18 Typography Rules Every Designer Should Know

Every graphic designer worth their salt knows how important typography is to design. There is no denying that the smart use of fonts, spacing, and structuring will catch your readers’ eye and make for better responses.

Typography is the art (and science) of arranging letters to make copy clear, legible, and visually appealing. Do it right, and you can elicit certain emotions and convey powerful messages without saying much.

Knowing the essentials of typography will not only help you improve your design, but you’ll also be able to bend those rules to your advantage.

Here are some expert-recommended typography guidelines that can help to develop your design skills. Let’s have a look.

1. Start with the Basics

As with any designing practice, it’s imperative to know the nitty-gritty of the art. You might think you can play it by ear, but the truth is that typography is quite complex. So, as a beginner, get familiar with the fundamental tenets of typography.

The basic design elements of typography, in any language, include spacing, color, typeface, contrast, consistency, hierarchy, and alignment.

Take some time and learn about these basics – the different typefaces, the specific vocabulary, and measurements involved. Take some time to experiment with them.

2. Don’t Take Font Selection Lightly

Don’t Take Font Selection Lightly

It’s tempting to choose a typeface that randomly catches your eye and get started, but that’s one of the biggest mistakes you can make in the world of topography.

You’d be surprised to know that psychology is linked to different typefaces, as these can set the tone of your piece and play a part in how the audience views your content. As a designer, you must make sure that the font you use fits your market.

You wouldn’t choose a goofy font for a law firm brochure, now would you? Maybe for a birthday card, but certainly not for something formal.

3. Understand Kerning

Understand Kerning

There’s nothing that can turn readers away from your piece more than uneven and sloppy kerning.

It is the act of optimizing the spacing between characters to make your content more engaging and streamlined. It doesn’t seem like much, but well-coordinated kerning can make a world of difference to someone viewing your design. The aim is to make the spacing between every character aesthetically even.

Useful tools such as Adobe Illustrator can help you out with kerning issues. But know that you’ll only get better with regular practice.

Many kerning errors are subtle and hard to catch, especially in long paragraphs. Your goal should be to minimize any such spacing blunders and avoid any kerning issues in headlines or logos because they can mess up the whole design.

4. Keep Visual Hierarchy in Mind

Making use of visual hierarchy is a brilliant way of stressing particular parts of your content that you want the reader to focus on.

Visual hierarchy can be effectively used to lead the reader through your piece by establishing and switching the order in which your readers receive information. Try to guide their eyesight by highlighting important headlines, paragraphs, and breaks in your piece. Streamline your content from most important to less important aspects in a visual manner.

Without typographic visual hierarchy, your piece will seem like one big mass of content. Readers will find it hard to focus on your work. And making your reader bored is the biggest sin you can commit as a designer!

5. Choose Your Fonts Wisely

Many amateur designers often slip up and incorporate a lot of font styles. We don’t blame them- it’s tempting to think using various font styles will make your piece stand out. Well, that’s not true.

Using many fonts can lead to satiation for your readers. The gist of your content is likely to get lost amidst the different fonts and color schemes. And what’s worse, your piece will come across as unprofessional and incoherent.

The ideal font variation should be two to three typefaces at the most. Use one font and size for the body, one for the header, and another for the subheader. You can use different fonts as long as your piece remains coherent. Two similar-looking typefaces should be avoided as they won’t add any value to your design.

6. Focus on Alignment

Font alignment is a very important concept in typography. Using MS Word, explore the four types of alignment options available: Left Aligned, Right Aligned, Center Aligned, and Justified.

The most common and standard form of alignment is left alignment. You will find it as the default in most of the pieces because it follows readers’ natural reading habits. People are used to reading from left to right. Other types of alignment can be jarring if used regularly and without purpose.

However, center alignment is often used for headings. It also offers breaks in writing, such as adding a quote in between two paragraphs. Meanwhile, right alignment can be used to arrange text nicely on one side for context, such as on resumes.

One thing to remember- watch out for jagged lines with both left and right alignment. Lines that stick out can make the whole piece look sloppy and add bumps in your text.

7. Make Use of Grids

Having talked about alignment, there’s another way you can adjust your content spatially. That is to incorporate grids in your design. A design grid ensures that everything on your page, no matter how little, is added in relation to something else.

This leads to visual harmony and gives coherence to your piece. Think of it as a design stencil for your work.

You don’t have to use design grids for every piece. You can forego them for simpler details, but they sure help you nicely align everything when adding complexities to your design.

8. Don’t Stretch or Distort Fonts

Stretch Or Distort Fonts

Once you’ve found the right font for your content, do not tweak its size to make it wider or taller.

It can be tempting to stretch fonts to fill in more empty space. You should know that every font is created with its shape, size, and texture in consideration. Therefore extending or shrinking it can mess up its aesthetic appeal.

