Identity – Research (Typesetting)

To continue with my research into this project I shall now turn my attention to typesetting as typography is one of the most complex elements to creating successful graphic design, but also as one of the critical things the tutor said they would be looking for when it comes to marking this project would be how well the type was set.

As a starting point for a refresher on type anatomy and typeface styles, another member of the Graphic Design group kindly showed me the Playtype website a while back, which I find is very helpful, as it gives a glossary and anatomy of all the key typographic elements I need to be aware of.

What I am looking for is a typeface that conveys my design style of clarity, simplicity and intuitiveness, so I am thinking a sans-serif typeface will work better for me as it is clearer for this project and suits my style. I do not want a typeface to be overly assertive, although it should gain the audience’s attention, as I want it the primary role of it to communicate the information on the identity documents to the audience with clarity.

Another useful resource I have found is the Smashing Magazine website, where I have gained typographic knowledge in the past, and I can structure my designs thinking about the various issues as they are raised.

‘What Font Should I Use?’ – This article bounces off the paragraph where I discuss how I want to use a sans-serif typeface. Looking further into it, I believe a geometric or humanist typeface will work best for me, as a geometric typeface (Helvetica) is strong in clarity and minimal in design features, with an even weight, while a humanist typeface (Myriad Pro) would add a personal touch to the identity documents, as it will closer mimic handwriting. I will think about this more when I create my designs.

‘When Typography Speaks Louder Than Words’ – This article is a very interesting read that asserts the importance of typefaces when it comes to setting type as it puts the voice into the type that is missing should someone not be reading it. I’m not going to repeat what they have written, but suffice to say it has reinforced that connotations are drawn on heavily here on what the audience associates between different typefaces.

‘Best Practices of Combining Typefaces’ – This article is important to me as there is a high possibility I will be selecting two typefaces to work together. The main areas I need to think about are type hierarchy, type weights and colours and sizing. For example this article suggests using Garamond with Helvetica for instance as they are both rather neutral, with a hierarchy and structure to them. This also allows for different weights to be used to provide flexibility to the design and assert a hierarchy to the whole design.

Now I will be moving on, to look at adjustments that can be made to the type to enable it to be properly set for my identity documents.

Kerning: The act of spacing individual letters to balance a word, making it easier to read and to increase its aesthetics. This will be especially important when it comes to things such as display type, as the larger the type, the more care needs to be taken. The things I would use for display type will more than likely be my name, as I am going to take the approach for this project of being a freelance designer. Obviously if I worked for a design company, then there name would take precedence. (Image courtesy of Design Instruct)

To get used to kerning, or before I know I am going to have to kern quite a lot of type such as now, I will go to to Kern Type, a game where you get 10 words to kern in a variety of different typefaces. Thankfully I got a good score on this game (95/100), which should hopefully translate into successful type setting for this project!

Tracking: Adjusting the spacing between groups of characters and blocks of text to change the overall appearance and readability of the text. Closing the tracking will increase the typographic density, making it appear more like a block, whereas making it more open gives each character more space, which I think is needed for this especially when it comes to reading e-mail addresses etc. where the characters often do not fit into conventional words, so the brain has to process them as characters. However, it is important not to be too open so the characters are separated from each other. (Image courtesy of Design Instruct)

Leading: The spacing between two lines of text. It is important to balance this to make a paragraph of text easier to read. Should they be too close together, ‘crashing’ occurs, when the descenders of the above line clash with the ascenders of the lower line. Should they be too far apart, then it fragments the text, and you lose the flow, making it harder to read, and therefore meaning the audience are less likely to take in the information. (Image courtesy of Design Instruct)

Alignment: The positioning of type on a page, which can come in many different styles, and can alter how the type is read. The types of alignment are left aligned, right aligned, centred, and justified (where the last line can be varied left, central or right depending on the designer’s preference) Normally type is aligned from the left, as this makes the most sense for languages which are written from left to right. However, the brain is capable of interpreting different alignments, and sometimes it can be to the benefit of aesthetics such as ensuring a clean margin to position it right aligned, such as on a letterhead where the information is set against the right margin. (Image courtesy of Anthony Jones)

Widows, Orphans and Hyphenation: These are three things I really do not want to feature in any type that I set. Hyphenation is where the word gets split in two by a hyphen to reduce the typographic rivers that occur with left/right/centrally aligned text. However, it also ruins the flow of the text. Thankfully this can be turned off in the program I plan on using. As for widows, they are the last line or two of a paragraph that goes onto the next page. I should not be dealing with any of those for this project. As for orphans, that is when a word or two go down onto the next line that results in too much negative space between paragraphs.

What have I learnt from this research?

  • Number of typefaces: It is possible to use different typefaces for my identity documents (although they must work together), as it can assert a visual hierarchy, but I think that too many typefaces can confuse and clutter the whole design, making it difficult for the client to know where to look first. A tip I have picked up from one of the tutors is that preferably two typefaces work well, but definitely no more than 3. This I agree with so this format will definitely be possible to see in my ideas.
  • Typographic Voice: It is essential to select the right typeface, as my research has made it crystal clear that your appearance is determined by this. There may also be differences in opinion, for example I see Helvetica as a neutral, flexible, organised typeface that works well with many design formats. Someone else may look at it however, and think how boring, unoriginal and cold it looks. So subjectivity is important and unfortunately can never be removed. You can’t please everyone in design, just aim to please as many as possible.
  • Type Sizing: I do not think it works favourably to set type at a large size for identity documents, especially letterheads, as although the information on there is important it should not take away from the actual letter on the page. To me it looks like 10/11pt is the best sizing for this, but I have to say it does depend on the typeface as the x-height and the adjustments made can play a large role in readability.
  • Checking typesetting: By going through the points I raise in this post while designing my identity documents I should be able to iron out any typesetting errors. Also I feel it would be wise to get feedback on my designs and to get them proof-read to enable any typesetting issues I may have missed to be caught.

The next blog post may focus on drawing together any more research if I come across it, and feel it is relevant to the project, but the emphasis now turns sharply towards my designs, which I have been sketching out during my research.