Monday, March 12, 2007

Final Thoughts

The goal of this project was to learn about how typography plays a role in visual communication. I focused on typography in publications such as newspapers, magazines, books, and advertisements, but I was also concerned with typography in graphic design. I wanted to give some overall basic information about typography such as common terms and popular families of type. I also focused on how typography can convey certain moods or emotions, and how that can play into forming a message. I found most of my information in books, as opposed to journals or on the Web. I used graphic design books, and many books about typography. Some gave information about type families, some about type contrasts, and others about people who used typography for different purposes. I learned that typography plays a great role in shaping the message, be it in a newspaper, an ad, or a logo. Typography doesn’t have to be just text; it can also be an art.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Creative typography

I've covered many categories of typography but really typography is all around us everyday. There is typography on street signs, on bus stops, and on billboards. Typography can be bland, and it can be extremely creative.

Type, in any creative project, should be chosen to maximize readability. Readability refers to the ease of reading a printed page. "Readability involves design of the total visual entity, the complex interrelationships among type, symbols, photos, and illustrations" (Berryman 28). Type should also help reinforce the message being conveyed. “The type should reflect the tone, attitude, and personality of the communication. In a word, the type should be appropriate to the audience, message, client, medium, and image” (Ryan and Conover 110). In her book Better Type, Betty Binns puts these ideas together: "The ultimate goal is to have readable type that is also beautiful and expressive" (9).

An effective typographic message will stop the audience. This is the goal of headlines in newspapers, magazines, book covers, and advertisements. The type chosen is important, as is the placement. Ryan refers to type as both an art and a science. It is an art because designers use type, artwork, space, and color to “create and shape their masterpieces” (Ryan and Conover 110). It is a science because there are lessons learned about line length, style, point size, and type choice. A good layout will combine art with science to create a visually exciting piece.

Type can have a variety of meanings, as seen with this image:

Type can also be used to create visual puns.

Here is another visual pun created with this poster:

“Clever use of visual rhetoric creates high impact direct mail pieces for this gardening company…The imagery and arrangement of white type on the green background reflects the gardening activities that correspond to the season” (Walton 113).

This movie poster shows the way type acts in accord with art. The use of color brings a sense of unity to each poster.

These three movie posters created for a “modern day Western” show different solutions to one brief. The three images employ Western iconography: slab serif typeface, bullet holes, splashes of blood, and faded photographs (Walton 41).

For chat and discussion all about typography, click here.

Image source 1,2: March, Marion. Creative Typography. Cincinnati: North Light Books, 1988.
Image source 3,4: Walton, Roger, ed. Big Type. New York: HBI, 2002.

Friday, March 2, 2007

More Web typography

Using contrast between different styles of type on a Web page and between other elements such as headlines and the surrounding white space, will aid legibility. Also, establishing organized patterns will make the page more visually appealing and will keep the reader interested in looking at the page. “The regular, repeating patterns established through carefully organized pages of text and graphics help the reader to establish the location and organization of your information and increase legibility” (Lynch and Horton).

Margins and white space exist to help define the main reading area and the surrounding environment. They also provide visual relief when looking at a Web page. It is sometimes difficult to read Web pages not only because of the low resolution but also because the line length is often too long. A long line of text may make readers strain their eyes or lose their place when going to the next line. To account for this problem a Web designer can use invisible tables (border = “0”) to limit the line length to about 50 to 70 characters.

In terms of line spacing, to account for the longer lines of text and poor resolution, it is a good idea to add extra leading in between lines. For text that is 12-point font, implement leading of 14 or 16 points. For paragraph breaks, more common than indenting is leaving an empty line of space between paragraphs. This helps scanning a block of text and adds a visual rest to the reading. If a designer is using CSS, he can set the blank space using the “text indent” property of paragraphs.

Image source: Lynch and Horton. Web Style Guide: Typography. 5 Mar 2004. 16 Feb 2007.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Typography on the Web

The principles for typography on the printed page are similar to those on the Web. However, there are some key differences. On the Web, the resolution of the typeface is much lower than that of magazines, books, and even newspapers. While the resolution of magazines is 1200 dots per inch (dpi) or higher, the computer screen usually outputs resolution at 85 dpi. Also, there is less space available on the computer screen (before scrolling) than there is on a printed page. One of the biggest differences is the Web’s variability. Each line of text is rendered by the Web browser, Web server, and the operating system of the user. One page could look different to users because of these variables.

