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FAST CLASS: Typography Fundamentals

Lesson 2 of 7

Selecting the Right Type for the Job


FAST CLASS: Typography Fundamentals

Lesson 2 of 7

Selecting the Right Type for the Job


Lesson Info

Selecting the Right Type for the Job

The first thing we're gonna talk about this morning is selecting the right type for the job. Okay, this is one area that's very daunting to a lot of people on bits, absolutely critical to to a job. In fact, the time spent doing what I call a font exploration. Um, you could never spend enough time doing that, because once you select the right font or fonts, you sometimes or 50% there in your design, you could have the best design on the planet. But if you're not using the right fonts, um, it's not gonna work. On the other hand, sometimes the selection of the fonts or typefaces and I'll explain that a little bit a little bit later. The the actual difference. Sometimes it helps a piece actually design itself because the type speaks to you. It speaks to the message, and then it makes things a lot easier. Okay, so type, you know, as I've been starting to say, type has the power to make or break a job. Every typeface has a distinct personality, more or less could be a big personality, could ...

be a small one and conveys a different mood message or feeling. But before beginning your typeface exploration, the most important thing is to know your goals. Remember, your primary objective is to serve your clients needs not your own. And this is really, really important because there are a lot of designers and a lot of people in the creative world who think I wanna make this great statement. I want this to express me. This is all about what I think design should look like, or I wanna enter this in such and such competition. So I wanna put everything I know into this piece and make this killer piece. No, that's not the way that's not your job as a designer. If that's an offshoot of what you're doing, that's fine. But your primary goal is to serve your clients needs and not your own. If your primary motivation is self expression, be a fine artist, okay, because then you're not trying to serve. You're not getting paid to solve a problem. Okay, Every job requires a different approach. For instance, an annual report usually requires high ledge ability and usually has to capture the spirit of the company. Ah, book cover, as opposed to a book interior needs to be eye catching and tell a story. Tell the story in a split second. Now the thing you should think of if you're doing a book cover for instances, although a lot of people buy things online. If you go into a bookstore, okay, you're inundated with book covers. You should be able to tell even if you're in a foreign country where you can't even read the language, you should know where the romance section is. You should know where the history section is. You should know where you know what the other, the technology section, perhaps, or the novels just by the way the cover is designed and by the way the cover is designed means that the typography is 50% let's say, and sometimes 100% off how that looks. So it's not just about also, it's not just about making something that looks good on your computer. You have to consider the environment is going to be viewed at. So, for instance, if you're doing a book cover and you really want to see how your idea works, take it to a store and see how it looks on the shelves next to other other covers. This is what magazines do. If you're ever designing magazine covers, for instance, it's not about what looks great in the studio on a blank wall. It's what's going to attract attention compared to what it's next to. Okay, so these air things as an intelligent designer prior to even thinking about the typography that you need to establish at the beginning. If you're doing a travel brochure, obviously it needs to do things such as evoke excitement and the flavor of the foreign country because that you want somebody did to buy into an experience, a foreign experience. So both the typography and the images and how they work together are very important. It's a point of purchase kind of thing, something or it might come in the mail. It's something it has to say. You want to get somebody to not throw it in the trash. Okay, so it all has to work together. On the other hand, something like a textbook or a novel. We're talking about the interior, and this could also apply to a magazine or a manual, or something like that needs to use pleasing ledge a ble text. Okay, a text typeface that doesn't tire the I. So text typefaces, which we'll talk about in a moment, are different from display typefaces. And the purpose is to make it easy for a person to read and to not have their eyes tire from reading too much eso. It's not supposed to have a lot of personality, which we'll talk about in a moment. So these are the things you need to determine first before you start picking your type and determining what your designs going to bay. The second thing is to know the demographics of your audience. Who is your audience? Okay. And if you don't know who your audience is, ask your client. This is the point where there's got to be lots of communication before you start doing anything. Okay. For instance, if you're designing for Children, you want an easy to read typeface, something that is child appropriate with simple shapes. You don't wanna get complicated letter forms when Children are first starting to read, and it's not easy for them, you know you want it to be engaging and pleasant for them. If you're designing for seniors and seniors, could be somebody in their sixties or somebody in their nineties. Okay, we all have different things that happened to the way we read in the way we see as we get older. So find out who that audience is. Um, seniors usually require designing