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Advanced Typography: Fine Tuning and Finessing

Lesson 4 of 12

Finessing Your Type - Part 1

Ilene Strizver

Advanced Typography: Fine Tuning and Finessing

Ilene Strizver

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Lesson Info

4. Finessing Your Type - Part 1


  Class Trailer
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1 Formatting Your Type Duration:30:16
4 Finessing Your Type - Part 1 Duration:36:38
5 Finessing Your Type - Part 2 Duration:31:49
6 Spacing Considerations Duration:19:10
7 Advanced Spacing Duration:26:19
8 What's a Good Typeface? Duration:30:49
9 Custom Kerning Duration:21:28
10 Spoting Kerning Examples Duration:41:38
11 Can You Spot the Type Crime? Duration:28:05

Lesson Info

Finessing Your Type - Part 1

So now we're going to go again, peel a little more of the layers off of the onion, so to speak, and we're going to start and talk about rags, okay, I did mention rags in the previous segment a little bit. Now we're going to go in a little more detail about it. So what? The rag is, um, and text that has set a flush aligned on one edge the other edge just sort of breaks where it would naturally break, and that is considered the rag. Okay, the thing to remember is that a good looking red rag or a considered a professional looking rag should go in and out in small increments it's on ly a few words, but it gives you a good a guideline and a fundamental sort of a rule of thumb for rags. Now, the thing about rags is a lot of people don't ever pay attention to them, and some people can't pay attention to them. If you're working on a thousand page textbook, for instance, maybe you don't have the time to fix the rag on every page, okay, but ah lot ofwork there is time if you're doing a magazine ...

