In a follow up to one of TDC’s past most popular articles, 10 Common Typography Mistakes (part 1), I’ve decided to take the post a bit further and introduce some NEW mistakes and misuses in typography.
Again, the goal of this post is to help designers and clients understand the importance of good type skills, while avoiding some of the common mistakes. Please keep in mind that most of these mistakes are subjective and can be changed varying on the project, goals, circumstances, or for a specific cause.
Single word space after a period
Remember when your grade school teachers told you to add a double space after a period? Well forget it. Double spacing is derived from the Victorian and typewriter days. It’s best to stay single.
Letterspace capitals and small caps
Adding additional letterspace between capitals and small caps adds much needed breathing room between letters, thus making it easier to read. A good rule of thumb is to add 5–10% of the size of the type.
Don’t add letterspace to lowercase
Contrary to the above, adding letterspace to lowercase text creates readability problems, or too much ‘windowing’ between characters. If you are using a typeface for body copy in which the letterforms read too tightly you are most likely using the wrong typeface for the job.
Do not distort typefaces
Quality typefaces have been carefully crafted and strategically designed so why distort them by stretching, squashing, etc? Doing so without purpose, not only takes away from legibility but also eliminates the reasoning of why the typeface was designed the way it was. Typefaces are typically designed with a purpose. Whether its for headlines, body copy, or very small print, know your types intended purpose.
When dealing with hyphenated text leave at least two characters behind and take at least three to the proceeding line. This means you should never break up a word with 4 or less characters.
Have a reason for choosing a typeface
Too often we see improper use of typefaces. As a perfect example I will call upon our friend, Comic Sans. How many times do you see Comic Sans being used for “suit-and-tie” corporate literature?
When choosing a typeface a few things to consider are:
- History and intended use of the typeface
- Printed (or web) conditions; such as the size it will be printed, paper it will be printed on or intended audience (you don’t want to print a newsletter in 7 point type for an elderly facility).
Bombarded with too many typefaces
With all the free fonts out there we as designers are bombarded with so many “less than quality” typefaces. Try purchasing a few high quality fonts from quality font foundries and master them. You’d be surprised of how far a short stack of high-grade fonts can take you.
Helvetica is known for being widely versatile because of the quality of the typeface. It can be used in many of ways and under various conditions.
Watch those rags
When aligning type on the right or left, the uneven or the ragged side of the text block should have good rhythm and consistency. Make adjustments for the text to read properly and become more balanced.
Know your dashes
A common typographic error I often notice is the misuse of the dash, especially between numbers (ie: 1-99; should be: 1–99). Below are three main types of dashes and how/when to properly use them.
- En dash – (keyboard shortcut: option -)
- Em dash — (shift, option -)
- Hyphen – (-)
Here’s a great article on when to use each one.
Allow pages to breathe
While type can be a beautiful thing too much of it can be the opposite and suffocate a page. According to the book, The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst:
“If you want more than 500 words to a page, it is time to consider multiple columns.”
Carefully and strategically laying out a page before starting to type is essential. A good layout and hierarchy can help with readability allowing readers to carefully navigate the page and allow breaks from lengthy, tiresome pages of text.
Remember this list was composed to spread awareness and create discussion, not discourage anyone from trying new things and breaking the “rules”. I fully encourage all of you to go out and experiment with new ideas and concepts to become better typographers and designers.