Typography is all around us. It’s in the books we read, on the websites we visit and even on everyday items like the packaging of our favourite products and street signs.

Typography may seem like an intimidating subject, but the truth is, it doesn’t have to be. In this article we’ll break down the fundamentals of Typography and why it’s so important for designers to consider.

Let’s start at the beginning.

What is Typography?

Typography is the art of working with type, also known as text or copy. In the same way that designers work with visual elements to generate meaning into their work when they design, typographers use type.

Why is it important?

According to Career Foundary “Typography is so much more than just choosing beautiful fonts: it’s a vital component of user interface design. Good typography will establish a strong visual hierarchy, provide a graphic balance to the website, and set the product’s overall tone.

Typography should guide and inform your users, optimize readability and accessibility, and ensure excellent user experience.”

Let’s look at a few more reasons why Typography is so important:

1. It establishes an information hierarchy

Information hierarchy means categorising the copy inside a content piece according to its importance. Use types and sizes to differentiate the most important copy

For example: By increasing the size of the font of important copy, readers are aware that they need to pay more attention to it.

2. It holds the attention of the readers

Believe it or not, it’s not always the quality of your content that holds the attention of your audience. 

Typography plays a huge part in making your content pieces visually appealing and can be the reason why someone stays on your site for a minute or an hour!

3. It builds brand recognition

Typography makes up a huge part of your company’s visual identity and it works as an identification for the viewers. It becomes a part of the relationship that your audience has with your brand.

Black & White Studios put it perfectly “Most of us can remember and instantly recognise the fonts associated with brands such as Coca Cola, Disney and Harry Potter, and may have seen the controversial reactions to brands like Apple, Google and GAP changing their famous typography. 
Many companies such as Netflix, Airbnb, Apple and Coca Cola have even created their typefaces in a move to make typography a more considered part of their identity.”

4. It influences decision making

Psychology in design plays a much larger role in the decision-making process than most people realise. This explains why Typography has such a profound effect on the way that a user interprets the information communicated by the text. 

For example: When your copy stands out in a piece of content, it is more persuasive to your reader than weak, unappealing text.

What is Typography Design?

The Creative Bloq team describes it well: “Typography design is the art and technique of arranging type. It’s at the centre of a designer’s skillset and is about much more than making the words legible. 
The typeface you choose and how it works with your layout, grid, colour scheme and so on will make the difference between a good, bad and great design.”

The different elements of typography 

Typeface and font

A typeface is a set of typographical symbols and characters. This includes all the letters, numbers and special characters used to create sentences. A font is a complete character set within a typeface, of a specific style or size.

Contrast

In his seminal book “Design With Type”, Carl Dair details seven different methods by which contrast can help achieve typographic harmony. The seven methods are; size, weight, form, structure, texture, colour and direction.

Consistency

Using consistent fonts in a design is crucially important. Using too many can lead to a confused and disjointed outcome – always use the same font styling for the same information.

White space

This is the space between the blocks of text, lines, paragraphs and other elements on the page. White space is as important to the overall design as the other elements on the page. Aristotle’s idea that “nature abhors an empty space” really doesn’t apply in typographic design – cleve use of white space can elevate any design.

Alignment

There are four basic alignments within typographic design:

Left-aligned – the text is aligned along the left margin or gutter, also known as flush left, ragged right or ranged left;

Right-aligned – the text is aligned along the right margin or gutter, also known as right-aligned, ragged left or ranged right;

Justified – text is aligned along the left margin, with letter-spacing and word-spacing adjusted so that the text falls flush with both margins, also known as fully justified or full justification;

Centred

Text is aligned to neither the left nor right margin; there is an even gap on each side of each line.

Colour

As humans, we react to various colours in different, pre-determined ways. Certain colours cause us to feel safe and assured whilst others may cause subliminal alarm or panic. Colour influences consumer behaviour, which means that the selected palette in any typographic design project should always reinforce the concept or brand being represented.

Hierarchy

Is the system for organising type to establish the order of importance of elements within a piece of work. A clear typographic hierarchy guides the reader to show which elements are important and allows them to easily navigate the content.

Leading

Is the vertical space between lines of text. Leading is measured from each line of text’s baseline (or where the text meets the line), to the next baseline on the line of text above or below. To maximise legibility, it is vitally important to match the leading to the font as certain fonts have different heights and require more leading than others.

Kerning

Is defined as the adjustment of space between two individual letters. Each font has a unique rhythm, getting the kerning just right is vitally important. The human eye easily picks up on perceived flaws in kerning which can lead to a disjointed flow to a typographical piece.

Tracking

Is often confused for kerning though the two concepts are a little different. Whereas Leading is the adjustment of space between letters, tracking involves adjusting the spacing throughout the entire word.

How do you choose the best typography for your design project?

Oliver Reichenstein said it best: “Optimizing typography is optimizing readability, accessibility, usability(!), overall graphic balance.”

A primary driver for selecting the right typography for your next project is personality. Who is this piece of work aimed at? What are the audience expectations for the publication or brand that is being represented by your design? What tone are you trying to convey through the design? 

Along with the choice of colour and images, the selection of fonts establishes the tone and clearly establishes how formal or playful the project is. For example, the use of serifed type adds gravitas and solidity whilst a clean sans font implies modernity and dynamism.

Finding complementary fonts that work together in just the right way is an art form. Combining a sans serif and a serif typeface is a classic combination which usually provides excellent contrast. It is usually best to avoid combining typefaces that are too similar as this may cause confusion.

It is always a good idea to spend some time researching other brands and publications. This will help establish the typographic norms for the specific market space in which you operate. For example, there is an expectation that design in the banking or finance sector will look a certain way. Whilst technology companies tend to have a distinctive look of their own.

If your design or brand project has an online or app-based component. It is always a good idea to establish the availability and pricing of web fonts for your selected typefaces. These will often need to be purchased separately. Depending on the visitor numbers to your website or app could end up being a significant cost factor.

Conclusion

While we’ve only really scratched the surface in this article, it’s easy to see the vast part Typography plays in design. 

It helps you present your ideas to viewers, builds a loyal brand following and has the ability to revolutionise any project.

Do you need assistance with your Typography? Get in touch.

The working relationship was good, the quality outstanding and I will look for every opportunity to work with them again.

Sam Baker Deloitte

A stellar job of presenting rather dense content in a dynamic and engaging design ... Thank you for making us look so good!

Beth Morrissey mTech.Academy

Agent Jones is our go-to agency for reports, ensuring every design has a unique, tailored look and feel that is still consistently aligned with our brand. Their design and account management team played a pivotal role in the report’s ultimate global recognition and success.

Kailey Fuller-Jackson GSMA

Get your messages seen, and shared

WORK WITH US
McKinsey & Company
GSMA Intelligence
United Nations
Deloitte
mTech Academy
Nera Economic Consulting