if you're doing a brochure, if you're doing something of importance or anything that you have time to take the time to consider how the rag of the type looks, you should it is something that you do towards the end of a project it's not something you do as you're working because what can happen you can change the typeface change the type style sometimes people make manual changes sometimes they'll add emmanuel hyphen at the end of a line to fix something which I'm going to talk about and then all of a sudden it's not you know the copy changes and then how often have you seen on the weber and print a word that's hyphenated in the middle of a sentence because somebody forgot to remove it that's a whole nother story but that's something you wa want to avoid anyway so a good rag goes in and out in small increments it does not create geometric or curvy shapes which can distract the reader okay that doesn't mean it won't happen it means it's something you should look out for because the computer can only do so much it is not a designer is not a substitute for your eye it does not make decisions based on the aesthetics of a re a life person. Okay, so for instance here's an example of a column with not the greatest rag because it's unintentional because it has this very curvy uh contour to it okay, so it's very easy to see that here and this is something that frequently happens with narrower columns of type because the program wants to make a good rag okay, but when you don't have a lot of words on the line, there are in a lot of choice is for it to make especially if you have a conservative or ah hyphenation setting or you might not have any hyphens at all okay, so this is a much better ragno what you'll see you'll notice on the bottom that the lines run it's a little bit shorter than the other copy and if you have a really good eye, you might notice that the column with is actually a little bit wider because there are different ways that you can try to fix the rag without having to make manual line breaks, which is also another way to approach it one way that's invisible to the audience is try widening ever so slightly in the text box ok or the width of the text column um you might go no, I'm working on a grid and everything has to be exactly the same. Well, you know what? You really don't notice it if it's flush right nobody's going to notice that and even if one line extends into a margin a little bit more if it's improving the rag without you having to make manual breaks you know we say it's like cheating but it's not cheating you're really trying to make something look better and sometimes that's a good way to do it um, I mean even works with justified copy, but justify copy doesn't have a rag that we're talking about, so that's not really part of this particular equation. So that's one place to start, you know, you don't want to start messing with the size of the text or the size of the line spacing or the tracking and all that kind of stuff you want to do something that maintains the integrity of the rest of the type. So that's one way you could, you could possibly try to fix something. What you want to do to avoid bad rags is to review the text carefully, and if the first method that I just told you doesn't work make manual line breaks as necessary to improve the rag now, for me, the closest book well, these days it's a digital book, but up until recently, the closest book I had to my computer was a dictionary because you can't just arbitrary at hyphens over charlie at hyphens, you need to know where, uh, where ah, word is is where work can be broken, okay? And the dictionary will tell you that so you can't just be irresponsible in doing that, but I have a question for you, so how many of and I'll ask you guys and and the virtual audience as well? Have you ever tried to make a manual line break in a line in a paragraph and you make a hyphen somewhere in all of a sudden something else changes that you didn't expect? Okay, is that happen to you? Okay, well, it's, it doesn't drive you crazy and it's like a long when I use a lot the text boxes and it just moves, they change one thing and all of a sudden everything else is changing with things that sometimes things change above it, that you didn't even well, this used to drive me crazy, and this is what motivates me in many instances to try to figure out why things happen. And so a lot of the detail stuff that I talk about is because I have been through what it has happened to me, okay, so I'm going to tell you why that happens, and I have had people take my class, tell me that was worth or or a set one day seminar and tell me this little software trick was worth whole session because it's going to absolutely drive you crazy. Okay, here we go note change paragraph composer two single line composer before making manual breaks okay, now I'm talking software speak okay, I'm specifically talking adobe in design speak so here's what I'm talking about if you look at the paragraph tab and you click on the button on the side what you will see um are these four settings and mostly concerned with the bottom two okay adobe paragraph composer and adobe single line composer the default setting is a dhobi paragraph composer and that is the culprit in this particular scenario what adobe paragraph composer attempts to do it is an algorithm that attempts to look at the whole paragraph and create a nice looking rag for you so again it's an algorithm it's not a person it's measuring negative space at the ends of lines and trying to make a calculation so it's trying to help you but if you wanna have full control over it, what happens if you don't d select paragraph composer and select single line composer is any manual change you make is going to make it re calculate that algorithm and it's going to possibly make all these other changes and it's not going to say can I do this? Do you want me to do it it's going to say I'm doing it and you can't change it every time you try to fix it something else changes something else changes it drives you crazy drove me crazy until I figured it out because it might have been in the early in design days you know, a lot of a started on cork and these some of these things didn't exist okay, so when you select adobe single line composer, it doesn't do any thinking for you, it goes back to where does the sign landline and where that line ends, I'm just going to, you know, keep going manually, automatically mechanically, so if you have it set to single line composer, you could make any manual line breaks you want whether it's for the rag, which is where we're talking about, or we're going to be talking about widows later, anything like that? Anytime you have any reason you want to make manual line breaks, you should set your tax to single line composer okay, now, there's a few ways that you can do this if you notice, first of all knowing me already, you probably know that in most cases I change the permanent default for my software to this because it's, I don't know, I hardly ever a paragraph composer might work well, um for justified type, I mean, I think it probably works better for that, but for type with a rag, you know, me type control freak, I don't want no anyone telling me what to do, I want to do it myself. So, um, the way you do it is you can either select the entire text box, and if it continues on pages, it should do this to everything and converted to single line composer or the other way you can do it is if you just put your cursor in the middle of a paragraph or anywhere in a paragraph it's going to and and change it, it will make that change for that paragraph, because if you notice that