It’s All in How You Say It – Typography Design

Posted on April 10, 2014

In the signage business, there are just two primary methods of communication. Visuals are the most common primary avenue. They draw attention, convey a message in a hurry, and overcome language barriers. However, there is another element that is often given only cursory consideration and too often used haphazardly as an afterthought. What are we talking about, you might ask? Typography.

Typography, a craft that has been practiced since the invention of movable type, is essentially the art and technique of arranging type in order to form printed material and revolves around typefaces, point size, line length, leading, tracking and kerning; elements that few but experienced graphic designers ever consider. Although the majority of these elements are mitigated through modern word processing, a basic understanding of typography is essential for anyone that designs, creates or manufactures visual mediums.

Tools of the Typography Design trade:

You won’t go to typographic prison for this, but your signage might suffer.

Understanding the language of typography is the first challenge to using it effectively. Although these terms are rarely used among novices and rarer still in general usage, a basic knowledge of these concepts can make a world of difference in how you approach any design task.

  • Typefaces: a set of one or more fonts that share common design features
  • Point size: the size of a font
  • Line length: the width occupied by a block of text
  • Leading: the distance between the baselines of successive lines of text
  • Tracking: the space between characters in a line of text
  • Kerning: the space between pairs of letters

An example of typography design for a legal notice sign might include choosing a serif font, which has tabs (serifs) on the tips of some letters, and increasing the leading and kerning to make the text highly legible and appear important.

Speak louder than words

In any type of communication, a balance must be achieved between the visual and verbal facets of a design. This is why many astute designers use elements of typography to explore the interplay between what type looks like and what it actually says, as there is a strong relationship between the message and its visible form.

The visual language that is established when working with type can be used to elicit various emotions, and occasionally, even a physical response from the viewer. Take a look at the following example:

  • The light hitting the earth right now is 30,000 years old (Times New Roman).
  • The light hitting the earth right now is 30,000 years old (Comic Sans).
Comic Sans vs Times Roman Typography Professional Signage

Did you pay much attention to those handwritten signs on your sibling’s door that read “Keep Out” when you were young?

The previous statements are true. Both sentences are constructed exactly the same. Is one more believable than the other? People are more likely to believe the first statement, which is set in Times New Roman, because Times New Roman has serifs. And serifs signal serious business…except when they don’t. Not buying in to the importance of typography? Let’s check out another example:

  • HELLO, great to see you (Snap ITC).
  • Hello, great to see you (Calibri).

Again, we have the exact same statement. The first example seems enthusiastic, friendly and playful, a greeting that signals warmth and approachability. On the other hand, the second example contrasts significantly despite the same wording, signaling distance, hesitance and possibly sarcasm.

While the use of different fonts can easily convey diverse messages, there is much more to it. Through manipulation of letter spacing and size, along with variations in contrast and font consistency, the possibilities are seemingly infinite. Typography can be one of the strongest weapons in any designer’s arsenal.

The power of typography
Don't Push the Button Typography

You’re not following these directions, regardless of typeface. Visuals still matter.

Typography, when coupled with verbal language, has the substantial ability to produce, modify and enrich meaning. And while the visual element of any design will often be paramount, the significance of type and its influence on meaning should never be overlooked.

Are you getting ready to complete a design project? Have you given any thought to typography and its influence on the message that you are communicating? The visual virtuosos at Image360 are here to help. Not only can they create mind-blowing graphics for your project, but they can also guide you in the right direction when selecting text features. The Image360 signage experts can help you get it right every time.




2 Replies to "It's All in How You Say It - Typography Design"

  • Lexie
    April 11, 2014 (12:44 pm)

    As a designer in the sign industry, I couldn’t agree more with your insights. Typography is something that all sign designers should keep in mind. Even the smallest of details can make a difference in the final print.

  • Doug Curren
    April 12, 2014 (1:49 pm)

    Excellent article! One of the most over looked elements in any design is the font. Many times I ask a client in the design stage of a project, if they have a particular font in mind, and a typical response is “I dont care, pick something”. I’m glad to do that, but I also take the time to explain my choice, and the importance of matching a font to the message. The ensuing “Aha….” moment is priceless when building rapport and trust, better known as a relationship. Gee, what a concept!

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