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May 30

Typography for Beginners

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Dear friends, when we say that learning the art of typography will elevate your design career, we mean it.

Learning how to do typography will help you design some seriously stunning text, of course, but it does so much more than that!

So, grab a pen and paper… or your computer, and get ready to take some notes!

Unlocking The Mysteries

To understand type is to understand the fundamentals of space and proportion, so it’s really no surprise that you can then apply this knowledge of typography to other areas of design.

Would you believe that Chris has even used what he’s learned about typography to design furniture? Pretty cool, right?!

Yes, the results of learning how to craft and use typography may leave you with seemingly super-hero powers, but getting started doesn’t have to be a herculean task.

With just a few basic principles, you’ll be well on your way to totally ruling type [insert celebration emoji here] Woo!

Typography 101

Let’s start with typography goals.

Before considering the aesthetics of typeface design, we have to return to the very basic goals of your type. No matter the style or the type family, no matter your approach to typeface selection, you want your text to be:

1. Clear (not confusing)
2. Interesting (not boring)
3. Communicating an idea
4. Detailed

These are your goals. And every decision you make in relation to your type should move the design closer to a clear and interesting message with attention to detail.

Finally, perfectionists FTW!

Seems simple enough, right?It tracks, then, that the easiest way to fulfill these criteria is to start simple.

Simple Is Strong

Now I know you wanna throw every mother-loving font into a design because you love them ALL. But that just ain’t gonna cut it. Restraint, friends. Restraint.

Pairing two different typefaces or font types is like pairing a good wine with your dinner. It’s a delicate art that requires a deep understanding of the rules.

Once you master working with one font, one font size, one weight, and one color, then you can start tweaking those elements to play with contrast.

It may seem like tedious work at first but the payoff is pretty friggin’ sweet. So hang in there, you go this!

For the rebels in the crowd, you could just say, ‘fuhgeddaboudit’ and throw a bunch of doodads against the wall to see what sticks. Up to you! But for now, let’s move along to font types.

4 Major Font Types

Yes, there are heaps of fonts to choose from, but they all fall into four main categories:

1. Serif fonts
2. Sans-Serif fonts (fonts and typefaces without serifs)
3. Script fonts
4. Display fonts

There are also tons of subcategories for each of these types, but for this short typography tutorial, we’re sticking to the basics. Remember, start simple.

Once you’ve selected the single font you’re going to use, it’s time to play with contrast.

Contrast Is King

You’ve heard that content is king, yes? But when we’re talking about typographic elements, it’s contrast that rules the roost. Cock-a-doodle-do, baby!

But you can’t have contrast if you’re only using one font, can you?

The answer is yes. Yes, you can.

You can create contrast within a single typeface to keep things interesting, without making your design too noisy or distracting.

Skip A Weight

To create contrast, pick two weights that look significantly different. Thin and regular are often too similar, as are regular and bold. So what do you do? You skip.

Pick your two fonts from different ends of the spectrum and skip the weights in the middle.


A simple change in case size can change EVERYTHING.

Set different types of content apart by changing the case. Just be sure that you’re using the correct typeface for your design.

Uppercase letters tend to take up more space and can become harder to read than lowercase letters.

Double The Point Size

Shoutout to the drama queens and kings among us- it’s your time to shine! Get ready to tap into your inner Mariah, Kardashian, or Cruise to create some drama through…

…varying. type. sizes.

Ooooh yes, that seggsy type-size drama, baby!

You can do this by working your way up the type scale in doubles. For example, if you’re using a 24-point font, you would use 48-point font for contrast.

Line Breaks

Another way you can play with type as a beginner is by experimenting with different line breaks. Line breaks can be used subtly,

As in poetry,To make the reader pause,Where you want,Them to.Line breaks can also be drama-tic to create tension and opportunities for wordplay.There’s really so much you can do with just one typeface!

Keeping It Legible

For the love of all things holy in this world- keep your type legible. This isn’t an art contest. It’s communication.

So, while you’re making these adjustments, here are some guidelines and concepts to keep in mind:

1. Triadic Relationship

This refers to the harmony between type size, line length, and interline spacing; when you adjust any one of these three, you will be helping or hurting the legibility of your text.

2. Spacing

T   o   o    m   u   c   h  or toolittle spacing between letters can make the text difficult to read.

3. Font Point Size

In general, the most legible font point sizes for body text in print are between 9-12px, and for screens, it's 16-12px.

4. Weight

A font that is either too light or too heavy in weight can reduce readability.

5. Style

Italics should be used carefully and sparingly, as they can slow a reader down.

6. Alignment

Following the rule of “flush left, rag right” allows for overall readability in a paragraph; in the Western world, we read left to right, so having text aligned to the left feels natural and effortless.

7. Indentation

Do not indent the first line of your text; we know that’s not what we’re taught in academia, but this is design, and design demands efficiency and efficacy. Bada-bing bada-boom!

There are so many aspects of typography to consider and whole alphabets of terms to learn. We’ve barely scratched the surface here, but if you’ve made it this far, you’re off to a great start!

Ready to learn more? Keep the ball rolling and join our typography class online today.

Kristin Lajeunesse