Typography is the one thing that sets graphic design apart from other types of design including fashion and architecture. The systematic and skilled placement of type in a graphic design project regardless of the medium will ultimately set it apart from amateur design. There was a time in our not so far gone history where skilled craftsmen spent hours on the look and placement of individual letters and their resulting spacing. Only a few specialist still work with these tools and produce typographic work in that way. In today’s culture of quick downloads and instant solutions we rarely see or take the time to pay close attention to the type that is set. Graphic designers often leave the heavy lifting to the font itself. While some digital type designers have paid careful attention to each detail in the creation of the font, it is near impossible to account for all of the possible combinations of letters that might arise. Some important things to take into account for setting type are the following:
1Point size & x-height: The point size of type is most often the distance from the bottom of a descender to the top of an ascender. The x-height is the distance from the baseline to the top of the font not including ascenders. It is often true that fonts with a greater x-height are easier to read.
2Leading: The space between lines of type is referred to as the leading. A term derived from the ancient practice of milling strips of lead to be place in between lines of type that were set by hand for a press. Giving additional space between lines can also help readability in paragraph text.
3Tracking: Tracking is the spacing between individual characters. Normally a happy medium needs to be reached in order to keep type readability.
4Line Length: It is most often true that the mind can stay tuned to about one and a half “alphabets” or 36 to 45 letters. It’s important not to make the lines of type that you set much longer than this.
There are many others factors for creating good typography and this is by no mean a comprehensive list. It’s is just as important for the modern designer to pay close attention to type details as it was for letter pressmen of yesteryear!