Design & direction across brand identity, screen and print
Attention to detail No.1: Type
Good typographic practice makes digital designs better
- 1,177 words
- 6 minute read
Call me old fashioned, but proper typographic practice remains high on the list of topics that all types of designers should be knowledgable about. Matters of the straight vs. curly apostrophe, optimal line length, hanging punctuation, even the most basic of typesetting knowledge such as widows and orphans — and don’t even get me started on correct dash usage — are just some examples of things that I see falling by the wayside in design for screen today all around the internet.
If you’re a visually-led designer and you don’t have a foundation of type knowledge… then get to know, and quick. If you come from a research or psychology background and have wound up in UX, then educating yourself on these topics will only mean you create better, more meaningful work right down to the smallest of scales.
There are many pathways into design, and by having a formal design education to build upon, I was fortunate enough to have a dedicated typography tutor in Jim Williams. Jim is a typographer by trade, and went onto write the internationally recognised and multi-translated Type Matters! in 2012. Others aren’t that lucky to have had dedicated type tutors, while others weren’t in a position to go to school for design at all. So, I get why some designers out there don’t have this knowledge. But here’s why you should start to brush up.
Good typographic practice equals a good user experience
For over 1000 years, since the Chinese invented the concept of movable type, countless typographers have been refining and developing the best ways for letters and words to be displayed on a page, so people can then consume the most necessary information in the most efficient way possible. It’s why these topics were even birthed into existence in the first place: they’ve all been designed, then designed again, to aid reading, so people have a greater understanding of the content at hand. Iteration over centuries, my friend.
The first step in design thinking is centred around understanding. Building empathy with a user to cater for their needs later on. Pretty standard. When it comes to visualising in service to these needs, focusing on these small details will help to ensure the message is understood efficiently. They may seem insignificant and perhaps superfluous, but with enough details left un-crafted, users can quickly feel irritated without knowing the reason why. That’s not very empathetic now is it? Newsflash: one reason is that it doesn’t read right. It doesn’t sit right. It doesn’t flow right.
Content hierarchy is one thing. Content design is another.
Now, being old fashioned, I cut my teeth in the industry when the only term that used to exist for those designing websites and products was ‘Web Designer’. I’ve been through the mill as times have changed, and I understand that there many limitations designing for screen, and huge differences between designing for print. For instance, in modern digital design, one doesn’t have full control of the canvas (like one does when designing for print), as we never know how the user will interact with the site based on browser, device, connection et al.
But that’s no excuse to be lazy.