Typography Tips – Our Top Five

Typography Tips

Typography Design Tips

The way you present yourself with typography has a big impact on your customer’s impression of you. There are many elements to consider when designing with type and the way you present yourself both online and in print is the culmination of all of these elements. Colour, typeface choice, weight and spacing are all important factors that we have discussed to some degree elsewhere, but here are our top five things to avoid when designing with type.


The use of all caps in today’s online world of blogging and social media is often referred to as ‘shouting’. This is probably not the image you want to be putting across with your typography! Not only can it appear rude to some viewers- it is also much more difficult to read. The uniform size of the letters is less legible to the normal viewer as we have trained ourselves to recognise ‘word shapes’ rather than picking out the individual letters and adding them up into words. So to give your audience an easy read (and keep them reading) make sure you use standard sentence case in your typography.

2. Stick to two (or three) fonts

There was a time when using as many typefaces as you could on a single poster was the way to go, but this isn’t the 1920’s music-hall anymore. To give your message continuity the best approach is to stick to just two or three fonts. Which you choose is mostly up to you, but make sure you stick to simple regular weight faces for body type and heavier or larger faces for headlines. If you’ve simply got to use a fancy curly font make sure you don’t over do it- one or two words in Zapfino is normally more than enough.

3. Measure it out

When you’re reading the daily copy of you’re favourite red-top, sometimes you’ll notice in the smaller columns your eyes are
from one
very short
line to
Unnerving isn’t it!
The ‘measure’ describes the amount of words on one line, and it can be just as difficult to read extremely long lines of text. Remember that powerpoint presentation you saw with the narrative spelt out along the bottom? Bet you didn’t bother to read it, or got lost at the end of the lines. So the message here is to stick to a happy medium. Our advice is to go for somewhere around the magic 66 characters per line mark, although this can vary depending on what printed size you are using for your typography.

4. The ‘Watermark Effect’

Working in a busy print shop (like what I do) we see this one time and time again- personally I blame MS Publisher for this typography terror. Lets say you’re writing an essay on the appeal of Leonardo DiCaprio to the modern lady. Are you tempted to write it all over his face, but make it light in the background like some kind of watermark effect? Don’t be. Not only will your reader be naturally drawn into the bewitching stare of his doting eyes, but the rest of his features will also distract away from your lovingly crafted type. Faces are not the only thing to stay away from when setting a background- geometric shapes can also be a very big distraction, contrasting with the rythmn of your letters. In fact we would usually recommend avoiding it completely, using light block colours behind your text instead.

5. Check Your Pound Sign

This one is for our loyal UK readership, and is my top tip for anyone typesetting for a small business. Before you choose your typeface from the millions of free fonts out there- make sure it contains all the characters you need. Frequently the cheaper faces just don’t contain the full character set and more often than not the one that is missing and you know you will need at some point is the loyal GBP £ sign. There is nothing worse than seeing a menu where the price is written in a different face to the accompanying description or a poster where the standout point isn’t the value of the advertised product, but more the terrible font choice it’s half written in. So before you start designing you’re typography just remember to double check. You can thank me for this one by leaving a comment ok?

So here’s the wrap up- there are many things to remember when designing typography and I’m sure you’ve got your own bug-bears already, but think about these five every time and you’ll be off to a good start. Want some more advice? Check out our design category or the articles below…

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Joseph Hewes

Contributor to printcolchester.co.uk and tailormadeinvites.co.uk. Web designer, printer and marketer based in Colchester UK.

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