with clarity and legibility. Very often, a taller excite in a typeface creates more ledge ability and makes it easier to read. If you're designing something for teens such as a book or a magazine, you can probably go with something that's more edgy and more expressive designs. I've noticed some, maybe not so much novels, but magazines for teens. They're really hard for me to read, but I don't think that's the point, because teens air more attractive. And I'm not a teen, obviously. So it's not important for May. They don't want me. Okay, they want somebody to go. Oh, that that expresses my sense of whatever rebellion, grunge, whatever. Whatever the audiences to be something different. A teenager doesn't want their magazine toe look like what Mom and Dad are reading. Okay, so you have different considerations when you're picking typefaces and you're designing Fourteens. You should be asking yourself how much reading are you're asking your audience to dio. The reason I say that is once again as much as as a type specialist, I think ledge ability and the message is the most important thing. It might not always be because some of these edgy teenage magazines it could be a rock poster. It could be a logo using type for somebody that's very counterculture and edgy. They might be more interested in the look and attracting the audience to buy the magazine and just interested in how it looks and how cool the pages are. And all this is great. Did you see? You have, you know, so that might actually supercede how much you want them to read. So you might be choosing a typeface that isn't so easy to read for the average person, but might be just fine for the teenager or that particular audience. You also want to ask yourself, What information do you want them to walk away with again? That could be supercritical. What if you're designing something for seniors that's instructions for medication or instructions what to do in case there's a fire or something that's really important for them to know? Then it's It's incredibly critical that how you design and how you set the type is really easy to read. The important elements might have to be highlighted. You have to put yourself in the shoes of your audience. Okay, again. It might not be as important if it's a movie poster and the main thing might be just the title and just the image. Maybe it will The information on the bottom, which relates to who directed who. You know, it might not mean it might be very important, but all the other credits on the bottom might that not be that important. In fact, you'll see in movie titles or credits. Sometimes things move so fast you can't read them. They're less concerned, perhaps with that, because sometimes things have to be there legally. Sometimes there's little legal information on the bottom of a piece that they don't actually even want you to read. It just has to be there. Okay, so things have different levels of importance of hierarchy, which we're going to talk about. So these are the things This is the homework you need to dio before you start to embark upon selecting typefaces and designing your piece. Okay, so you're basically going to approach your design with all of these factors in mind that I just mentioned. That's how you start any and every job. One thing. You'll hear me talking about a lot of two terms. You'll hear me use our ledge ability and readability, and there actually is a difference. And although remembering this is not going to make or break your career, it is important to understand the concept of the difference because there is a language and design and language and typography. And although we like to think of ourselves as visual people, we do have to understand the context of some of the language in order to not only so you could do a better job. But if you need to talk to a client or talk to your boss or sway your boss or client as to why one choice is better than the other, it's important for designers to understand how to speak the language of type and design, even though it might be a challenge. Okay, it is important, and it will set you apart and above other people in your office, in your studio looking for that job in your school. OK, so what is the difference between ledge ability and readability? Ledge ability refers to the actual design of the typeface. Readability refers to how it is set or how the type is arranged. So ledge ability relates to design characteristics, including things such as character shapes. The X height, which is the height of the letter X compared to the caps. Ah, wait. So whether you're using a very lightweight a medium weight or a bold weight is going to affect the ledge ability. So, for instance, you might have a typeface that is considered very ledge a ble for book typography. But you're not going to see book set in ultra thin. You're not going to see a book set in heavy or ultra bold because they're not as allege a ble in general as the book weight. And the name book way tends to come from the fact that it's often used for books. Could be book could be regular could be medium. Those tend to be the weights that arm or vegetable the size of the counters. Counters are interior closed spaces in characters. So, for instance, the inside of the E the G is the B Any character that has an enclosed space, that negative space is called a counter. And that's a good terminology to remember, because again, it's gonna help you to sound like you know ah lot when you're talking to people who don't you know. And again it could be your boss, a client or whatever. So they said. But I like that. Well, why don't use this? Well, this type faces more open counters, and it's a lot easier to read, and you're gonna capture your view. So I mean, it sounds like Bs, but it really isn't. It's really truth. And you, really, I feel that as a designer, you often have to educate your client as