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Advanced Typography: Fine Tuning and Finessing

Lesson 3 of 12

Initial Letter Alignment & Figures


Advanced Typography: Fine Tuning and Finessing

Lesson 3 of 12

Initial Letter Alignment & Figures


Lesson Info

Initial Letter Alignment & Figures

Initial letter alignment I don't call them initial caps because you don't always have to use a cap what we're talking about here with initial letters is a technique of starting an article or sometimes starting a paragraph within an article with an oversized and somewhat more decorative character too signify number one this is where the article begins but it also becomes a design element that's used by mostly by magazines and editorial and it's a it's a fabulous technique I'm just going to show you a few things and show you some of the concerns you should have in formatting these initials but sometimes the initial is bigger than the headline means it's it's a really fun technique to use the thing is you have to know how to use it appropriately in terms of alignment so this is what we call a drop initial because it drops down into the text and um I'll start off by saying that when I said initial letters I do not use the automatic feature or the drop cap or the drop letter feature in the ...

software because as you might have figured I'm a real control freak and I want to be able to control it to the nth degree and I want to be able to so what I do is I set the initial in a separate text box or whatever and I and that way I can I blow up a screen and I drag guidelines and I put it exactly where I want and that's how I do it so I'm going to show you what I think are the important things to consider and my suggestion is is you probably will want to do it that way unless the technology has gotten so advanced that you can achieve it with those features they might have I just don't go there because I like I said, I like to have complete control but anyway, so what you see here is a drop ap it's an f with sheriff's on the things you have to remember our it needs to align on the bottom with a line of type okay? It should align on the left margin somewhere I don't know I think this is the proper alignment which we'll talk about in a moment this is mechanically aligned this is a line right now so that the sarah ifs of that f ar aligned with the text below it okay and on the top it should align with something unless you happen to have an initial that's sitting above and below the text and that's okay too. But if your intention is tohave it top a line and be a deep v a drop cap in the you know sort of the official sense the top of that f needs to align with I say something, okay, what is that something well, it can align with the x height it can align with an ascending character it can align with the dot of the eye whatever you think looks good, it might depend on what's closest to that letter, but it needs to be an intentional decision on how you align that. Okay, the top the bottom clearly it's the third line in this case now the thing that's wrong with the left alignment is it looks like it's slightly indented because the the predominant axis of that f is that vertical stroke, not the edges of the serif. Okay, so the proper way if you're able to do this and I'll tell you what I mean by that, the second would not be to accept this alignment, what would be to pull that character out to the left so that you take sort of the greatest vertical feature, which is the vertical stroke of that f and align that with the rest of the type and allow the sarah's to extend? Okay? The reason I say to do it if you can't, is because many people work. The reality is people working environment such as magazines, which they might come out once a month, they might come out once a week, everything is automated, standardize, and a lot of people don't have the freedom and the ability to customize this kind of setting uh and I understand that but it's my job here to tell you in the best possible world this is what you should strive for and certainly if you have a piece in the portfolio um if you have a piece for a really important client and you have the ability you should take these things into consideration here's another drop cap this one's a little different because it's it's a no it happens to be a different weight of this of this typeface and what you see here is it aligning guess it's aligning with the left margin and it's aligning with the bottom of the third line but if you look at the left without those lines doesn't look too small it looks too small because as I mentioned earlier optically if a character has rounds it's actually in the typeface around character is going to be constructed so that it is larger and it drops down slightly below the baseline and it's it's slightly above the excite so with that concept in mind when you're aligning a character like this is initial as an initial if you don't extend the baseline and the margin it's going to look like it's too small so what you want to do is move in and you can see on the right is having extend the uh the margin slightly two on the left and on the bottom yes on condition you may be getting this but now what is the drop capsize on that for example? Three lines deep that's that is that? Is that the standard that you know, it's not standard that you could go? You ii always recommend that it be three lines, you could go three, five, seven once you're nine, you could be any that could be and take up the whole page. And the reason I recommend odd numbers when you're going a few lines is because there is a certain pleasing symmetry to dropping an odd number of lines, okay, the only other way I can explain it is if, if you know anything about flower arranging or your gardener, you don't put two or four six and of oz, you