feature is under the power graff tab okay, so that means that anything you select their relates to that paragraph. Okay, um, it's also a feature that you can find in paragraph styles and, um, um, character styles as well and, uh, just to a reminder to people who don't know if you want to change a default and in design what you have to do is have the application open with no documents open and then you can change any default you like. If you don't want twelve point type, you can change into fourteen you can. Also what I do is I select proportional old style figures from the open type panel I select and change single line composer, and so then I quit the program, and then I reopen it might or might not be necessary, but what happens then is any new document you open will adhere to those defaults unless she changed them. It will not do anything to any earlier documents, but I will tell you if you're all excited about this feature and you go back to your computer and go toe an existing job and change this, things were going to change lines they're going to change line endings that going to change things might not might run deeper they might want shorter so I'm not saying don't do it I'm just saying be ready to review all your text if you're making this change in the middle of a job because things will change okay, so now we come to widows and orphans um I'm going to give you my definition which is the common definition used in the us other countries sometimes reverse them it doesn't matter to me what you call them or what country you're from if you say no eileen widow was an orphan as you described it an orphan is a widow. What is important is that you understand the principle. Okay, so the first column is an example of shows an example of a widow okay, a widow is a single word a short word a couple of short words ah hyphenated word at the end of a column. Okay, where as an orphan is that same thing a short word a couple of short words someone is so forth that is at the top of a column now I didn't put these in type crimes which is something I discussed and typography the fundamentals because although this is type a graphically undesirable, sometimes again it's unavoidable it's really about fine tuning and financing your type it's not about committing a type crime. Okay, again, many people and many environments, you don't have the ability to fix the type, but it is considered undesirable for a number of reasons. If this is in the middle of a column and there's another paragraph that follows it, it creates a visual hole where there's space on that line. So if you have a whole page of text or a couple of columns of texts, and you have that widow it's, creating a hole of a negative space in the middle of that column of text, the other thing is, if it appears at the bottom of a column, it's also doing the same thing it's creating an irregular shape that is visually not not as pleasing, is it going to majorly affect how you read? Probably not, but if your goal is to do the best typography possible, if your goal is to adhere to the what's considered the accepted practices of fine typography again, if you want to have a stronger portfolio so that you don't get picked out picked on for something there by somebody who's looking for somebody with type skills, or it could even be a client who was attuned to type because they haven't uncle or cousin or somebody who's taught them. Or a father that used to be a typesetter or mother that used to be in the business in an ad agency. And they know this stuff. You might get called out on this stuff, so it really is important. That is much work is possible that you do look a cz good as possible. Typographic lee, for all of those reasons. Okay, there, there's. There is a payoff and, you know, sometimes it's financial, sometimes it's position. It could be a lot of different things, so it be who's everyone to try to avoid? Where does it often sze so to speak. Okay, so here is on improvement of this first column with the widows and I I think I didn't that my my little trick. I probably widened the column like one or two points, and all of a sudden it went away. Okay, so that's, my first line of ah of defense against widows and orphans. And if that doesn't work once again, you could always try to make some manual line breaks to either get to try toe, add some words to that line. Sometimes it depending upon the actual content, the environment, sometimes you can suggest the addition of words or cutting of a couple of words. But as I say suggested to the attitude to the writer and once again people get afraid oh you can't miss with a copy canvas of the copy but if you're working with somebody who you could explain your motives and your objectives which is to create make their words look as good as possible and you sort of and you explain to them why you teach them why ah lot of times they're on board um you could have them make the changes if you feel confident you can say can we take out this you can make a suggestion to make it easy to them for them so once again whatever you can do to try to avoid widows and orphans you should um, review the text carefully and tweak or hand at it line breaks as necessary to avoid widows and orphans and I'm sorry to say we tried to kill the widows and because that's the language that we use as they kill that widow like oh man, you know what? I get myself into here so you know that's the goal for this particular typographic appearance that pops up very often, okay? Ah, when when all else fails as I said try toe wide in the text frame and edit the copy with permission of course okay, now we're going to go a little bit deeper things that aren't is obvious we're talking here about what I call vertical alignment look at these two blocks of copy one of these is set with the exact same leading I believe one is twenty one by twenty four eyed my might be off so consistent leading consists it's all the same point size consistent leading and one does not have consistent leading so take a look if you're in home, take a look at your screen and decide which one you think has consistent leading between all four lines bottom okay who thinks the bottom ok, we have everyone in that house audience saying the bottom rah you walked into that one okay, why did you think it was the bottom? He is the top of the the last line on the top seems to have a lot of space at the top and it does why do you think it has so much space above that bottom line? Because the two story jeez maybe uh because of the public can be plausible the caps okay, so you have two lines of all caps in the middle when you have an old cap line sitting in the middle of others lines that have upper and lower case what it's doing is it's eating into the head room of that lynn negative space so the line between gigantic and everything it doesn't look that much because you know and the descending you write the diy centre of the g doesn't help it that it makes it worse but the line below it doesn't have any d senders because capstone so the very bottom line every single offer considered is not said it all caps and even though it has ascending characters it has a lot more negative space between that and the line above it and if you convince zhu aly imagine that that bottom line were said in all caps it would have the same amount of spacing is the two lines above it okay, so here is an instance where we trust their computers that when it says the leading is equal that it looks even not necessarily in order to make this one look like it's consistent look what I okay, so I knew I probably said thisa little largest for this demo okay, so the top one is thirty to one