Instead of distorting fonts, choose the right ones that fit your piece. There’s an endless supply of free and paid fonts online, so select wisely.

A technique called typographic measuring can help you choose suitable fonts. It is important to remember that fonts take up different space rations on a web page, making font measurement crucial when designing a webpage.

A “point system” method is used to measure fonts. A character’s height is called the “x-height,” and the width is known as the “set width.” Choose fonts with the same size and width when pairing two fonts.

9. Choose a Secondary Font for Pairing Wisely

While we did warn you against using too many fonts in one piece, strategically pairing fonts can add a lot of value to your content pieces.

Generally speaking, it’s okay to use up to 3 font variations for the title, subheading, and body of the text. Use different fonts for headings and subheadings to establish a visual hierarchy. Avoid using extremely contrasting fonts or similar fonts where it can be hard to distinguish between the two.

The second font should enhance the first font, not overshadow it or cancel it out while maintaining the design consistency.

10. Avoid Jumping on the Trend Bandwagon

Graphic designing is a lot like fashion – styles that are all the rage today will be gone tomorrow.

So try to avoid trendy designs that might make your work look good now but will leave it looking outdated and weird a few months down the road.

It’s alright to incorporate a few of them in your designs. Just remember not to overdo it. You want your content to stand the test of time.

That doesn’t mean that you should sleep on trending designs. Analyze them to know what makes them popular. It’s always a good idea to incorporate new ideas that cater to your niche but don’t do it because everybody else is doing it.

11. Adhere to Grammar Rules

Grammar seems like the domain of a writer, right? What relevance does grammar have to design?

Well, grammar governs the rules for speaking and writing a language. At the same time, typography is the art of setting and arranging the words in a way that makes them look good. Use them together to make your typesetting look good.

Discrepancies in grammar and punctuation can drastically bring down the value of your piece. Proper use of punctuation can distinguish between professional content and an amateur fluff-ridden piece. The best designers always pay extra attention to detail.

Look out for double spaces, wrongly placed commas and punctuation marks, improper capitalization, and excessive hyphens, dashes, and symbols.

12. Do Not Underestimate the Importance of White Space

Importance Of White Space

There is a considerable difference between white space and blank space.

White space is used to put focus and add visual appeal to your piece. It lets your design “breathe” – like a patch of greenery between concrete-lined pavements.

Efficient use of white space can add value to your piece by balancing out the text. It can also be used quite creatively to draw attention to certain parts of your work. For example, adding white space around the important elements of your content helps highlight them and be the sole focus of the design.

For an in-depth understanding of white space click here!

13. Check Scaling and Proportions

Make sure that your typography fits the screen dimensions. Zoom in and zoom out to ensure that your typography is proportional to the entire screen width and length.

Make sure you set your leading right; this is the vertical space between each line. Generally, the ideal value is around 1.25 to 1.5 times greater than the font size.

14. Choose Your Palette Wisely

A strategic color palette can be your greatest weapon as a graphic designer. Use complementing and contrasting colors to add meaning to your content, and utilize the color wheel to choose the right colors for your design.

Different colors can have certain effects on readers and help set the mood. For example, red invokes passion, while blue has a soothing effect. See how you can use different colors to your advantage.

However, make sure that your colors do not overshadow your content. The colors should enhance your content, not overtake it.

15. Prioritize Readability

Readability is key to your designs. Your readers should be able to read your message without any difficulty. In no circumstances must your methods hinder the main text in your content.

Avoid using dark backgrounds, jarring colors, small fonts, and too many images. The best design is worthless if it’s not readable.

16. Watch Out for “Widows” And “Orphans”

Widows And Orphans

What are “widows” and “orphans,” and why are they important in typography?

A typographical widow is a line of text that is part of a photograph that shifts over to the next column. An orphan is a single word from a paragraph that has moved to the next column. To avoid “widows” and “orphans,” adjust the length of your lines manually or adjust the text box or column size.

17. Think like an Artist

Don’t think of typography as strategic use of fonts. It’s more than just creating plain text. Treat your fonts as a form of art.

Don’t limit yourself to just typefaces and existing fonts. Invoke creativity in your typographic designs and use swirls, textures, lines, or creative elements that you feel will complement your font.

18. Use The Right Tools to Aid You

A designer is a craftsman. And every craftsman needs the right tools for their art. You can use many tools to aid you in typographic design, such as SmallPDF that lets you add texts, images, and shapes to your PDF files. It’s good to compare typographic tools yourself to decide which tools will help your design and those of no use to you.

In Conclusion

Once you’ve understood these fundamentals of typography, leave the rest to your creativity and design chops. It’s all subjective from here on out. Let your target market inspire you to make typography designs that tell great stories and evoke your audiences’ emotions.

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