While web design is a highly visual discipline, can you really imagine a website with no text at all? Unimaginable, right? No wonder typography is such a vital part of web design, and a hot trend these days.
Today we are going to discuss the most essential rules that will help you use typography to your advantage in your designs and create your own typographic masterpieces.
Learn the basic principles
The first step to master anything is to learn the basics. If you are a beginner and are not familiar with the typography principles and concepts, it might seem like a simple matter to learn. The truth is - typography is a fairly complex subject, it is both art and science.
If you want to master this art you have to know the anatomy of a typeface, the precise measurements and standards any typeface has. Here’s the anatomy of a typeface:
There are more terms you need to familiarise yourself with if you want to understand typography science more, here’s a good glossary for you.
Even if you do not need or want to become a master of typography, taking time to learn the basics will help you a lot in your design work. Because whether you realize it or not, text and therefore typography is an inseparable part of web design and as such - a part of your work.
Choose fonts carefully
Choosing fonts should not be a case of throwing together a couple of random fonts and be done with it. That is if you want your designs to produce effective results.
There is a psychology behind every type of font, you should always consider the “personality” of a font you choose and how it will connect (or disconnect) with the words you are going to write with it. Just think about it - would you write content for a funeral service website with Comic Sans? I think not.
People are subconsciously attributing meaning to fonts, they are accustomed to seeing particular fonts used for certain purposes. And when you disturb this use of fonts people are accustomed for, you create a dissonance. Your website visitors may not understand what disturbed them, but they will be disturbed nonetheless.
Every font conveys certain attributes, two major areas here are gender and era. Thin fonts with curves look feminine, while ones with hard edges are considered masculine.
Choose a complementary secondary font
If you opt to choose more than one font you need to also consider how well the fonts of your choices work together, if there is no dissonance or conflict between them. A good secondary font complements the primary one, accents it.
If your supporting font is more ornate than the primary one - you made a poor choice since it distracts from the primary font. Another example - if you choose two fonts that are similar in thickness you do not provide enough contrast and the content becomes hard to read.
Generally, a secondary font should be thinner and simpler, the fonts have to be different enough to avoid visual confusion. The emphasis should always be put on the primary font.
Alignment might not seem that important for you, but it really is.
A lot of people instinctively use center alignment. The reason might be a perception that balanced means centered. But when it comes to text the reality is - centered alignment is the hardest to read. Center alignment should be used carefully and selectively.
Left alignment, on the other hand, is the easiest to read. We are simply used to this alignment, most books and other reading materials are done this way.
I do not imply that you have to use left alignment at all times. But you need to consider the importance of readability when you choose the alignment.
Mixing alignments is also a thing to be carefully considered. Most experienced designers will tell you that mixing alignment throughout one page is a bad choice. And they will be correct. Consistency is one of the principles of good design. And by mixing alignments throughout one page you risk creating clutter and inconsistency.
Quite surprisingly kerning is often overlooked both by seasoned and novice designers.
What is kerning? Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say: “In typography, kerning is the process of adjusting the spacing between characters in a proportional font, usually to achieve a visually pleasing result. Kerning adjusts the space between individual letter forms, while tracking (letter-spacing) adjusts spacing uniformly over a range of characters.”
You might think that kerning is not an issue for you if you use Photoshop and professionally made typefaces. But this is not always the case. Many typefaces have inconsistent spacing by default.
This inconsistent spacing may be such a trifle issue that it won't be worth correcting, especially if the copy is on the scale of smaller ones, it sort of blends out. But in a headline or logo, kerning issues can become a huge headache, they will destroy the whole design. To fix it remember to focus on the negative space between the letters, not letters themselves. The more this space is visually consistent throughout your text the better.
Contrary to what a lot of people say, size does matter. When it comes to designing websites you have to remember that the text has to be readable, especially on mobile devices. And you can never forget that a headline has to grab the attention, be it a text in the page header or an article headline.
Don’t be afraid to break the rules
As in every other art, rules in typography are made for breaking. They are simply guidelines to help you create the best and most effective typography. But as you do it more and more you will notice that some of the best typography you created brakes at least one of the above rules. But you need to fully understand the rules to be able to break them not because you made a mistake or just for fun, but to achieve a specific goal and make some truly great design.
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