ypography was one of the first things we studied in my program at Flatiron school. It is a basic foundational element of interaction in all forms of media. Everything needs some instruction of description. Reading and sharing written words is seen in almost everything you encounter in your daily travels. One blog I read even states that web design is 95% typography. That is a big statement, but written word is used the primary method of conveying information.
It is also probably one of the most overlooked aspects of design. It is relegated to an afterthought. “I’ll design everything else and then tackle that last,” we always say. It’s not as important as the UI elements or the icons for the app. We are all guilty of this, at least as novices in the art.
Everything I learned from my brief studies of typography has been forgotten. I can pick out a relevant font for my project sure, but after that my formatting is usually just how should I justify? Right, center or left. It leaves a lot to be desired. I haven’t considered legibility, contrast, size, spacing, kerning, tracking and how to make it captivating to read. What else have I neglected here? I don’t know and that is the problem.
As a designer I should know better than to assume the typo will take care of itself. It is a part of the design. Consumers interact with typo as much or more than other elements depending on the media type. Graphic designers probably understand this better than digital designers. They design for a wide variety of media: Posters, web, magazines, tools, physical surfaces and so on. For them typography takes on a life of its own when it is not just a few single word buttons on a mobile app.
Typography is an art unto itself. Before the internet exposed us to UI widgets and vivid art and images displayed on retina screens, we had beautiful typography. Newspapers and books used to be full of fabulous fonts within minimal shapes interspaced among some pages. Remember when the First character of a new chapter was in a much larger gothic-style font? That was art. We can’t do that now on digital, it doesn’t really translate well, but there are other ways to add visual interest to the typo. I would share all those secrets with you, but I don’t know them! Maybe you can find an old school graphic artist that will share some insights. I plan to take some online courses and do some research. It took me some reflection and a one hour instructional video to realize how much I want to celebrate typography. I want my words to have power not just in what they say, but also how they say it.
Knowing which font to use, what size, what width, justifying and spacing the text are all parts of the puzzle, but there is more to know too. How it interacts with other elements on the page, how it plays to the overall theme, and so many other nit-picky decisions come into play. Experiment with typography to get better. We have mastered moving the body copy around the page. Now is the time to think about the details.
If you are like me and have let go of the typography soapbox, GET BACK ON IT! It is important. It improves design, It is the underpinning of everything else in media. It is the context. Maybe the king of design is they typography and how you use it. We need to get back to basics, take some classes on the subject, listen to experts in the field, experiment. Let’s re-imagine the power of typography.
If you reading this know more than I do, please reach out with your ideas, suggestions and resources. I would love to hear them and learn to be better at designing typography.