Typography is simply written communication. It is the arrangement of letters in a word or group of words printed for casual reading, as a statement of impact, or for artistic purposes. Quality typography can make all the difference when relaying a message to an audience as it often times generates a feeling or perception about the topic being discussed. At the very basic, typography is merely a combination of font style, font size, font color, and spacing. Typography in art form includes those same basics but with enhanced features for maximum visual impact and is intended to convey an artistic message.
Communicating through typography is essential and can be found everywhere – product labels and logos, on the internet and smartphones, magazines and books, billboards and other advertisements, just to name a few. In her book, Mastering Type: The Essential Guide to Typography for Print and Web Design, Denise Bosler writes about the effects of typography in print and digital media. The book took her 10 months to complete as time was spent reaching out to design professionals and students for exceptional typographic designs.
In our interview with Bosler, she said, “The call generated over 2000 entries that were reviewed and edited down to 247 remarkable pieces (from 36 countries) that ultimately made it into the book.” She provides a multitude of type examples and interviews from the design industry throughout the book; there is no question that the typographic design samples in the book are truly the best of the best.
Chapter One is about the subject of communication and type history. It is imperative for designers to know the history and basics of type as this solid foundation enables them to create truly unique and timeless text that stands above all others. In the beginning, people communicated through pictographs such as cave paintings and carvings in rocks. Overtime though, communication evolved into the alphabet and thus came the creation of papyrus and parchment. Bosler also includes the making of manuscripts and documents written by hand, the invention of the steam press, and the first printers and inks. Understanding how typography came to existence is beneficial to making your own typographic choices.
Chapter Two is all about the letters and symbols in language. The same 26 letters of type are available for all designers to use and to create new and distinctive designs. Each letter in the alphabet has an uppercase and lowercase and has its own shape, sound, characteristics and rules of use. Knowledge of these facts is vital for designers when choosing typography for their next project and gives designers the tools needed to reach their audience. “Each and every letter in the alphabet needs to live and breathe on the page; it must call to the viewer.” Your choice of letters and how they are used will decide how you communicate to your audience, whether you grab their attention and effectively communicate your message or bore them and turn them away completely.
Bosler writes about the parts of each letter and symbol – strokes and stroke extensions, terminals, counters, specialty parts, stresses, character alignments, and measurements. She also includes the most common and most widely accepted letterforms – old style, transitional, modern, slab serif, sans serif, blackletter, display, script, decorative, dingbats, and dot matrix fonts. Bosler writes in detail about the type of styles – weight, angle, width, families and goes into further explanation on how to create your own truly unique and artistic type. Completing the chapter about letters is information on how to design with single letters using illuminated manuscripts, initials and monograms, and letter-based logo design.
Chapter Three is the subject of formation of letters into words which are used to communicate emotions, actions, descriptions, people, things, etc. It is a designer’s job to effectively communicate a message with intended emotions. When designed correctly, these words will create a need and/or desire within the reader and stir them into action. Designers should know the intended emotions the design should bring forth and how to choose the right interface. Bosler also includes facts about kerning, ligature, tracking, casing, numbers, legibility and readability, and how to successfully design with words.
Chapter Four moves onto sentences as a primary means of communication and how they inform people of messages and impact lives. In design, sentences require ease-of-legibility and specific typographic design based on the particular message being said. Every aspect of the sentence must be examined including word space, the leading space, alignment of the text, the length of lines, and of course punctuation. This chapter also includes fine points from Bosler about how to design with sentences and art on headlines and business cards.
Chapter Five shifts from sentences to paragraphs. In the design industry, paragraphs (although rare but still used from time to time) are expected to tell a story to further influence or convince the reader. “While a sentence may hook the viewer into a design, it is the paragraph that keeps them there.” The intended use of the paragraph is to further explain what an individual sentence or illustration cannot. Each of the examples in this chapter provide different approaches for paragraph design – visual tone, varying sizes, initial caps, complementary type pairs, and type issues.
Chapter Six is the complete copy of all design decisions made; it’s the final page. Creating a successful design on page involves knowing what type to use, where to use it, and how to apply the different techniques learned to communicate the necessary message. Your readers should not have to stop and read your page like a book, but be able to gather information from the headline, subheads, imagery, captions and body of the page to reach the overall intentional message. Bosler includes the design principles (balance, unity, contrast, rhythm, movement, and grid elements) that help create that successful layout.
Chapter Seven concludes the book with screen design. I personally believe that print will always be around and needed, but it is a fact that the current digital environment has a significant impact on our daily lives. Between smartphones, computers, tablets, and e-readers, the opportunity to communicate through digital screens is endless. In our interview, Bosler says, “Details such as kerning, tracking, leading, and paragraph and character styles are overlooked merely because a designer isn’t aware they can be modified or used.”
These factors need to be considered and adjusted when viewing type on screens. Lighting, resolution, interactivity, and the different device systems being used are an additional set of factors for review and are equally as important. The layout and design for screens are just as important as those for pages. Because readers have the option to move on to the next screen, it is imperative that your design grabs your readers’ attention and draws them in to your message.
Mastering Type is a terrific book and a must-have for any designer’s library. The book has endless image examples and multiple interviews with design experts. Bosler walks you through type step-by-step with easy-to-read guidelines and teachings. This book is essential for all design novices and gurus!
To read our full Question & Answer Interview with Denise Bosler, click HERE.