always go for the odd number because it creates a better symmetry, but once you're going past nine or so nobody's that that is not an issue, you know what I'm talking about, right? Okay, s so that's a little hard to explain, but I think that maybe it's a good visual, another thing I wanted to point out in the difference of this, and this is another thing you have to consider with these initials is where to start that first lied now in this example, this first example, which we've already looked at the first three lines, I'm using a tab and I set the tab to make it a comfortable space from the second and the third line. But but the word wants doesn't read that well, because it looks like rodents. Okay, so once again, if you're customizing your initials, the proper way in this particular instance is to talk in that first line so that the word once reads properly and then have the other lines align the way they were so again, I'm just going to be showing you just a few examples. What's important is that you understand the concept for whatever kind of an initial you do. You want it to read well with the rest of the word, if you can, to tuck tuck the letter in, if it's a letter like, oh, that was not an issue, uh, with the f okay. In fact, this worked for you because the top of the f automatically was very close to that first word and the other lines, and there was enough space. But I did set the spacing and the tab so that the space between the fbi was similar to the rest of the spacing and the rest of the word. Okay, on the way to do what, you have to blow this up on your screen. Really large, you can't work with its small because of the pixels, so you have to blow it up. You can pull guidelines to where you want things to match, and then once you do it printed out hey, principal so you can see how it looks here's, an instance of a totally different character used as an initial just this is a script, okay? And this is, um, mechanically aligned, so that the open quotes align with the margin. Okay, but I'm not sure I think. And and also, if you look at the right, I aligned the the bottom of the curve of the script with the baseline. But if you look back to the left, it doesn't look great. It looks like it's a little too short, and it does. You do see an indian kind of below those open quotes. Okay, so this is how I would change it now, a number of things changed here. Yes, I did drop thie down below the baseline, so if you don't want to see it with the annoyance of the red, you can look on the left, but if you notice, I also change the quotes not only did I move them but I reduced them. Okay? So it's in this particular typeface the position of the quotes are positioned to fit nicely around lower case okay, so if you imagine there was another word another letter there oh, and see that's where the quotes are positioned in this fun but when you put it next to a cap it's looks too low and for my personal opinion in this instance I thought they looks a little bit too big. So what did I do? I put the quotes in a separate text box okay? They're text frame and then I made it I easily reduced it to the size I wanted and I dragged it exactly where I wanted don't try to highlight reduce space line shift kern it'll drive you crazy because if you want to go back and find the character again, you'll never find it the highlighted so make your life easy try it my way and try to achieve something like this again be conscious of the decisions you make. These are just some other examples of suggestions for initial treatments. If you look at the first column of the ai alice, you'll notice I've starting with a lower case and I'm leading in with small caps and that's absolutely fine so there's many, many different treatments that you can use um to create lovely graphics that are effective okay a little bit of a a review if any of you have seen typography the fundamentals if you haven't we talked a little bit about figures but we talked about them in context of open type, which was one of everyone's favorite segments in that session but now we're just talking about it in reference to, um format air type so once again I'm reminding everyone that in many open type fonts again that's a whole another story that you really need to understand to get this there are made very often four different styles of figures the tabular lining ah proportional lining tabular old style and proportional old style and the default in most fonts that happened tohave these are tabular lighting figures which really are the only figures you'd want to use if you're setting vertical columns of numbers or tables so that's how we remember the word tabular um old style figures are are absolutely lovely and old style figures are great for body text where you want the figures to blend in and not stand out. So for instance, this little setting on the left it's very elegant, very lovely there's a lot of numerals in there, but they don't pop out in a truce of way where is the same setting set with the lighting figures on the right there really noticeable there like having all caps so people are concerned about good typography will usually set running text with old style figures um unless you're doing some kind of a marketing piece where the client needs the numbers, the pop out for some reason ah, but in general the other my favorite infact I set them as the default in my indesign preferences in my system because I use them more often than not so again consider mate make a very definite decision on what figures you want in the work you're doing probably you should make that decision before you select the fonts you're using because you then want to use a font and open type fund that happens toa have the figure styles that you want just to show you the difference in the lining figures between the tabular