Saturday, 7 July 2007

Typography Part 1

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I mentioned way back at the start of this blog that I'd like to talk about typography, considering it is the vehicle that carries our blessed language.

My job involves designing and making things that people read, and admittedly I often bore people to death by harping on about how important typography is. But the key point here is that I'm not expecting everyone to become a graphic designer; what I would like to see is a greater appreciation of typefaces and how to use them properly, and rather less font-based barbarism.

So let's cover the basics, in easy-to-understand chunks. First up: serif and sans-serif.

The vast majority of typefaces (not "fonts" by the way - a font is the actual file; we should refer to "typefaces" when we're talking about the design or visual appearance) fall into two categories - serif and sans-serif. A "serif" is the decorative tail which appears on the end of certain characters. Times News Roman and Arial are the well-worn examples of each.

Sans-serif typefaces tend to be used for informal and/or contemporary design (eg. logos, signage or promotional literature), with serif faces being used to maintain (or contrive) a more traditional feel.

The general school of thought has always been that serif typefaces are slightly easier to read when used for large blocks of small, printed type - this is why newspapers and books are largely set this way - with sans-serif being more suited to small text on screen (due to the low resolution of monitors in comparison with print). This has changed dramatically over the last ten years, however, as monitors and computer type-rendering are getting more sophisticated - our lovely, crisp, serif-based GrammarBlog design being a good example.

If you're interested in the detail, there's lots of it over at Wikipedia.


Blogger Gez said...

Very informative, and a good diversification of GrammarBlog. I've got a couple of examples of typeface abuse in signage that I might share with you.

8 July 2007 at 21:46  
Blogger Tom said...

Nerdy, but a taste of how how obsessive we can (and will) get:

9 July 2007 at 00:39  
Blogger Tom said...

This is also good:

9 July 2007 at 00:42  
Blogger Tom said...

And another:

9 July 2007 at 00:50  
Blogger Barry Leiba said...

For what it's worth, I find your leading to be excessive. It's personal taste, I grant, but I think you could cut the leading by 30% and have a nicer result (and fit more on the screen in the bargain).

1 August 2007 at 05:26  

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