Don't overlook Typography.

July 30, 2023

We take for granted the amount of written information we consume daily. We watch TV, look at our phones, and yes, sometimes even read books printed on paper. 

But even when we are not actively taking in media, the written word is all around us. Signs tell us where to go and mark things of interest.  We are bombarded by advertisements daily.

“The average American consumes 100,000 words, or about 34 gigabytes of information, every day, according to a new report. As a nation, that's 3.6 million gigabytes of info in 2008.”

 Andrew Nusca–ZDnet

Most people don’t think much about the letterforms they see on a constant basis. Type, or typography, is omnipresent in the world we live in. Each paragraph, sentence, word, and letter is used to communicate something to us. In particular, the shape and style of the letterform matter a lot. 

Left: Sabon Italic is gentle enough to convey the correct meaning.  Right: Bloody (by James Fordyce) changes the meaning completely.
Left: Helvetica Bold reads quickly and clearly  Right: Bickham Script is not as effective

The font you use, and where it’s placed is as important as what you want to say. The same wording with a different font can alter effectiveness or meaning. 

When you send a message out into the world, be sure to follow some simple rules to be sure your message is on point. 

  • Context is everything! Think about what is important to your intended audience. You wouldn’t wear a suit to a cookout or flip-flops to a wedding. Typography is the same way. This is why we don’t use a script font for a business letter. Helvetica or similar fonts are used for signs with important information. 
  • Keep it simple. There will be a temptation to jazz things up and choose some crazy font. This may be ok for a headline, title or similar text, but avoid this for large blocks of text. This can be hard for your audience to read. Times, Garamond and similar fonts will do fine. 
  • Use hierarchy. When we write we often organize our ideas into paragraphs. When you read a book, a group of related paragraphs has a heading. Groups of headings make chapters. Chapter titles are bold and have a lot of space around them. Section headings are bold. Subheadings are smaller. Body text is even smaller. This is a hierarchy. Use bolding, italics and spacing to structure your ideas.
  • Proof and proof again! There is no excuse for mistakes. Use your spell-check. Grammarly is a great resource for catching errors beyond spell-check. After using these tools, check it yourself in the old fashion way. After that, get a second pair of eyes to review it.
  • Context is everything! I can’t stress this enough. Use your choice of font to stay on message. 

Keeping these tips in mind will ensure that your Instagram post, letter, video, or poster will communicate as intended.

Stephen Griffin
Copyright © 2024 Stephen Griffin