and the proportional on top you see all the green lines that separate the numbers are all this exact same with even though the spacing alexei the spacing of the zero was tight. The spacing of the one is quite open that's so that they aligned vertically but if you're going to use proportional lining, I'm going to use lining figures and you don't need them to align vertically that used the proportional version. You see the one has tighter spacing so that everything looks in proportion to each other and and you don't see that horrific one with so much space around you could drive a truck between gay, which is calm and you'll start to see that all the time again, this is where you would want to use the tabular lining, where you have an occasion, like on what you see on the left, even though the ones they're really open. If you use the proportional lining figures for columns, you're gonna wind up with what you see on the right, which is not the way at columns of numbers should be said, this is the location of thie open type, their options for figures, this is the character tab. You look on the right and you click on open type again when we spent about forty five minutes on this in a previous session on typography, the fundamentals, which which shows you many, many options you might not have been aware of this, is where it's located it circled on the bottom, but again, as you notice, the default is what selected, and the default tends to be the tabular lining figures. So unless you look for different figures or you make a conscious decision to change them, you're going to be stuck with what it picks for you when you might not be doing your best work. And finally, in this section again, something we did also talk about open type, but it's important to remind people again, many open type fonts contain a broad range of pre built diagonal fractions, many don't okay some only have a quarter I happen three quarters but a lot of them have these. Okay, but what if you need to set what we call an arbitrary for erection and arbitrary fraction is any number as the numerator? Any number isn't denominator and the good news is that there are some open type fonts that have the ability to convert an arbitrary fraction with that slash which is not a fraction more look at the slash on the left in the bar on the right it can adam automatically convert what you see on the left, which is a horizontal not typographic lee desirable fraction too, eh diagonal fraction on the right by highlighting that automatic said highlighting the manual set fraction on the left and then going to the open type panel which is off of your character tab and going to fractions. Okay, so this is really, really cool feature, especially if you know you need lots of fractions ah lot of people don't realize that they're sending I mean, if you're doing recipes, you certainly know you need it, but a lot of times they appear in measurements in manuals lot of dimensions and they're really good to have and that might be arbitrary numbers the thing is that not all open type fonts have them and in my experience the only way you know is by trial and error so you highlight this you go to that panel, you click on fractions and you keep your fingers crossed, okay? Not that that's going to make it happen or not, but that way you'll find out if it's available in that fun okay? Because trial and error seems to be the only way to know if a font has this feature okay, are there any questions? Because if we have a little time I'll do a demo on fractions and just kind of show you how to approach that some questions that have been coming in a couple different topics nothing specific to fractions but love to get your take on some of these so here's here's interesting question why is the microsoft word default twelve point size when you're in the default setting in microsoft word any idea why they choose twelve for that? Well, I can't speak for microsoft word, but twelve point is also the city the date default setting in most software because that's kind of the average text setting that you can use if you can certainly in design it's not hard to change defaults I'm not sure how you do it inward it might be that you have to create a separate heading there are ways you can change defaults and just about every program okay, I will tell you so whatever you use most go ahead and change the default so that it saves you time, but twelve point is sort of a universal text size setting, so I'm sure that's why they chose that that th harvey wants to know he's heard that the typeface should always be an even number any any insight into why ten twelve, fourteen you know, a type size yes, the size there's absolutely no rules or regulations, it could be eleven and two and a quarter it's whatever works and that's the beauty of the digital world, we're not stuck with metal type not stuck with it. I mean, it was fabulous, but not stuck with the limitations of only you having full numbers. So it's a total visual thing, it's a total optical thing? Okay, great. Now more design works wants to know when you're talking about the initial cap in that in that previous slide with initial caps, should the quote mark be enlarged at the same proportion as the initial cap that's all you know, these days, if you start to notice initial caps, a lot of people take those quotes and they make him design elements. I've done it myself, so we'll make it really huge. They'll make it a different color so you can really do anything you want, but it should have an intelligent reason behind it if you're making it large, it becomes a design element if you're not trying to do anything in particular it might be best the same the same size so it's all an optical design determination okay any questions here from you guys been following along this segment I see a