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5 Web Typography Principles for Non-Designers

Typography is the visual arrangement of type used by graphic and web designers to enhance the layout of text on a page for readability and artistry.


The question is: Do typography principles used by designers have any benefit for everyday professionals?


You don’t have to have an occupation in design to appreciate fine type layout and make good use of it in your papers, emails, invitations, family cards etc.


We’ve pulled from our arsenal to provide you the top 5 typography principles you should know and live…we mean, write by:


There is a difference between a typeface and a font.

Warning: We are about to enter a “methodological designer mode” on you.


For just a minute.


The difference between a typeface and a font is Typography 101.


A typeface is also commonly referred to as a font family. Examples of these include but are not limited to Helvetica, Arial, Times Roman. These are typefaces.


The individual characters that make up a typeface, the style and sizing are fonts. So, 12pt Bold Helvetica is the font within that font family.


This terminology has its roots from the early days of the printing press. In the 15th century, printers chose from an assortment of blocks of letters that were then etched onto the paper. This assortment within one box was typeface. Each block was a unique font of that typeface.  Read about the journey of typography.


Why is it important you know all this? Other than to please us fussy designers.


Primarily, because knowing this can help you distinguish type you want to use to write your papers, print your flyers or enhance the invitation for that party you are putting together.


Additionally, now you’ll know what others are talking about (or not talking about, remember now you’re an expert) when using the terms.


You should apply leading to enhance readability of your text.

Repeatedly confused with other terms, leading refers to the space between the baselines of type. This is different than paragraph spacing of single line, 1.5, or double.

Leading is a manual adjustment of the lines of type, adjusting the height of font characters and the spacing of ones that stand too high or low falling into another line of type. This enhances the ease of reading and the mood of the body of text.


You may not be a designer, but you can use leading to make your papers look sharper, organized and more professional. Now, who doesn’t want that?


Bold and underline should be used sparingly.

The ultimate pet peeve of designers! We’ve all seen it.

You receive an email or read an ad on the bulletin board that every other word is either bolded or underlined. Or even worse, BOLDED, UNDERLINED AND IN ALL CAPS! This is not necessary at all to get your message across: What you are reading is important. Instead though it makes everything stand out and clash to the reader, hurting their eyes (and brains). Instead of attracting to your message, it’s detracting by making the text hard for the reader to see hence, hard to understand.


Use more sparingly, font styling can properly express your voice as the writer. Bold characters should only be used on headlines, notations or to emphasis an individual word(s). Underlined characters should be used very rarely, with a preference to italicizing or “putting words in quotations.” Even considering using different sizes of fonts within the page assists to draw attention to certain areas of text.


You should consider kerning your text.

Unlike leading, kerning is the space between the text characters, when some fonts are typed irregular spacing occurs between letters. Kerning manually adjusts and evens this space. Kerning can be applied to increase or decrease space between letters. This can be used as an artistic option as well.


In all typography, think of your audience.


First and foremost, what will increase their legibility?

Even though you aren’t a designer, you still want your work to look polished!


Limit your use of decorative typeface.

If there is one thing you remember from this article, let it be this: Do not combine too many fonts with each other. Limit yourself to 1 decorative font.


In theory, the more decorative fonts will make your paper that much more fun! The more the merrier. The reality though, is you end up with a paper that looks sloppy, even kiddy. Additionally, know that decorative fonts are not designed and should not be used on body text due to increased difficulty in distinguishing the letters at smaller point size.


It’s best practice to use a serif font with a sans-serif font, and one decorative font. Read how to best accomplish this here.


In conclusion, understanding some basic typography principles can benefit you as a non-designer. Whether you do lots of writing or none at all, understanding the distinction between good and bad typography has its benefits!