We, as web designers, are a naturally creative people. Using digital technology to express our ideas and passions is just what we do. While inventive layouts and eye-popping visuals are the most common ways to make our hard work stand out, typography remains an often overlooked avenue to elevate our designs.
The use of typography is nearly as old as the written word itself. From ancient times to present, artists have used typography to emphasize the ideas held within. For something as basic and old as “dressed up letters”, typography remains as relevant as ever and as such, we’ve compiled five useful tips to take full advantage in your designs.
Look Beyond the Surface
At Webydo, we understand that every project you produce and every design you create is done with the sole purpose of reaching an audience. Though the reasons for reaching out may differ from design to design, this universal goal remains a constant. That being said, designers in general would do well to use all aspects of typography to draw the audience in and help convey their messages in a familiar, relatable way.
If you’re at all surprised at the following sentence, it’s better you read and digest it now than days or months down the road when the damage has already been done. The hallmark of good typography in web design does not begin and end with font choice. Ouch, I know. The art of typography has so much more to offer. In fact, before the digital age, it had its own, dedicated profession!
Aspects of typography like line length, spacing, and font size can be combined to compliment type face and achieve a look and feel more closely attuned to your audience. Resist the temptation to rely too much on font alone!
Know Your Media
As consumers, we’ve never had so many choices when it comes to the consumption of media. Tablets, smart phones, laptops, desktops and even TVs are regularly used to view the content we create. Unfortunately, most designers are bound to a single device when they work their magic and therefore risk making typography choices that don’t translate well to the devices their audience is using.
As a good rule of thumb, the busier the type face, the bigger the screen needs to be. Still want to use that fancy new font despite an audience of smartphone wielding teens? You’re in luck! As discussed in our first tip above, adjusting spacing (especially kerning) and point size can do wonders for readability on small screens.
Small Changes Can Have Substantial Effects
The art of typography can be surprisingly complex. Fill a page with ten point, Times New Roman and your audience is presented with a rather boring, sterile tone. Fill the same page with wide spaced Linden Hill and the content is instantly more vibrant and enjoyable to read. It never ceases to amaze, how different a design looks when something as subtle as paragraph spacing is even slightly adjusted.
It can be both easy and fun to experiment with all aspects of typography to completely alter the feel of a design. That being said, don’t use a nail gun when a simple piece of tape will do the job just as well. If you’re having trouble getting the exact feel you’re looking for, start small and focus on a single aspect of typography.
While this tip might seem like a no brainer, let’s look at it in a slightly different light. When we talk about consistency in web design (and in our case typography), we’re really talking about theme. Theme is everything in web design. Nothing ruins an otherwise stellar design more quickly than an inconsistent theme.
Likewise, what theme is to web design, typography is to theme. Straight laced fonts and close spacing benefit data-centric designs while bold fonts with creative kerning do well with more adventurous content. Know your theme and stick to it.
It’s worth mentioning here that opposites aren’t always the death knell of a solid design. On the contrary, pairing a sans serif with a serif or bold fonts with thin can prove very useful for creating compelling designs. The key is to know when to use these techniques and, you guessed it, be consistent!
Don’t Be Afraid to Break the Mold
I know, I know. We just finished discussing the importance of creating a consistent theme through the use of typography and now I’m about tell you to forget the rules. Well, hear me out on this one before passing judgement, I promise it’ll be worth it.
We all know there are unwritten rules when it comes to typography. They were created to protect designers from repeating heinous design faux pas that could very well bring about the end of the world. Right? To a large degree that’s true, but I’m here to tell you that some of them can, and even should be broken under the right circumstances.
Some of the greatest web design innovations were born out of a desire to try something that just shouldn’t work. Well sometimes they do. So don’t be afraid to go against the grain and try something radical that shouldn’t work. You’re a designer after all, you’re suppose to think outside of the box!
A Parting Tip
And there you have it. Five typography tips to help you elevate your designs and hopefully inspire some creativity. Don’t let it stop there though. With as many combinations of font, size, weight, spacing, etc. as there are, you’ll likely be discovering new ways to use typography as you continue to develop your craft.
Keep track of them! Write them down. Take a picture. Put them in a time capsule if you have to. Sure, you’ll memorize some styles easily enough, but digging through piles of past projects because you vaguely remember a killer typeset that would go perfectly with a current project is neither productive or enjoyable. Just as you would add finished designs to your portfolio, keep successful uses of typography in a handy place you can reference when the time comes. You’ll be glad you did!