Everyone has had that moment when they are looking at a wedding invite from a friend, passing a billboard or simply perusing a magazine when they stumble upon a mighty grievance. Their eyes begin to burn as they try to read the intended message but cannot. The slippery fiend known as “terrible” type has taken another victim. At first, this travesty may seem forgivable, but those words on the page are weeping because at the end of the day, all they wanted was to be read and understood.
Although the art of type (a.k.a. typography) may appear simple, there are all sorts of ways to have it go very wrong. In order to guarantee readability, here is a list of helpful hints to steer clear of typographic mistakes.
Be weary of kerning
Kerning is the technical term for the space between letters. As shown in the illustration above, certain letters can sometimes end up awkwardly close to each other when initially typed out, which break apart words and can even accidentally create an undecipherable new letterform. The goal should be to have equal space between letters with nothing feeling too close or too far from each other. Which leads us to our next point…
Don’t use space to an extreme
Letterspacing, also referred to as tracking, is putting an equal amount of space between letters and can help resolve kerning issues within type as previously mentioned. This is mostly used for design purposes for an open, lightweight type effect. But if pushed too far, readability becomes compromised as letters no longer have any relation to each other.
Contrast is crucial
Contrast is the intentional effect of making two elements differ from each other. The example above shows how color can be a factor towards contrast and leads to a lack of legibility. The background color is too similar to the type’s color, making the type disappear. Another way to cancel out contrast is by putting text on top of a busy, complex image or texture.
Don’t use all the special effects all the time
Want to add some pizzazz to your type? Well, layering on “special effects” is not the answer. When used in moderation, a special effect can be good in certain contexts. But for the most part, any effect that starts to distort type reduces its readability and also makes the type appear gimmicky, causing the reader to no longer take it very seriously.
Choose a typeface wisely
If the computer mouse is hovering over “Comic Sans” and is about to click – immediately abort, stop, re-think the life choices that led up to this point and scroll on without ever looking back! On a more practical note – there is an art to choosing the right type for the right context. Luckily, there are a plethora of different typefaces to choose from. So get out there and explore the big, vast beautiful word of type to find the one that looks and feels right.
Practice these five types and you can avoid most typography horrors!