About Typography

Regardless of your experience as a designer, the typography design principles are something that you could use a reminder for.

Typography is pretty important as far as design goes, and trying to learn things such as the origins of a font, or a specific typeface’s structure, can help you with enriching your design’s meaning.

When you know your craft, your clients will deem it impressive. And, as a designer, knowing the typography rules, ins and outs is something you should take as a responsibility.

Before developing your skill set, you should learn the basics. There are a few rules of good typography, and typography design, and this is something that all typography designers should know. Below, you’ll find a typography guide that touches on a few of these rules.

Know the basics of typography design

The first step if you want better typography designs is to know the basics. You might think that it’s just a practice if you’re new, but it is actually a combination of science and art, which makes it pretty complex. The typeface’s composition consists of accurate measurements, vocabulary, and specifications that you should take into consideration at all times.

Like with a lot of things, the only time you can break a typography rule is if you know it by heart, and only if you’re doing it to create something really significant. You should invest a bit of time into studying the art.

Choose a font

When you’re looking at typography design ideas, you’ll find that there are truly a lot of fonts, both free, and paid-for to choose from. However, just because you have that much choice, doesn’t have to mean that you have to use that. Painting with a limited palette can often be fun, and fonts that are tried and tested, such as Helvetica, serve pretty well.


All typefaces aren’t equal, there are thin and narrow, as well as fat and wide. Words in a different typeface can take up a different amount of space on the page. The height is known as the x-height. When you’re pairing typefaces, a smart call would be to go with matching, or similar x-height.

The width is known as the ‘set width’, and it encompasses the letter’s body, and a space that acts as a buffer with the other letters. The most common measuring system, the point system, dates back to the 18th century, and one point is 1/72”. 12 points make a pica, which is the unit we use to measure column width. You can also express type sizes in inches, millimetres, or pixels.


The vertical space between each type line is known as leading. This is because in the days of metal type settings, strips of lead were used to separate the lines. A general rule of thumb is that your leading value should be around 1.25 to 1.5 times greater than the font size.

Kerning and tracking

The act of adjusting space between characters in order to have a harmonious pairing is known as kerning. For example, when you have an uppercase V and uppercase A, the diagonal strokes are kerned, and the top right of the V sits above the bottom left of the A.

This is a skill you should master as soon as possible, as it makes a world of difference. Tracking, on the other hand, has to do with the spacing of all characters, and is applied in an even manner.

Scale and hierarchy in typography design

If you have information that is more important, and information that is less important, using large headings, smaller sub-headings and even smaller body type is a good way to distinguish them all, and guide the reader. You can also achieve hierarchy with color, weight and spacing as well.

Note the font communication

Typeface selection isn’t really a random process. When you’re going through your font catalogue looking for a typography design inspiration, you’ll seldom come up with an efficient result. This is because certain typefaces are linked to a psychology.

When you’re designing, you should ensure that your type is connecting to your audience. This is more than just having an impeccably written copy, but you should ensure that the font fits your market. If you’re making a law firm brochure, you wouldn’t go for a rainbow-colored font, right? That is better used for a kid’s birthday invitation.

Set a limit on the fonts

One of the most common mistakes of designers, usually beginners, is using too many fonts. If you need more than one, set a limit with two or three. Use one for the body, another for the header, and a third one for the subheading.

Feel free to go with different typeface families, as long as you can pair them cohesively. Using two very similar fonts can result in a mistake, and some might think that you aren’t being careful and are using the wrong font by accident.

Practice correct alignment

This is a very important concept. For some reason, people who aren’t designers tend to center align everything. This is usually because centered makes believe things are balanced and better. However, this is the weakest alignment, and the hardest to read. You should be using it very selectively.

This is an imperative concept, and many non-designers go between center aligned and justified, and this makes paragraphs hard to read. If you’ve used Microsoft Word, you already know the alignments, left aligned, centered, right aligned, and justified.

Left aligned is the most common one, and it’s pretty easy on the eyes. Right aligned only works if you use it properly, and justified text is a designer’s nightmare. With right and left aligned text, be careful with ragged lines. They’re pretty obvious when you have incorrect usage of centered text. When you have bumps in the text, adjust the lines’ length.

Understand and use a design grid

This is very important, as working with a grid makes sure that everything on the page is put relative to something else, which results in both visual, and logical harmony. Everything will look interconnected and cohesive.

However, you don’t have to use grids every time. It does, though, benefit you if you understand how and why they’re used, especially when you’re dealing with typography.

Pick a good secondary font for pairing

Since font pairing is very important, when you have a heading and a subheading, go for two different typefaces, ones which complement each other. This lets you establish visual hierarchy. The challenge here is to avoid two fonts that are contradictory, or two fonts where you can barely see a distinction.