thirty six every single line the bottom example the first three lines I didn't change, but the bottom line I removed five points of letting so the bottom line is still thirty two point type with thirty one point leading meaning it's thirty one points from the base line of the line above it to that one. Okay, so this is a very common occurrence because people don't pay attention to finessing these important details to make your type look more professional and to give you the outcome that you're expecting that you're wanting you want them all to look even okay, we take it for granted and we walk away okay, so what? You always have to do that as I said it's very common it's not only come and when you have lines with all caps it can also be common if everything is set in open lower case but two lines particularly particularly have ah lot of ass enders and descend is that together okay and then you have two more lines they don't happen to have a lot of ass enders indy center so they're going to look a little bit more open so the key is um and this could be a headline this could be a subhead things like that that's usually where it could be a pull quote things like that okay, you want to step away and it can you conceive this on your computer? If you know what to look for, you will start to see these things and make subtle adjustments to the line spacing so that it optically or visually looks even we don't care about mechanically looking even there's no such thing as mechanically looking even we don't care of it's mechanically set to be even you wanted to look right? Okay, so this isn't part so you can see now that you see it right you get it horizontal alignment is a little more tricky to see and that's something we certainly don't really pay a lot of tension looking for and that refers to usually center type but not always where you have one line that begins or ends with a character that doesn't have a lot of vertical mass such as hyphens and dashes em dashes could be quotes could be an asterisk okay, so this is mechanically set to be centered but if you look closely at it you squint your eyes down doesn't the second line look like it's too far over to the left a little bit I don't even know you you need to squint your eyes because that m dash doesn't take a lot of space you don't see it or you do know I think it looks the same okay? It doesn't look the same to me does it look the same to you? Can you guys see that it's it's because the dash and it's not filled with letters exactly different look it is I understand why somebody might say it looks okay to me if you're looking if you're just looking at the ends of the line then you're saying it looks even but if you're including the volume of the characters all of a sudden and I think actually I think it does help to squint your eyes down because then you see more contrast it does look like that second line looks a little too far to the left so the key to something like this and this is very very subtle is to move that line very slightly to the right um and here's this helps you a little bit okay but this might make it look worse to you you might you might say I disagree and I don't see it but I'm telling you that in most instances this is how we see lines like this that have characters that beginner end with something that doesn't take up a lot of vertical space okay and would you do that by jews in a space bar or well I mean it's tricky how to do it if you use the space bar it's usually going to be too much so what I would suggest is used the space bar and then reverse kern okay it was tricky I mean there's a space there is a thin space I mean there's all these space insertion that space is that you can insert that I don't use because they're hard to find you got to go to this column go to this column boat and then I look I lose place and I don't use those things is a court of space a half space of thin space my the way I do it I add a word space and I do reverse current that way I have complete control of where it is so yes we are really talking about needy greedy details here on dh you know but they are things that very type sensitive designers and highly professional thai people do take into consideration it might not be important for every single job that you're working on, but if you're doing something that you really want to stand out, you should notice it, ok? The other thing is, um, if you start to a tune your eye too, look for these things, you're going to start to see more things than you see now, and things are going to start to bother you that you're going to want to fix that now don't look so bad and you're going to go well, I I see it, but it was that really that important. Okay, you have to look at all of this in the big picture. Okay? All of this is helping your eye to see balance and symmetry, which is all part of setting professional typography. Okay, so front, some more examples. Okay, if you have a talic type that's kind of killer to deal with the alignment, because if you go overboard trying to fix alignment on metallic type, you might wind up with type that all goes in an angle. Okay, so you have to do it very conservatively. It has to do with the angle of the letters, but once again, if you look at that second line on the top it does look like it's, you know, if you look at all the characters that have a lot of mass to them, which is all the characters except for the and dash um it looks like it's a little bit too far to the left, so I nudged it very slightly. I know this is crazy stuff call me crazy. Um, I just want you to get it to see it a little bit, so I moved it will slightly to the right a little easier to see here. This is why I call it financing I mean, this isn't fundamental. This really is finessing so you could see that line was moved ever so slightly. I didn't move any other line here's an example of horizontal alignment for flush left type and this has to do with sometimes you have these air both flush left, but sometimes if you have a headline or whatever and one of the line starts with a character that doesn't have the same amount of verticality or vertical masses, the character below it can you see this one? Okay, this might be a better and easier example or something that you more apt to notice and want to fix so what you would want to do, even though the top is mccann ugly aligned adobe in design says, oh yeah, it's aligned except unless you do something else to it which we're going to talk about later but for this moment what you want to do is pull that line that looks like it indented slightly a little bit into the margin so that it optically looks like it's a line okay, if you focus on that one point of the a that's into the margin, you're going to say it doesn't look right you really have to look at the whole picture at all of the type and um again you know the way however you decide to do that you could in dental line below it slightly or you could do what I do, you know? And I think people might say that's stupid way of doing it there's an easier way I don't really care how people do things as long as it achieves the same objective okay? So you know, you could add the word space and then reverse current because once you reverse current there's no limit to how far you can pull it reverse current meaning do a negative value and pulling it into the left margin so it will go beyond the margin yeah, I'm just from your personal experience do you typically do all these adjustments manually or do you use the optic settings in design? There is there is a setting that I'm going to talk about um next you put that in the right place okay, so that's why I alluded to that but sometimes