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Dash of Inspiration: Typography the “Golden Rules”

April 27, 2015

A Dash of Inspiration, A Cup of Creativity by Doreen

DashInspirationBanner_2015There are some basic rules and important aspects of typography, we’ll refer to them here as the ‘Golden Rules’, which span the written word industries; regardless of whether it’s newspaper, magazine, or greeting cards. As designers working in the written word, it’s important that we are not only familiar with, but become experienced in applying these ‘rules’ to our own greeting card designs.

GCU will not accept cards which are serious offenders of ignoring these basic guidelines, as the result is simply not a professional looking greeting card. Typography is not an ‘after-thought’ that you slap on an image and call it a greeting card. Your text is a critical design element and should look as though it’s addition was well thought out. Follow these ‘Golden Rules’ and not only will your typography have a much better chance at being approved by the GCU Review Team, but you will have significantly improved the marketability of your card.

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1- Character Spacing

As designers we can’t shrug our shoulders and say “It’s just the way the font looks” when character spacing is off. Whether it’s between all the letters, only between a letter and a special character like an apostrophe, or it’s only the spacing between words; all of these are critical to achieve professional looking typography, and all of these ‘spacing issues’ are adjustable.

Tracking is about controlling the uniform spacing between all the letters in a piece of text, while kerning refers to the spacing between two specific letters.

Kerning – The definition: The process of adjusting the spacing between individual characters to achieve a pleasing result.

Tracking – The definition: Where kerning adjusts the spacing between two characters, tracking adjusts the letter-spacing uniformly over a range of characters.

Do not worry about making kerning or tracking adjustments until you settle on your font choice for that given design, as each typeface demands its own attention to the adjusting of space between some or all of the characters. Such as the apostrophe in Mother’s Day.

04272015_ApostropheImage

– Sometimes the spacing between characters, may be visually pleasing, BUT the space between words and/or the spacing between letters and special characters need significant improvements.

Adjust kerning in Photoshop (and most Adobe design software) by:

To use a font’s built-in kerning information for selected characters, select Metrics for the Kerning option in the Character panel.

To automatically adjust the spacing between selected characters based on their shapes, select Optical for the Kerning option in the Character panel.

To adjust kerning manually, place an insertion point between two characters, and set the desired value for the Kerning option in the Character panel. (Note that if a range of text is selected, you can’t manually Kern the text. Instead, use tracking.) If you work in a program which does not allow adjustments (all Adobe software and most word processing software allow for kerning), then you must choose a different font which offers more natural spacing between letters.

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2- Use Superscript indicators for example:  Fourth = 4th not 4th

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3- Connect Script Characters:  Make sure to properly adjust fonts which have extended lines at the end of each letter so that when kerned, the letters connect to flow smoothly from one to the next, tying the word together. When this is ignored, the typography looks almost staccato, and certainly amateurish.

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4- Breathing Space:  Allowing ‘breathing space’ for your text within the design is critical to how your overall card will look when printed.

This means leaving a little ‘breathing room’ between the end or beginning of your lines of text and the trim line (yellow safety zone in Print Margin Preview), as well as room to breathe away from the card’s fold line.

This should also be applied to critical elements within the design. Allowing a bit of space between image elements and text not only creates better balance, but can also improve both the legibility of your text and the feel of the message are portraying on the card.

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5- Line Spacing: The space between lines of text is also important to the overall look and feel of your typography. Too close and it looks cramped, often becoming illegible. Too far apart – from one line to the next – causes a disconnect and changes the overall feel of your message. Leading is the space between lines of text and is generally measured from baseline to baseline of each sentence. The general rule is to allow a leading that is 2 points above the font’s height. So for example, if you are using a 10pt font then the line space (leading) should be 12pts. This can vary depending on the font – different fonts need different line spacing. For those of you who love math, line spacing should be 120–145% of the point size.

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6- Verse Line Breaks: Line breaks in your message, both on the card front text and your inside verse, should break to reflect natural speech patterns. Rarely, does it ever make for a professional sounding greeting card to all the words to auto-wrap inside the card.

For example THIS:
Wishing you a day
that is filled with beauty
and a year
filled with happiness. ——> correct

NOT THIS:
Wishing you a
day that is filled with
beauty and a
year filled with happiness. ——> incorrect

On card front text, sometimes you may need to recast your phrase (start over) in order to make the text read properly and work well within the design. The example on the far left leaves the viewer hanging on the ‘aaaaaa’ as if we’ve lost our train of thought completely. The middle example breaks as we would speak this phrase, with a short pause before the “a Happy Birthday”. The example on the far right is even better for this design. The message has been recast to change the verbiage and a spot was created for all the text to be housed in the same location which gives the overall card front a balanced and professional look.

04272015_Recast_Image………………………………………….

7- Choose Recipient-Friendly Fonts: Script (cursive) fonts for example are not appropriate for children under 8-years-old.

Avoid using fonts which are too rough, too ‘shaky hand looking’ in their appearance (such as this example). They are difficult to read and very amateurish – though non-cursive versions are often acceptable on cards for small children.

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8- Use Curly Apostrophe/Quotes: Use curly quotes (and apostrophes) which match the font characters better, look professional and are more legible. The straight quotes came from the typewriter days. In digital creation tools of today, you can always get curly quotes.

If you use a program, such as; Photoshop, go to Edit > Preferences > Type > turn Smart Quotes ‘on’ by checking the box. Not all fonts are created to respond to Smart Quotes, but many do. When the font you wish to use does not allow for curly verses straight apostrophe or quotes, then highlight just those characters and change them to a font which does support this improvement. See example above.

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So until next week … Learn … Create … Inspire!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 27, 2015 11:09 pm

    These are all very common issues that result in a card’s decline. The difference is made in the details!

  2. April 28, 2015 8:48 am

    I would be embarrassed to tell anyone outside of the design world, how long I spend on type in my designs. I’m obsessed, I think, with messing about with kerning lol. All my non design friends and family think I’m insane when I heave a huge sigh of ‘design balance’ relief just because I’ve moved one ‘e’ a fraction of a mm to the left! 🙂 But it all makes perfect sense to me. Thanks for a great Dash of Inspiration Doreen 🙂

    • April 28, 2015 3:08 pm

      You’re welcome Natalie and you are among obsessed friends who completely understand and in fact would be glad to celebrate with you! 🙂

    • April 28, 2015 8:49 pm

      Thanks for being obsessed! Your attention to detail is evident & really shines. Perfection is not an accident.

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