The second font should be captivating, as much as the primary one, yet not lose the overall uniformity or consistency of the design.

Put a priority on readability in typography design

Regardless of what you design, people should be able to read your message easily. As one of the basics, dark text on a dark background is a major ‘no’. And, using a small font on a high-contrast image is another one. A striking typography design is very possible, but it goes to waste if your text is unintelligible.

Make a smart choice with the font palette

Color is one of the designer’ most powerful tools. Therefore, it only makes sense that a color scheme that is set up carefully is necessary for a complete design. If you want to pinpoint which colors are right for your design, dig into the color theory. For example, orange is thought to increase appetite, resulting in it being used a lot in fast food design.

There are rules here, and even though going with an outside-the-box design can result in a stunning, punchy design, you should make sure that the font colors aren’t too distracting. This results in a confusing message.

Get a handle on orphans and widows

Wiping out windows and orphans is one of the easiest ways to elevate your design to the next level. A widow is a line of text that’s actually a part of a paragraph, but is shifted over to the next column. An orphan is the same, but there is only a single word on its own. In any type-centered designs, both will shop up, and dealing with them is a good tool to have in your arsenal.

There are a few ways to deal with them. You could either edit the text manually, modify the lines’ length and eliminate the problem, or adjust the column size or text box, so the type can maneuver around the widows and orphans.

Avoid font stretching

Even pros sometimes overlook this one. Fonts are created with a lot of attention to detail, both shapes and measurements, and stretching it takes away from its value and efficiency. A common reason for doing this is to make them wider or taller, and there is actually a way of doing this without completely distorting the typeface.

You can go for wide or tall fonts from the start, you’ll find both free ones and paid-for ones online.

White space does not equal empty space

White space is actually a very valuable tool that can bring out that special something from your design. Using it smart gives you a few benefits. It helps put focus on an important part of your composition, it lets the design breathe, and it stabilizes the components of the design. It is an effortless way to add sophistication to the design.

White space can convey multiple meanings, all without adding a new element. For example, if you’re making a poster for new earbuds, putting the earbuds on the canvas, and not having additional elements, highlights the gadget and puts it as the sole focus.

If it’s for noise-cancelling earbuds, that white space conveys how the outside noise is cancelled, because there aren’t any other elements.

Treat, and use, typography design as art

Typography is more than the fonts that complement the design. They’re carefully fashioned, and require a level of artistry that will eventually become a great advantage to your toolbox. This is way beyond just constructing plain text, and it’s more about treating fonts as a form of art.

If you want a text-centered design that is one-of-a-kind, make sure that those eye-catching fonts are the design hero. And, don’t let the existing typefaces’ composition limit you. Expand your search to find the perfect ones, and then add whatever you want to elevate the feel and look.

Don’t use design fads

Design styles and methods tend to fluctuate. Some designers will jump on the bandwagon immediately, but these trends will leave as abruptly as they’ll come, just like in the fashion world.

Today they’ll be extremely popular, and nobody will remember them tomorrow. That logo you might’ve created a year ago, that should’ve been a “timeless design”, is now old-fashioned and dull.

However, there are also font trends that dominate your niche. The popular ones should be monitored, and you should study them to see why they’re prevalent. This means that you should learn how to analyze design components. Size them up, but don’t jump aboard any bandwagon without considering everything carefully.

Use the right tools

Just like a carpenter doesn’t hammer a nail with a screwdriver, you should know which tools fit the task, and even more important, which tools you shouldn’t touch. There are a lot of typography programs online, which will help you determine the best tools for a certain procedure.

However, paid tools can get a bit pricey, co make sure you do a comparison to see which tools you’ll actually need, and which ones you should bypass.

Adhere to the grammar rules

Grammar might be a bit confusing, since there are a lot of hidden rules you might not know about. Find out more about them, and learn those that are design-oriented, this may very well help you create a professional-looking design. The three pitfalls you should be extra careful about are hyphens and dashes, double spaces after punctuation, and ampersands.

There are a lot of guidelines for a design-specific sentence structure, and you will find that many designers actually know that this isn’t actually a trivial thing to know. Correct grammar is actually a very potent tool that gets your design to a new level, as it shows your attention to detail.

Find an inspiration

Just like with a lot of things in life, a bit of inspiration can go a long way. The best way to learn this is to study existing illustrations. Figure out what makes them effective and engaging, there are plenty of articles online. You can also try to spot graphics and fonts that catch your attention, things that make you want to elevate your game.

Break the rules

Rules are nothing more than guidelines that help you create great typography.

You’ll find that some of your best work will break one or more of the principles mentioned above. However, you shouldn’t break a rule if you don’t understand it by heart. Just make sure you have a specific purpose, and are aiming for a specific goal when you’re breaking it.