Have you ever been asked, “What’s your type?” If so, it’s probably been in reference to the type of guy or girl you’re into and not in reference to typography. One of Dough Bartow’s 29 tips for young designers in the latest issue of How magazine was not to fear type but to master it. I decided to add my two cents to this cornerstone in being a good graphic designer.
When people think of graphic design, they usually think of graphics – pictures, colors, composition, images, visual. A major part of being a good graphic designer is having a good grasp on typography. Now, you may be taught some of this in a class but it’s one of those things that you often need to pursue on your own and get a grip on earlier rather than later in your career. Typography can make a break a design piece. If you work with publications, fonts and type will be even more important than the images you may use or create. Think of good graphic design like a burlesque show – you go to a show like this with the intentions of seeing a woman do her thing but everything has to come together for you to actually enjoy the show including her looks, her outfit, her dancing, how well she interacts and connects with the crowd and so on. Graphic design is much like flirting or being a tease in that the images and design have to be alluring enough to get you to examine a piece more closely to get the main message. You can’t go about doing that with bad type as it’ll quickly turn your audience off.
What makes good typography? Too many factors to get into on here. Know the difference between Sans Serif and Serif fonts; one will work well in small, tiny print in a publication while the other will be easier on the eyes for a short online piece. Be wary of using free online fonts. I know, you probably gasped and clutched your pearls at that. There are some good ones out there; there are a ton of really bad ones. The problem with many is usually within the fine details; the lack of a built in bold or italic version of that font, the spacing between the characters being too lax and far off and fonts that are simply too hard to read for both young and older audiences.
Typography may not be the funnest or most thrilling part of graphic design or being a creative guru but mastering it will set you apart from those who don’t take their craft as seriously as you do. If you want a good go-to source on typography consider referring to the books The Elements of Typographic Design by Robert Bringhurst, Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton or Grid Systems in Graphic Design by Josef Muller-Brockmann.