24 Nov

    TOP 5 Typography Crimes

    Typography is not just crunching a keyboard in Word, making a few words bold and few words red. Now that we have that established, here are what I’ve experienced as the Top Five Typography Crimes, in order of what I consider to be the worst offenses.

    1. Double Spaces

    “But I was always taught to put two spaces after periods.” Unless you plan on pulling out the old typewriter and white out, get rid of the double spaces. To give you some perspective, when this practice was the standard, they also taught you that ducking under your desk in the event of an atomic bomb attack would save your life. Spaces are our writing system’s method of telling our brain to pause for that split second. Having an extra space causes the brain to stall for an unnecessary amount of time, which could cause you to lose your audience. They also create holes of white space in your paragraph, which is not aesthetically pleasing in the least.

    2. Inappropriately Sized Type (Too Big or Too Small)

    There is a theory that the larger the type, the more attention it grabs. That is partially true, but only in the same way that ugly things grab a lot of attention. In my experience, nearly everyone sets their type too big. It must be legible, but fonts set too large cause the mind to process it slower, which could cause you to lose your audience.

    Two things to keep in mind: All fonts are slightly different sizes and weights, so two fonts could match when one is set at size 10 and the other size 11. And you must know your audience – An invitation for a 50 year high school reunion will undoubtedly need a larger font size than a 10 year, for obvious optical reasons.

    3. Widows and Orphans

    Appropriately named, widows are single words that exist alone on the last line of a paragraph and orphans live by themselves on the first line of a page. They create visual holes in the flow of text, which could again cause you to lose your audience. Save these poor souls by slightly increasing your column width or editing your text to fit them on the previous line.

    4. Computer Styling

    Fonts are not Silly Putty, so don’t treat them as such – do NOT stretch, condense, expand, slant, or otherwise compromise the integrity of the art form that someone years back created by hand drawing every curve. If you need your type to be more condensed or expanded, choose a font that has a condensed or expanded typeface.

    Example difference between font and typeface:

    Font = Helvetica. Typeface = Helvetica Bold or Helvetica Condensed.

    5. No Kerning

    “You mean the computer doesn’t do that for you??” If it could simultaneously do the Charleston and make you a sandwich maybe, but for now, computers do not automatically make the spacing between every letter perfect. Because every letter is shaped differently, too much or too little space between letters is often created. Remedy this by individually increasing or decreasing spacing between letters, but relax, type under size 24 is generally considered small enough to not need scrutinized kerning.

    Hope this was enlightening for you all. If you take these notes to heart, please keep these in mind when you produce your content. And my apologies in advance for pointing these out, as they will now probably annoy you everyday as you notice all the bad typography that litters our world.


    Author:  Zack Travis

    • Grant November 27th, 2010 6:15 pm

      Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

    • Steve December 31st, 2010 6:33 am

      Amazing, totally awesome. I am just getting into writing articles myself, nothing remotely close to your writing potential (ha!) but I””d love for you to take my stuff someday!