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The Right Type

In this digital age typography is not a word that often springs to mind, yet it is as important now as it was all those centuries ago when it first came into existence. Although we have seen the surgency of video content a lot of content is still consumed through reading

The importance of typography in design relates back to its three main functions. The first and one of the most important functions is to improve readability. The second is to express a design piece’s meaning, tone, and mood. Finally, good typography will establish a strong visual hierarchy guiding the reader.

But before looking at its functions in more detail it’s important to understand what typography is. Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable and appealing when displayed.

Today typeface and font have become interchangeable, and most people will understand what you mean if you use either, yet they are different. Andrea Hattox explains this well in her article “What Is Typeface and Why Does It Matter?” She says “You can think of the typeface as the family and the font as the individual family members.” On that basis, Times New Roman is a typeface and Times New Roman Bold is a font.

Typography goes beyond the typeface and individual font. It also includes point sizes, line lengths, line-spacing (leading), and letter-spacing (tracking), as well as adjusting the space between pairs of letters (kerning). What was once the domain of typesetters or compositors is now available to all and sundry.

This brings us back to the main functions of typography: readability, visual appeal, and hierarchy.

The readability and legibility are heavily influenced by the typeface, spacing and point sizes. Sans serif fonts are considered to have lower readability than serif fonts, therefore aren’t as suited to large amounts of prose. A good test of legibility is how easy it is to differentiate the letters “b” and “h” or the numbers “3” and “8”.

Whilst visual appeal is very subjective used correctly, typography can convey a certain mood or feeling. The audience needs to understand what message you are trying to send and be interested in it.

Finally, establishing hierarchy is one of the most vital principles of typography. Typographical hierarchy aims to create a clear distinction between prominent pieces of content that should be noticed and read first, and standard content. This guides the reader so in an age of short attention spans it allows users to consume the necessary information in a short amount of time.

So the question is, “are you selecting the right type?”

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