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Good use of typography helps make the right statement

Graphics | January 1, 2007 | By:

Don’t overlook how good typography will capture the viewer’s eye and support your message.

When printing on fabric, choosing the right image, fabric, and printing options are all important decisions. But don’t overlook how good typography will capture the viewer’s eye and support your message.

Whatever your project is, defining the purpose and the intended audience will help you or your designer choose appropriate design elements to communicate your message. A key element in any design is choosing the right type. Knowing the basics can help you create the professional type you need or have the vocabulary to work with a designer to get the right look.

What is typography?

Typography is the art of putting words on paper, fabric, or any other medium, in a meaningful way that draws the reader in and makes a visual statement. Good typography can do one or more of the following: persuade, inform, identify, or provide information.

Readabilty vs. legibility

One of the first considerations in choosing type is to determine which is more important: readability or legibility. Readability refers to how easy an extended amount of text is to read as well as how type (and the other design elements) is arranged on a page. Typeface and size, leading, line length, alignment, letterspacing, and word spacing all affect readability.

Legibility is the ease of recognizing a character (is it a C or a G?). This is a function of the typeface; some typefaces are more legible than others. For applications that involve digital printing on fabric, legibility is key.

Display typography

Consider this: You only have a few seconds to catch the reader’s eye and communicate your message. Successful display type integrates the words and pictures into a cohesive visual statement that can be quickly and easily understood. Display type is usually more expressive than body type and is intended to draw attention.

Display type (type over 14 points high) must be legible in order to be effective. Factors that contribute to legibility include typeface (Helvetica, Minion, Nuptial Script), character shape (O or Q), use of color, and how the type works with the other elements on the page.

Display type is most effective when the typeface suits the message. (Imagine a STOP sign set in a fancy script, the Target logo set in upper and lower case serif, or the Coca Cola logo set in a sans serif.) Look around. What billboards or signs do you notice? Why do you think they are effective? Why not? Here is a quick way to see how effective your type is: Set your message in a few different fonts and sizes. Print it out, hang it on a wall, and then step back. Can you read it? Step back further. Can you still read it? Does it communicate your message the way you want? If not, try a few more options. If you like it and it looks good small, it should look good at a larger size.

Marti Naughton, sMart desigN, is a freelance designer based in North St. Paul, Minn.,

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