lot of note taking any specific questions I want to see the damages your demo yeah yeah we'll just do a quick damn I won't just show you a little bit on on fractions um and and see it how that how that's gonna work okay actually we'll start with this line spacing actually I don't even know if we need this demo because I think I explained it to you this this is the same thing we saw on the screen so what I'm just going to I'm just going to show you so you can see here is the character by the way I always love because typography is my thing to change your desktop setting a lot of the default is I believe essentials okay? It doesn't have all the stuff I want so I changed it to typography so all of a sudden I've got character paragraph all that kind of stuff so here I'm just going to show you this is that first paragraph um and you can see actually the sizes I lied okay made it larger for the demo so don't look at these numbers I don't usually lie but that's okay all right so if you highlight everything here you see this is eighteen point this is the auto leading okay twenty one point six nine the way we know is because it's bracketed and if you had a solid number you wanted to check that you see it's set on auto ok so here everything is still on auto and that character okay the ornament is now thirty on that big otto letting number so well I had to do for this was keep the different point sizes of the type in the ornament and I said it as a solid in this case it's twenty two so we didn't have that problem okay so that was just what you have to look for their um okay the figures I just wanted to show this particular typeface minion does happen tohave it's a typeface everybody has I believe does happen to have all these styles but if you do nothing open type you're going to get the default okay ignore what's below there for a moment let's just see how we change it let's just change this okay? What if I want those I told you I love the proportional old style okay so there you go that's what we have down here and so on and so forth with this okay let's say I wanted it let's say I wanted this looks like the proportional old style let's say I wanted proportional lining again going back to character open type and then changes okay, not every typeface has these okay, so you'll have to check out what you have on your system and an experiment this way. Okay and then finally the fractions so we've got minion pro and myriad pro oh, eileen made a mistake. No, I didn't I'm showing you a fought that doesn't have those but first thing I wanted to show you minion pro does have all of these how do you know what's the best way to find out go to the cliff panel ok don't look an entire fun look at numbers. Okay, did you know you could make these bigger so you can see things better if you need to okay, you don't need to do it here we could see this but here I can see all these other fractions so that's how I know they're there just remember to look for a subset if you look out of the entire font it's going to be very hard tto find everything ok? So let's say I want to set the fraction here's what you should do and what you shouldn't do let's say I have five and five six you type it in manually all you want to do is highlight the fraction and I'm telling you that it works in this and this fund so then you go go okay so when I lose panels I mean, I know you can go appear but I then I just reset because it happens I'm like way to go ok, there is all right so here's character I'm looking for fraction feature so that is a feature of our open type fun hands up here so I'm going to click this and it automatically converts what you don't want to dio you don't want to highlight the solid number you don't want to convert because guess what's gonna happen you're going to get that okay, so if you have that set and you start typing other fractions and numbers after it sometimes all the fractions that's called superscript and sub script or numerator zinta nominees if you ever see them appearing mysteriously in any work at all go check make sure that fraction feature is is not turned on okay, so what I did here basically if I just sort of go back to where I wass lets go back to this page um in order to teo just demonstrate that myriad does not have any of these features. All I did was I took this and I changed it about tons of these. All right? Let's just say regular okay, so I just change that to two married it's not no longer minion so you can see it doesn't have those fractions and it doesn't have this this fraction making capability, okay so you really need to this is one of those things again it's really important that you go back after you see this to try to play around with this otherwise you're going to forget where things are, what you're supposed to do and how to do okay there's a way of making it in there there's no way of converting it in that bond well if you can't, you might be able to do it manually if the thought happens toa have superscript in sub script numbers you khun type in the number and put in a ah fraction bar but I mean it's really it's very, very tedious and they're not necessarily going toe look great you could go to the cliffs panel and so you see these air superscript or numerator is one, two, three all of these, okay? And then you have denominators so technically you could manually type in this and then find out where the fraction bar is, which is not the slash bar and make them that way. But as I said so in a pinch, you could do that if if the font doesn't have that oughta make automatic fraction making feature but it's much better at the onset to know that you might want or need fractions and to use a font that has that so that that's the better way to get these here? Yeah that's much easier

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.