well as your boss in order to get your point across in order to get them to choose the most appropriate solution. Uh, stroke contrast relates to things like some Sand Saref smite. There's not a lot of thick and thin is they might be all this. It might be mon await. They might have a modified stroke contrast. Uh, then you could take something like a modern or, you know, a dedo, which has very extreme weight contrast and has very thin thins next to thick strokes. Okay, Those were not going to be a sledge, a ble. So while they might work well at large sizes for headlines, you're not gonna want to set taxed in that because it has reduced legibility. So that's another aspect that contributes to the overall legibility of a typeface. Um, this one is, I guess, a little controversial. Is it a serif typeface or Sands? And this comes up all the time. Everyone, there's always this debate. What's more, Ledge abullah, Sandora serif. Okay, In general, they can both be extremely ledge a ble. It depends on the individual details of the design, but I will say that in book typography and in magazines, you're mostly going to see typeset in serif typefaces except form or experimental publications. And one theory about that is what we read most we read best. So, for instance, in the US, in this country, most people are reading sansa of typefaces and books and magazines, so it becomes easier for us. We're more comfortable with it. We're more used to it. Uh, yes. Well, you may be getting into this, but we have some people wondering Could you explain quickly the difference between Sarah and Sand. Sarah. Okay, The sere ifs are the little extensions. This this is a san serif typeface, so I actually will be showing in another screen. But I'll just I'll just stay right now. It's probably coming up very quickly. Ah, Serif typeface is a typeface that has little feet or little extensions that come off the bottoms or the tops or different aspects of the character. Okay, you've all seen them. Not everyone might be familiar with the terminology, Sands, which means without Sand Saref means it doesn't have any of these little extensions. So all of the characters, that just sort of straight characters, they don't have any little details. But as I said, I'll show you in a moment with the difference and and then that's important to know. Um, okay, So again, Saref Sands, it really does depend. Um, And as you become more familiar and more comfortable with typography, you will have a sense of when you might want to use a sense. And when you might want to use a serif and when they could appropriately be combined. Okay, so that's ledge ability. Ledge ability relates to the characteristics of the design of the typeface. Readability, on the other hand, relates to how the type is arranged. Basically, you can control the readability of a typeface. Where is the type designer controls the ledge ability of a typeface. So the factors that contribute to readability include the point size, or that's almost not even use that much. If you're a Web designer, it's just type size. Okay, so I don't think coincides. More relates to print. Um, letting, which is another word for line spacing the spacing from baseline to baseline line length. We're gonna be talking about all of these things in detail over the next two days. Um, line length mostly relates to how many characters in the line not the physical with of the line. Okay. Alignment. Whether you set something flush, left flush, right, centered or justified, that effects readability, um, letter spacing, which is the space between the letters, which you might think you don't have control of, because the font is when you get a font. It's set with a certain letter spacing, but I beg to differ. I'm gonna teach you, um, how to notice the difference. And when you should consider changing the letter spacing and how to do that. Okay, The same thing with words. Spacing. That's the That's the space between the words. And most of us don't even think we should or can. Why should we even think about that? Because I buy a font and I assume it has the right space between the words, Not always so. And it might change as type is used a different sizes. So I'm gonna tell you when and how to approach, considering if word spacing should be changed and actually how to do in the software, because it's sort of a secret that most people don't know about that. Okay, so these are the factors that contribute to readability as opposed to a ledge ability. So gets a little confusing. But allege a ble typeface, which is one that is drawn by the type designer to be ledge a ble, can be made unreadable or less readable by how it's set by you. Okay, Conversely, a typeface with poor ledge ability can be made mawr readable by how it is said. I'm not saying it could be made fantastic. I'm saying things can be done to improve a typeface that doesn't have great ledge ability by you, the designer by how you said it. So this is an example of a typeface called EITC Flora, which is actually a beautifully designed very ledge, a ble typeface, which is made somewhat hard to read or less readable by how it's set, primarily because the letting or the line spacing is very tight. Okay, the same typeface is a lot easier to read, even though the point sizes smaller, the leading is a lot more generous. So if you kind of go back and forth, what you see on the left is a very dense texture that's not inviting, and it might be conscious or unconscious. It's a little more challenging to read, but when you see on the right, it's a beautiful type, phase made toe look the way it's supposed thio, as I repeat, even though the point sizes smaller because of the way it is set because of the generous line spacing Can you see? Can you guys see the differences? Hopefully at home, you can see so you do have control over certain aspects that can increase readability. Okay, now