Make Your Text Easier to Read: Typefaces
In the past blog I wrote about the first thing I work on when starting an editorial design: margins. Good space management helps make your text easier to read.
In this blog I share the second step to which I pay close attention: typography.
What is typography?
Before we get into the topic of how typography helps make your text easier to read, let's review some terms.
When talking about typography it is common for people to refer indistinctly to words such as "type", "letter" or "font".
When we talk about "typography", we refer to the discipline or arranging text to make it legible.
“Typeface" is used to refer to the art of designing characters with styles.
"Characters" are the letters, numbers, and punctuation marks that make up a typeface. It also includes what are spaces and any other special symbols.
For example, "Times New Roman" is a widely used typeface. "Arial", "Comic Sans" and "Helvetica" are other examples of typefaces. Each one has a particular design.
Now, each typeface contains a group of features that are called "fonts". For example, the typeface "Times New Roman" contains the font "Times New Roman Bold" and "Times New Roman Italic". Other features of the fonts can be "Narrow", "Condensed" and "Semibold" among others.
So, we can summarize that “typeface” is the design of characters. “Fonts” are variation of styles of those characters.
What to consider when choosing a typeface to make our text easier to read?
When I'm looking for which typeface to use, I follow these three steps:
1. Select a "Serif" typeface for the long text.
When we talk about a "Serif" typeface we mean that the letters have "legs" at the ends. Again, the classic example is "Times New Roman."
"San Serif" (without serif) are letters without those embellishments at their ends. For example, the typeface "Arial".
Serifs are used in long texts as they help the reader create an imaginary horizontal line while reading.
The San Serifs are good for headings or short texts.
2. Make sure that the selected typeface has a variety of fonts.
After I select the Serif typeface that I will use in the long text, I make sure that it offers a variety of fonts.
Text in books, magazines, or manuals, will always use variations in "Bold" or "Italic".
3. Select typefaces for headings, subheading or sections.
When we select a typeface for the long text, we focus on it being a Serif.
However, when we look for a typeface for headings, subheadings, or sections we have more freedom. We can choose between the styles of "Serif", "San Serif", "Scripts", "Monospaced", among others.
We can make an art look modern, corporate, creative, relaxing, historical... all according to the typeface that we select.
What will determine the style is the content of the text and the audience to whom it is addressed.
Readability first and foremost.
There are thousands of typeface and font options. However, design can never surpass function.
When designing a long text, we seek that the reader can interpret the text with the least possible distraction or interruption.
I agree with David Bann when he says "(...) type usage is usually a matter of making a few consistent choices."
The use of typefaces with a variety of fonts is an ideal option to maintain consistency in an editorial design.
So, choose a Serif typeface with a variety of fonts for your text, a readable and meaningful one for featured texts; and be consistent throughout the document.
In the next blog I'll write about how spaces in text help make your text easier to read.
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