for publication design or any at that. You have to think about your audience, your mood, your formatting, sizing of EVERYTHING, relationships of all elements, and the list goes on forever. After you finally have all that information down pat, you THEN sit down at your computer or shuffle through some books of your choice, and pick out a font. It is one of the most exciting and just as stressful times of a project. As a reference to "The Matrix", and as an example that Professor Cunfer used, trying to find the perfect font(s) is like trying to find "The One". But when you finally find, "The One", meaning the perfect font duo of serif and san-serif fonts, all is well. The next challenge is formatting it all and paying attention to every little detail that had been mentioned in the blog. I am also a huge believer on giving elements room to breathe. It is very important because is determines whether the reader is going to read the material at first glance or not.

A bad example of a work that I had trouble reading, was this magazine that I had recently picked up. It was a gardening magazine (I don't remember the exact name of it). It had a lot of inconsistent line lengths and at least 6 to 10 hypens per column. I was horrified. It was extremely hard to read and was a strain on my eyes. Everything was so poorly formatted it was sad.

But all in all, my biggest advice, is to settle on three different pairs of fonts and design for the same project with them. Throw in your other elements, and then print out the three designs that you end up with. Spread them on a table side by side and take a glance. Put yourself in designer mode as well as the shoes of an everyday reader. Finally, pick up whatever you'd go for first. 9 times out of 10, the one that you pick up first, is, "The One".

SarahG_EC_GDII

Anonymous said...

Finding the perfect font for a project is quite hard. I’ll admit it. There is so much preliminary thought that goes into a project for publication design or any at that. You have to think about your audience, your mood, your formatting, sizing of EVERYTHING, relationships of all elements, and the list goes on forever. After you finally have all that information down pat, you THEN sit down at your computer or shuffle through some books of your choice, and pick out a font. It is one of the most exciting and just as stressful times of a project. As a reference to “The Matrix”, and as an example that Professor Cunfer used, trying to find the perfect font(s) is like trying to find “The One”. But when you finally find, “The One”, meaning the perfect font duo of serif and san-serif fonts, all is well. The next challenge is formatting it all and paying attention to every little detail that had been mentioned in the blog. I am also a huge believer on giving elements room to breathe. It is very important because is determines whether the reader is going to read the material at first glance or not.

A bad example of a work that I had trouble reading, was this magazine that I had recently picked up. It was a gardening magazine (I don’t remember the exact name of it). It had a lot of inconsistent line lengths and at least 6 to 10 hypens per column. I was horrified. It was extremely hard to read and was a strain on my eyes. Everything was so poorly formatted it was sad.

But all in all, my biggest advice, is to settle on three different pairs of fonts and design for the same project with them. Throw in your other elements, and then print out the three designs that you end up with. Spread them on a table side by side and take a glance. Put yourself in designer mode as well as the shoes of an everyday reader. Finally, pick up whatever you’d go for first. 9 times out of 10, the one that you pick up first, is, “The One”.

SarahG_EC_GDII

Anonymous said...

Until this year, I've become a more of a 'stickler' in finding the right typefaces and keeping them consistent in my work. I'm finding myself to have more of an eye for the use of text and font choice, pertaining to the subject matter of my design. I'm starting to feel like some typefaces speak in different manners and voices, call me crazy. Pertaining to our magazine project, type is going to be very important in more ways than one, which is making me pay much more attention to it. I always liked a lot of display and decorative fonts, either made up by myself or found. On the other hand, I'm seeing that this isn't the case at all when dealing with a mazagine, brochure, etc. Blocks of text can turn too thick and from far and start to look like a solid square almost, which is bad. Especially because I just got reading glasses and it's understood that bodies of text can strain the eye after a long read, and draw the reader away. I guess there's more than I thought that goes into type and text, especially in this class. I always enjoy an easy read...

MikeP_DB_GDII

Anonymous said...

I'm a Type Stalker: A Confession from the Margins of My Soul

Beautiful, bountiful text, I do profess my love and devotion. You have the power to shape my lustful thoughts as I have become obsessed with the flawlessness of your form. Oh whisper to me in words of clarity and subtleness. The exquisite structure of your body emphasizes the movement through the pages of my heart. As the individual flowers of your garden do blossom into silhouettes of delicate color, my mind twirls like an ampersand when I consider your beauty.

As I tap, tap, tap on my keyboard, the sweet musings of my affection, my mind wanders to the gutter. I dream of swimming in the silvery gray sea of your wisdom as it flows and caresses the fine columns on your substrate. I ponder the face our relationship with the thoughtfulness and consideration of a selfless lover. Although you are relentless in your need of my sensitive touch, I persevere with thoughts of your copious visual delights.

Ahhhhh but you toy with the texture of my love.

I do so cringe when your characters kiss the others and yes when you tweak your line space it sets my heart aflutter. I contemplate the spaces I would track to overcome my all-consuming obsession but my love has become centered on your sumptuous indents.

Be still my kerning heart.

Once again, I peruse your letters searching for meaning but alas the rivers violating your body do so mar my quest for unreserved perfection but ultimately you still contain the drop caps of my dreams.

Am I unjustified in my love? Please do not dash my hopes with the careless hyphenation.

Oh text, beautiful, bountiful text. You are not an afterthought in my lustful designs
but a true companion and consummate partner.

Love and Wingdings :-)

Ms. Dash

AndrewW_DB_GDII said...