I'm gonna show you a bunch of or a few examples, just showing some appropriate uses of type styles of typefaces for a particular audience. So this is a Dr Seuss collection. This is what I would call a child. Appropriate treatment, a child appropriate typeface. The letter forms are easy to read. They have a child like feel, but they don't look like a child's handwriting. Okay, so we're not looking to scribble like a kid. You just want something that speaks to a child, then also speaks to the parent or the person buying the book. You know, it's marketing as well. That looks inviting. Here's another one again, and and you know, learning how to use type appropriately is not just picking the right typeface. It clearly involves the design. It clearly involves color. It clearly involves a lot of other aspects. Um, and so you know this. This is lovely. It's colorful, it's inviting. It's definitely ET. The title is very easy to read. I don't know if we can see that clearly on the bottom, but this this is a san serif typeface. This is a serif typeface, and I will have some better example. So if you can see down here. Um, if you see, there's little extensions on the top of the be on the on the bottom of most top and bottom of most of the characters. And so that's a serif typeface. Um, this is a classic, um, stories and picture by Maurice Sendak's So even all caps, which sometimes they're considered to be not so easy to read in small doses. In the right typeface, um, works beautifully, and it's important to integrate the right typeface on the right treatment with the other images or with the image in this case. So everything integrates beautifully. The type and the image and the type is easy to read. It does. It's not child like, but it's very informal. It's warm, it's friendly. It kind of says, I'm gonna buy this book. I want to read this book So that's an effective use of a typeface for this particular audience. Another lovely book here. You can see that you can really see the sheriff's well on this. If you look at the word flora, even though it's highly decorated, you see all these little curves that come off here thes Airil serifis. You can really see it on the Flamingo. Thes little extensions. If they went away, you would still see the Eusebio to read the character. Okay, but this is a category, a large category of typeface called serif typefaces. And here it's actually a good pairing of fonts, which you're going to talk about in a few minutes is well, but again, Um, it works well for this audience. Um, even though the first word is highly decorated, it doesn't compete with the image because even though the image is right in the center, the image is doesn't have a lot of it's absolutely lovely, but it's not super busy. There's a lot of white space or a lot of pink spaces. Well, if you want to call that white space, so the word flora actually becomes a real attractor to that cover. And in fact, if that word was set, the same style is flamingo. It would really take away a little bit. It wouldn't have that same impact, because the setting and the treatment of the word flora becomes a focal point of this cover, which is appropriate for this audience, a section of another of a book. And this this is not a child's typeface. I mean, this is an upright script on Did. You could use this for a lot of other things, but yet it's very ledge a ble. It's set in a way that's very readable. It's very appropriate for this. It has that kind of dreamy script. Connecting piece on it works beautifully with with the rest of the elements. This is a cover on this and I believe the next one designed by Jim Species. And even though there are three different type treatments, uh, they still speak to Children. Um, even the big ABC, uh, it Z I mean, it has a kind of a vintage kind of a look, but it definitely you would know that this is something for Children, even if you didn't know the language. Also, the appropriate use of color placement and not too much business. I mean, this is a strictly typographic cover. There's no image, and there's a lot of pieces you could work on, whether you have a low budget or it's most appropriate, where all your using his type and the goal is after today in the next session is to get you comfortable enough with typography that you could even contemplate doing a design without any images. If that's what you wanted to dio

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Full-length class: Typography Fundamentals with Ilene Strizver

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  • Select the best typefaces for your design
  • Work efficiently with OpenType
  • Think and approach projects like a type designer
  • Identify and remedy common type crimes


Typography is an essential element of design: it should communicate your message effectively, and with purpose. Yet, even professional graphic designers can lack the “eye” and deeper understanding of type aesthetics.

In Typography Fundamentals, author, educator, and expert Ilene Strizver teaches you how to take full advantage of the power of type. You’ll learn not only the fundamentals of typographic design, but also how to “see” type through new eyes - all to make more sophisticated type choices that will open doors and set your work apart.

With your enrollment in Ilene’s class, you’ll also receive access to a webinar hosted by renowned designer Gerard Huerta.

Check out Ilene’s related course, Advanced Typography: Fine Tuning & Finessing.


This class is designed for creative professionals of all levels working with type, whether you are brand new, or just want to build on your existing knowledge and fill in the gaps. In-house design teams, web developers, motion graphic designers, recent graduates, freelancers and illustrators working with type: don’t miss your chance to learn from one of the most respected educators in the field.