Scientists created HTML in order to share particle physics documents with each other (Lynch and Horton). Because of this, graphic design and typography were left out of the equation. “In focusing solely on the structural logic of documents they ignored the need for the visual logic of sophisticated graphic design and typography” (Lynch and Horton). Most Web designers do not even use the standard headline sizes in HTML because they are either too large or too small. The idea behind making different sized headlines was to clearly present the information, but the design suffered because of it. Cascading style sheets (CSS) is one way to bring together information and design. Using style sheets, one can control the style of headers, text, paragraphs, and other page elements. Another benefit of CSS is the ability to control the design of thousands of pages by adjusting the settings on one master style sheet document. Also, CSS provides greater typographic control using less code. If you’re a Web designer who isn’t using CSS, now is a good time to learn. Click here for more information about typography on the web.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Book jacket typography

There are many forms of type involved in a book, but the most creative kind is on the jacket. Louise Fili was art director at Pantheon Books for 11 years starting in the late 1970s during which time she designed hundreds of book jackets. (See the Web site for Pantheon Books here.) One interesting thing about Fili is that she believes there is only one typeface that is right for every jacket. She has used faces from the early part of the 20th century and come up with creative uses for them. She is also a collector of antique faces, many of which she found at European flea markets and used book shops (Aldrich-Ruenzel 72). She finds much of her inspiration from European poster design of the 1930s and early ‘40s.

Fili was interested in calligraphy since she was very young. She eventually became a designer and then an art director. When she’s designing the cover for a fiction book, she’ll usually read the whole thing and for non-fiction, she’ll usually read a synopsis and first couple chapters. She does this to get an idea about the message and tone of the book. “I don’t want to use a typeface that anybody can use. I feel I have to go a step further to make it unique and, of course, appropriate to the subject matter, which is also something that is very important to me” (Aldrich-Ruenzel 73).

In her super old typefaces in her collection, sometimes the whole alphabet does not exist or there are letters missing. In those cases, she has someone hand draw the rest of the letters. She emphasizes good communication with illustrators, designers, and letterers in order to have a successful project. “With art direction, it’s a communication game and there is always something that gets lost along the way” (Aldrich-Ruenzel 74).

Image source: Aldrich-Ruenzel, Nancy, and John Fennell. Designer's Guide to Typography. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 1991.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Magazine typography

"Good magazines use lots of type--to tell their stories, to create attractive pages, to aid the reading process--and to help sell more copies" ("Fonts" 30).

In magazine design, much like in newspaper design, there is a style guide, or a stylebook. It is this that addresses all typographic elements of the magazine including text, captions, pull quotes, headlines, bylines, and so forth. In Graphic Communications Today by William Ryan and Theodore Conover, it states, “the physical appearance of the magazine should reflect the editorial content and appeal to the audience for which it is intended” (482). This is a good summary of the function of magazines and how typography, as part of the visual makeup, plays a part in the message.

There are two types of situations regarding typographic headers. One is that there is a consistent family used throughout the magazine for all headlines and titles, and the other is to vary the typography depending on the feeling, attitude or image the designer wishes to convey. Time, U.S. News and World Report, Esquire, and Sports Illustrated have set type for which they use for headers. Rolling Stone, Seventeen and National Geographic vary their feature heads to accommodate preference.

“A magazine’s success is closely tied to the ability of its producers to isolate the target audience and create a product that will appeal to that audience. Thoughtful, appropriate design can help ensure that goal” (Ryan and Conover 482-3). A sports magazine should be hard-hitting with bright colors and action shots, while a business magazine should be more subdued and professional looking. Typography on the cover and inside pages plays a major role in creating the visual feeling of a particular magazine.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Advertising typography

"One of the first things graphic designers learn is the power of type. They are taught how to use type to attract a reader's attention, present information in a pleasing and effective manner, help the reader understand information, and to rank data in order of significance. Graphic designers take advantage of large typeface libraries to help them do their job" ("Fonts" 30).

Ad veteran Gene Federico is one of the most successful art directors for advertising. He says that’s it’s important to try something unexpected when dealing with typography in an ad. However, the type shouldn’t be overemphasized or isolated as to break from the message. When designing an ad, he wants to create a visual identity for his clients, and integrating typography is one way to do that.

Two important elements of typography in an ad are rhythm of the line breaks and “sound tones” of a typeface. The line breaks of type help aid the understanding of the message. Many times designers will break lines just for the visual aspect but this is dangerous in terms of comprehension of the idea. “I read the copy until I learn where to break the line properly,” Federico says. “If I find it doesn’t work well visually, maybe I will go to another type that is more condensed” (Aldrich-Ruenzel 58). The “sound tones” refer to the personality a typeface conveys. You want to choose a typeface that fits the meaning and tone of the message. He says that one of his favorite faces, Bodoni, can be elegant or strong, depending on the size.

Just as line breaks are important to comprehension, so is placement of type. Federico thinks that the use of stacking type and centering it can actually hamper readability. He believes that one's eye would get tired of reading centered type a few lines down. Newspapers are flush left for a reason: because it’s easier to read that way. In terms of using a computer, he thinks that it is a helpful tool, but it won’t help visually communicate a message—a designer has to do that.