Janel mentioned having lots of sans serif type and how hard it was to read in the historic survey book. Right along with it ( I really don't want to point fingers but...) Prof. Ballas also gave his chapter reviews in all sans serif. Which I found hard to read at times. Especially when there was alot of information and all the type as pretty small in point size.

I just recently (within th last hour or so) came across a website and article on the Bembo typeface called "Why Bembo Sucks" they mention that it is way overused in new zealand, and also talk about the origination of the typeface. They bring up the question of which point size should be the digital recreation of typefaces. They compare the differences between the larger display size point size, with the smaller text size version and how different the actual letter forms are (since the smaller point sizes were harder to cut)

While the article is mostly about the difference in original point sizes, I think it brings up a good point. In different countries, there are certain type faces that are over used that aren't the same in other countries. I think to be really on top of your game with your magazine design, it would be great to know which type faces are over used in your given destination. Andrea gets a freebie for this one since (i think...) shes doing New Zealand.

the actual article can be found here...
http://ilovetypography.com/2008/01/22/why-bembo-sucks/

I would also suggest just browsing that site all together, its pretty spiffy.

Anonymous said...

After reading everyone's comments its hard to come up with something that still has meaning when a lot of it has already been said. I too find that struggle with type and matching things up i spend hours upon hours trying different fonts. And honestly if i don't know where to start sometimes i just sketch out fonts and find a close match instead of just aimlessly printing and retyping and changing fonts over and over again. I really have to thank everyone who over the semesters has helped be that extra fresh eye to check out my fonts. Because I've had many nights bugging out at a computer screen.

CarissaKe_DB_GDII

Anonymous said...

In going along with the other posts before my own I would also like to say that I think this post was rather helpful in the suggestion of thinking of type as a large mass of color across a given document. Even though the individual lines should be (obviously) easily readable, it is important to think of how the whole space of text will affect other surrounding images, graphics, as well as white space.

I guess I am just the odd-ball because I did NOT find the historical Survey book hard to read. I really enjoyed its subject matter. In terms of type though, if you think about it, if they would've made the type ANY bigger (even a point size or two...) that would've made the book even MORE huge and thus, more money spent on printing, and more money spent from us students purchasing.

I, along with the vast amount of posters, have trouble finding type faces that "work" together. Maybe it is because we actually learned very little in Typography class other than to memorize fonts, (sadly, of which were forgotten as soon as the tests were over.) Is there any library or CD house resources that we can use to look at, copy or study fonts and their relationships to each other without pirating the whole KUCD fonts list? I would really appreciate if if anyone knows to let me know!:)


Also... how does one become a specialist in color? That job sounds SO interesting!

ReginaI_EC_GD11

Anonymous said...

As I read through the previous comments, I found that most people have the same problem when it comes to choosing proper font and placement of the text. They use phrases similar to "I'm bad at it" or "I was never good at it". In my opinion, it is probably more so a lack of confidence. If you are unsure of yourself as a designer or just your design itself, there is no way you will also be able to succeed when it comes to doing great type work. Be confident!
There can really be a beauty in some of the type choices you can make. Not only is it important to match two typefaces together well, but also to match the typeface to your subject matter. It needs to be easy to read, but also proper. Some typefaces are more masculine and others feminine. Some are fun and others calm and elegant, and I'm not talking about headline fonts and decorative fonts. Fonts for text can be just as diverse, but in a subtle way.
When placing text into a pamphlet or magazine, I like to zoom out so that they become gray bars. This way I can concentrate on how the rag looks. I think that the way the rag flows is just as important to the design as any other aspect. Type has to not only function but must look nice as well.
LindsayK_EC_GDII

Anonymous said...

Choosing a typeface has always been somewhat of a problem for me, but I think I'm getting better at it. I find that when matching two typefaces, it helps me to print them out and physically compare them, letter by letter (specifically the a, e, r, and g) to make sure the eyes, descenders, bowls, etc. are similar. Also, it's easier for me to see if the x-height matches when on a piece of paper in front of me, and to see what the typeface actually looks like when printed in paragraph form-- is it too bold, too light, etc.? Whenever I'm in doubt about something, I find a friend who has absolutely no eye for design whatsoever and ask them what they think because they represent the average person looking at your work-- their opinion helps a lot.
JennF_DB_GDII

Anonymous said...

There's not much I would add to all the comments posted already. I bet I'd pick a sans serif before a serif 9 times out of 10, but a lot of that is personal opinion. With either kind though, I think what's really important is that the type is easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions. If text is too gray or too small or not given enough leading, it can be an eye strain in less than ideal light. Our PDW book is a good example. Text in that book made me squint and keep the book uncomfortably close. I know my eyes aren't the best, but they're not that bad. Anyways easy readability is important to keep the reader's attention. It can be a difficult thing to gauge however, because most of the time its easier to point out what designers are doing wrong instead of pointing out what they are doing right. I've learned a lot about type layout from seeing it done poorly.

MattT_DB_GDII

Anonymous said...

Trying not to repeat everything already said... and thinking about tones of color, spaces between lines & words, legibility... makes me think of (who else) David Carson & his regard for the form of mass type above even the legibility of that type. Lots of people love his stuff, and just as many love to hate it. It depends on what you're aiming at, I think--if your main interest is in creating a feeling/mood/impression, make it as illegible as you want. It definitely communicates. But of course if you're trying to get across actual information, and not just an impression, your type obviously has to be legible--and there's no reason legible type can't create a mood or impression, when all the above-discussed factors are taken into consideration.
CrystalS_DB_GDII