First impressions are everything. As a designer and someone who looks at typography all day, letters can be a visual assault or a breath of fresh air even before reading a word. Typography will be the first interaction potential clients have with your brand. They’ll see your ad or your letterhead. How those pieces look will communicate your competence more than your diploma or what you are actually saying to them. You don’t need to study font combinations until you’ve given up hope, but there are a few things you can avoid in your documents when you want your seamless professionalism to stand out:
- Vulgar Type Choices
You already know to avoid Comic Sans, and that Papyrus would never be used by any ancient Egyptian ever, but do you know what Times New Roman is unconsciously saying to your reader? Each font has a particular voice, so make sure it’s not shouting over what you’re trying to say. Stick with the classics and they will not lead you astray.
- Adulterous Typefaces
Think of your font like a person talking. If there is a group of people talking simultaneously, can you hear what one person is saying? few things need more than two typefaces unless you know exactly what you’re doing. Keep fonts from mixing where they don’t belong. If you need a little something extra, a good typeface (those classics mentioned before) will have several different variations, such as book, medium, bold and italic. It’s like the same person speaking with a different tone: they may sound a little different but you still hear the same voice.
- Excessive Stretching
Don’t contort your words into a yoga pose you yourself are not able to achieve. Those letterforms were lovingly crafted with painstaking precision and with any luck have stood the test of time. The appropriate width and proportions are what make them recognizable and legible. Stretching a font is similar to stretching a photo so much that the subject is no longer recognizable. If you absolutely must resize, please respect their wizened stature by holding the “Shift” key while clicking and dragging.
- Uncouth Spacing
Your letters and lines like to be close, but not too close. Give them enough room to breathe but not so much that they’re left hanging out to dry. Poor kerning between letters can make things tricky to read, whereas extended tracking across a line looks like your words are heaving a heavy sigh. Space in between lines, or leading, also plays into legibility. Whatever point size you choose, a good rule of thumb is 1.5 times that number. If the size is 10pts, leading at 15pts is a good starting point for keeping your type in line.
- Lascivious Line Length
Line length also plays a great hand in legibility. Chaste line lengths causing readers to jump lines too frequently may make them feel dizzy and require them to rest without ever finishing. Lustfully long and they’ll wonder when this thing ends. Between 45-90 characters (including spaces) will make it nice and easy while keeping your reader engaged when reading longer passages of body copy.
- Frazzled Rags
Paragraphs are intended to flow harmoniously without drawing attention to themselves, so a single line extending longer than the others sticks out like a sore thumb. The right side of paragraphs should ebb back and forth without creating any noticeable shapes; if your reader is left guessing what animal your paragraph most resembles, they aren’t paying attention to your content.
- Abandoned Orphans & Widows
Last of all, take care of the orphans and widows. These are single words on their own line either starting out a paragraph or the final word all alone, hanging on for dear life. Perhaps a different word choice may assuage the error, or if you must use a soft return (Enter/Return + Shift) so your final word isn’t left out.