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Typography Enthusiast

It's been a while since we've Geeked out on here.  I think its time we did that again!  Today we'll be telling you all about typography.  Well, not all about it.  That could take years.  Suffice it to say that you will likely learn something new about typography by the end of the post.  Alrighty, let the nerdiness begin ...

The Challenge

Typography is a sometimes subtle but always important part of design.  We designers can err in one of two extremes.  We can pay it too little attention because we are consumed with the other design elements.  We can also pay it too much attention by going down the rabbit hole of typeface tweaking.  Our clients can also err in not knowing how to communicate what bothers them.  Many of them can recognize that something is not quite right, but have no idea what words to use when talking about it.  Let's clear up some of that confusion now.

Typography

(literally meaning writing form) the art of arranging letters to make a message easy to understand, like and remember: The typography of a website is often overlooked.

Typeface

the form or style that a particular set of letters has: I want a typeface that is very bold.

Font

the file that describes the typeface the text should have: Can you download this font and tell me if it will work?

Weight

the boldness or thickness of a typeface: These letters are too thin.  Can we increase the weight?

Style

the specialties added to a typeface such as italics or bold: I would like the titles to stand out.  Can we change their style?

Kerning

the horizontal spacing of consecutive letters: I'd like the letters closer together.  Can you decrease the kerning?

Leading

the vertical spacing of lines of text:  I would like the second line to be lower.  Can you increase the leading?

Web Safe Fonts

fonts commonly on every computer insuring that the typeface will be consistent on any monitor: I want it to look the same everywhere.  Do we need to use a web safe font?

Google Fonts

Google's directory of free APIs for fonts that remove the need to download fonts for proper typeface: No, don't worry, we can use a Google Font. 

The Obsession

Now that you know how to talk about typography, we've got to give you the desire.  There are certain typefaces out there that are just ... I don't know.  They are awful.  Like Papyrus or Comic Sans.  Comic Sans particularly has become the default but of the all typography jokes.  The Comic Sans Project is a great example.  Great works of art and design can be ruined with the juvenile typeface this font provides.  Some typefaces have come into vogue for a while and you see them everywhere.  From 2010 - 2012 you couldn't open your eyes without seeing Bebas or Novecento plastered on something.

Then there are some typefaces that, for one reason or another, have a lasting legacy.  The greatest example of this is Helvetica.  It's not particularly web safe.  It's not available through Google Fonts, but it is everywhere.  It's on everything.  It doesn't matter what the medium is.  It doesn't matter what the message is.  Helvetica has become the go-to typeface for so many.  There's even a movie about Helvetica!  (It's a good film, too.)  Because it's a default, some people hate it, but because it's so versatile, some people love it.

The point is that once you start to notice the typefaces that are being used you start to wonder and appreciate why.  It's actually really fun.

The Choice

There are obviously thousands of great typefaces out there.  Some of them are more readable than others.  Some stand out better than others.  Some are appropriate for one use and inappropriate for another.  So, have some fun and be daring with your typeface choices.  Even if you end up going with Helvetica, Arial or Sans-Serif try out some new things in the process.  If you want to stick with the classics but don't know how to get started, here's a great flow chart that a friend of mine sent me the other week.  I think you might appreciate it.

Typeface Infographic

InfoGraphic by Inspiration Lab