Now that you've begun to view fonts in a new light, it is time to dig a little deeper. If you have yet to read the first typography post I highly recommend you give it a peek. It’s all about seeing past the words themselves and appreciating individual letterforms as harmonious and intricately formed shapes. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way let’s talk about some basic principles. Having a good foundation early on enables you to break the rules and get away with it.
Do you copy? Probably.
Odd’s are you have probably heard the word “copy,” or the process of “copy-writing.” Copy writing is challenging and It takes a special kind of person to do it well. It’s basically the content or words that you (as the designer) are given to work with. In a menu it is everything from the item names, to the descriptions of said items. It could also be the “about us” paragraph on your church’s website. It is a broad term. So why am I talking about this? Basically it is the engine to your car. The hot air to your balloon. The beating heart to your project. Without it we become artist’s and not designers. There is indeed a difference. Art's communication is heavily dependent on what the viewer wants it to say, while design should communicate exactly what we (creatives) want it to say. The vehicle for that communication? Copy. Yes, there is a large degree of art to what we do, but that is a different discussion. Now back to copy. At Highlands, the words we print and post are mulled over and read on multiple levels. This insures the highest probability of communicating correctly what we want to say. That word “correctly” is key.
How we copy.
Here is an example of the communication process: Our staff small groups team, drafts the vision and passes that along to our art director. Our art director then works with the team to write something that communicates that vision in the best way possible. Once approved, the language is read by several others to hammer out any kinks or things that might be confusing. It is important to get as many eyes on your copy as possible. The last thing you want is to send out the wrong date or have an embarrassing mispeling. Once the copy is finalized, it is then passed down to us (the designers). This is where the fun begins. Most likely it is either too much to handle or not enough. It never is perfect. If it was the perfect amount of copy the first time I think you and I would be out of a job. Let’s face it, that is what we are for. We are problem solvers. So time to solve some problems. I would venture to say that 80 percent of length issues can be resolved by a revision. But there are going to be those times when you just have to make it work. Let’s talk about what to do.
How to use copy.
For simplicity’s sake I am going to talk about print pieces. Web is a whole separate gambit and frankly needs to come from a different brain. Let’s talk about that mailer your pastor asked you for the end of summer. Mailers are great. Everyone loves mailers. It is time for the church to have some good mailers don't you think? Expect a blog post about mailers soon. Most church mailers have this in common. There is usually a large block of text describing something. That’s what we should focus on. But first lets have a vocabulary lesson.
Alignment: The setting of text flow or image placement relative to a page, column (measure), table cell or tab.
Point size: The smallest whole unit of measure in typography.
Leading: The distance between the baselines of successive lines of type.
Baseline: The line upon which most letters "sit" and below which descenders extend.
Widow: A paragraph-ending line that falls at the beginning of the following page or column, thus separated from the rest of the text.
Orphan: A paragraph-opening line that appears by itself at the bottom of a page or column. And a word, part of a word, or very short line that appears by itself at the end of a paragraph. Orphans result in too much white space between paragraphs or at the bottom of a page.
Do not worry about remembering the difference between orphans and widows. Just remember that they are both bad.
White-space: The area you think is missing something but is adding everything.
Let’s break typesetting copy down in order of the terms listed about. Alignment should be one of the first choices you make. You have several options here. Left, centered, right, justified are the main ones. It depends wholly on the volume that you are trying to communicate. Center aligning a slew of text ends up being uncomfortable to read. You do want people to read what your saying right? Most people look for an excuse not to read it. Especially in this digital media oriented age. You should make it as comfortable as possible. Save your spice for the headlines. Focus on being precise. Don’t excuse lack of flare for lack of attention when it comes to copy typesetting. If you center align your body of text it loses that solid line the readers eye uses to orient itself. Center justify small amounts of text. This same concept applies to right aligned text. You are better off left aligning or justifying your text. Left aligning is the safest option. The problem you face when fully justifying your text is “rivers.” Rivers are distorted spaces between your words.
Here is an EXAMPLE.
Not very pretty right? You fix this by using hyphens. In most cases you want to refrain from using hyphens cause they are not the most attractive looking marks. They work well with large amounts of copy but so much with very little amounts of copy.
Now that you have your alignment adjusted, focus on your point size. Your point size is determined by the size of your print piece. If it is a billboard it is going to be pretty large. That is different than lets say a business card. For mailers the smallest size you should set your copy in is typically around 9pt. If you are using a font with a large x-height you are probably okay to use an 8pt. Just like your document size determines your point-size, the culmination of your document size and point-size determines your leading amount. Leading can get a little hairy. Most programs will determine this for you. Adobe does a good job at calculating a figure based off of your point size but it’s normally a weird number. In design school I was taught to use whole numbers as much as possible. Why not? If you leave this post remembering one thing, remember this. Do not compensate for a lack of copy with increased font and leading size. You are hurting yourself. Revel in that white space.
Here are some tips:
- Avoid large bodies of text in all caps. If everything is important nothing is important.
- Maintain consistency. Instead of using a completely different font mid paragraph to emphasize a thought, try using a different weight and/or color.
- Copy and paste. Copy and paste EVERYTHING. It is the saving grace of graphic designers. Most of us can not spel anywaay.
- Read your copy. Read the first few lines and see if the amount of words per line is comfortable to read.