it's just easier to do it manually and I'm going to show you what I'm talking about it's not secret it won't be a secret anymore here's another instance actually it says forget the little characters when aligning her centering and that's fine, the top one is mechanically this is supposed to be center this is not supposed to be flushed left so that because the line ends in an asterisk and the asterix doesn't have a lot of vertical mass it does look like it's too far over to the left so a line like this I'd move it a little bit over to the right you might say why you moved it to my me from where I'm standing it looks like I moved it so much to be honest, I don't know what it looks like when you're looking straight on, but the concept is do something about it if you see that happening, do something about it okay, okay, so here we go, here's what somebody I think was referring teo actually, one of my absolute favorite features in design on what we're talking about here is optical margin alignment okay? Before we were talking about horizontal and vertical alignment now we're talking about aligning the margin okay and the old terminology for something similar to this was hyung hanging punctuation okay hyung punctuation which is you know might be something none of you are familiar with but some of you might be very well ok and um they're they're similar but the optical margin alignment feature of in design goes further than what we used to do with hyung punctuation so what am I talking about here? Okay let's say you have a column of tax like on the left that's flush left rag right? Or you have a column of text that's justified which is the one next to it if you have lines in the first column that begin with characters that don't have a lot of vertical mass such as in this instance is just quotes okay but if you have justified type um I mean it could be open quotes closed quotes commas period's hyphens okay they don't have a lot of vertical mass that's how I describe it I would not include coghlan's and semi cones because they do have a vertical mess it's almost like a character. Okay, so what happens normally is even though these are mechanically aligned if you notice in the first column the three lines that have open quotes look as if they're indented slightly ok eso if you squint your eyes there you really can see it because squinting your eyes down magnifies contrast so that you don't see the individual letters as muchas negative and positive space so the same thing happens to the one on the right except if you'll also see it in on the right column with the close quote of the first line close quote down in the middle you'll see it and then there's two com is on the bottom which also make it look like those lines there slightly indented okay in the old days we used to have to manually change these I don't even wanna begin to tell you the painful things we used to have to do too to make these things align because when I was working on upper and lower case that was the pinnacle of good typography and everything had to be absolutely perfect and an early action in early days of software you couldn't do what I want to show you so you had actually take the punctuation out of the text said it in a separate text box and then overlapped the text boxes and you have to do this or pages of copy so it was it was painful it's terrible okay so how do we deal with this? This is actually what we wanted to look like okay even though the punctuation is hanging into the court and to the margin actually because the punctuation is hanging into the margin these margins look better aligned so we're going from this to this and you see the difference in both columns okay so these are the characters that have in the left column you can see those are the ones that are hanging okay so how did I achieve that you're familiar with this you ever seen this in in design okay maybe you've seen it and go what the heck is that? We're named story it doesn't even tell you what it is this is the best this is my favorite feed teacher because it does because I went through a painful past where I had to do these things manually and paste ups and mechanicals and what not even in early digital world so story the story a tab is found under the type you look in the top manu is under type okay it's often ignored because people don't know what it iss this is where the magic happens you see it says optical margin alignment optical margin alignment is not turned on by default it is not selected by default so unless you ask it to do what we wanted to do it's not going to do anything and you taught your types gonna look like what I showed you in the first example okay so if you select the story or you select the tax box okay and you click on optical margin alignment the default point is going to be twelve and what that's going to do and let's go back to the other example what that's going to do is that's going to optically a line those offending characters which don't look like which interfere with the alignment and pull them into the margin okay at my understanding of the the point size is and the default is twelve even if this were twenty four point the starting port point for when you turn that on his twelve point and what that means is that it will hang punctuation a maximum of twelve point into the margin ok, I happen to like punctuation completely hung into the margin because that's how I was taught that I think it looks better but you do have a choice you might say, well, I wanted to be pulled out a little but not as much so the way to, um I work with the story panel my suggestion is to start and set the points size at the point size of your text and go up from there based on your taste okay that's my suggestion that's my guideline based on my taste and how your taste my differ so if you're working with thirty six point type, turn on select the type turn on optical marginal alignment change you're setting two thirty six I mean you can go down if it looks better to you, but I find that it that makes a conservative amount of movement in the alignment and then mohr gets it closer to where I prefer it and you'll just have to determine for yourself what you prefer so here's a little example this top example doesn't have optical any optical margin alignment the one on the lower left c this is sixteen point text it's sixteen point and when you turn on optical margin alignment and it's it's too the default which is twelve it pulls it out a little but it doesn't pull it out a lot so I prefer the one on the right which in sixteen point type I said it to thirty six and is something that I'm also going to tell you when we're going to see we might have time for a demo on this is the difference between optical margin alignment and the old fashioned hung punctuation is this adobe feature is absolutely brilliant in that it's not just pulling these punctuation care into the margin okay if there are any characters that appear to interfere or interrupt that alignment it will shift them so for instance if the a sentence starts with the cap a or cap w which is an angled character those often look like they're indented slightly it'll move that line out if it starts with a tabular one which has a lot of space around it it'll move that line out if it starts with with a t that just has an arm that sticks it to the margin and the rest has negative space it will pull that out so it will do a lot more than hang punctuation it will optically align the margin based on an algorithm that looks at all of the negative spaces in that that alignment. So it's. A fantastic feature that once again, I turned on by default. I changed my default.

