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May 9, 2012 / becca shayne

typography advice

Courtesy of Doug Scott, smartest RISD professor ever! (in my opinion, but also unanimously if you are in the GD dept at RISD).

Type set in his favorite Chaparral, a wonderfully useful list of typographical advice, on his signature neon paper. Advice as follows: (my comments are in italic.)

choose typefaces that have everything you will need: weights, italic, glyphs, etc.

when mixing typefaces, be aware of x-height, structure, contrast.

create a grid or structure that accommodates all levels of material, think about columns, hang lines, zones.

be consistent. this is the most overlooked, important thing! Proof Read!!!

create a hierarchy that is clear. use size, weight, color, etc.

make sure that you have enough leading. do not use automatic leading.

consider separating the contents into chunks to help comprehension.

choose a column width which helps readability, not too narrow unless the chunks have very few words, and certainly not too wide. a good maximum is 2 1/2 alphabets = about 75 characters

remember to be aware of negative space, use it to help organize material. do not put too much material on a page.

one space after periods, exclamation marks, question marks, colons, semicolons. not two!

use correct apostrophes and quotation marks, prime marks are to be use to denote inches and feet, some suggest that italic prime marks are preferred. also use the optical alignment to have the quotes hang into the margin

be consistent in your use of small capitals, avoid too much all cap setting. it becomes hard to read, and less important if everything is all caps or bold.

when using all capital and small capital setting, slightly letterspace for better legibility.

use old style figures if they are available, if not, consider reducing slightly the size of lining figures. old style figures are designed to blend in with lowercase letters in body text, like dates, etc. lining figures are best when not in a paragraph

use ligatures that are available in your typeface. usually ff, fi, ffi, tt, etc.

use proper fractions. when making fractions, match the existing fractions.

be consistent in italicizing publication titles. check a style manual, such as The Chicago Manual of Style.

use the following in moderation and with good reason: underlining, letterspacing, lower case words, all capitals, italic text, reversed text.

he didn’t talk about em dashes and en dashes on this sheet, so I guess I’ll save that lesson for another time. Hope this helped!

Addition: read page two, the rest of Doug’s advice here

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