Class Description

Master the typographic skills that are rarely taught or fully understood by design professionals from acclaimed author, educator, and type expert, Ilene Strizver.

In Advanced Typography: Fine Tuning & Finessing you will learn advanced typographic skills and aesthetics every serious designer needs to know. Ilene will share practical tips you can use to visibly improve the readability and effectiveness of your type, including:

  • How to fine-tune your type
  • Tracking and word spacing tips and tricks
  • Custom kerning
  • Working with figures and fractions
  • Text kerning

Professional typography sets your designs apart, while attracting and holding your audience’s attention. Learn how to set type without fear – develop your skills and build your confidence in with insights from Ilene in Advanced Typography: Fine Tuning & Finessing.

Check out Ilene's related course, Typography Fundamentals


a Creativelive Student

Ilene's courses on Typography are jam-packed with excellent information that will elevate the quality of your work in print. She knows what';s current, but also what's important in long-time standards, and why. Just an incredible amount of information! you will enjoy watching, but you will want to purchase because of the sheer amount of useful content.

Nelson Mueller

Wonderful course! I enjoyed it from the beginning until the end, just like the fundamentals course. I wish there was even more of her. Hopefully in the future.


I bought this and the intro class and love them both! I had no idea fonts, typefaces and typesetting could be so interesting and detailed. Ilene is a clear and informative teacher. I love that she teaches why things are done, not simply "do this". I learn faster and remember better with her style of instruction.