Typography tutorial: Typography tricks

Whether you’re fresh out of university or the creative director of a huge studio, some days there will be a sneaky problem that you just can’t solve. Improving your skill in transforming a brief (and a blank piece of paper) into an engaging, beautiful and effective design is a never-ending task – often aided by a little outside inspiration.

We spoke to some of the most successful graphic designers and upcoming talents to mine their collective knowledge for tips, ideas and new approaches that will help you hone your craft and beat creative block.

Turn logos on their head

Neil Smith, partner, Howdy Pardners

If you’re having trouble getting a logotype or headline nicely letter-spaced, just print it out and look at it upside down (example left). You’ll see the letters as abstract shapes and it will help you space them evenly. I learnt this from John Lloyd of Lloyd Northover back in the 80s.

Fit your type to your audience

Alun Edwards, senior designer, Studio Output

Think about the age and culture or background of your target audience. You wouldn’t use a graffiti stencil for a brochure targeted at OAPs (well you might, but probably not). Check whether the brand has a typeface you need to use. If it doesn’t, push yourself to find something different, not the ‘nice and safe’ typefaces that are overused.

Push type to the limit

James Hurst, Cure Studio

Test your type in extreme or unusual situations –  what does a typeface look like at 300pt, in tight columns, as a standalone strap line? Look at the typeface alongside imagery, in colour, in isolation; also look at different typefaces and then refer back to your typeface to weigh up how it compares. If the project has an online dimension, check if you can license the font for web use.

Bespoke type speaks volumes

Ross Fordham, senior designer, The Partners

Creating a bespoke typeface is an opportunity to communicate much more than text on a page; it’s a chance to challenge the conventions of typography, experiment, and create a communication device that’s an intrinsic part of a bigger idea. For the Injured Jockeys’ Fund, we constructed a typeface inspired by the patterns found in UK regulation racing silks (left). The beauty here is in having a typeface that not only conveys a powerful message, but also contextualises it within the subject matter.

Print it to really see it

Alun Edwards, senior designer, Studio Output

When copyfitting, get into the habit of printing it out. How something appears on screen is very different to how it looks on paper, and printing something will help you better gauge the adjustments that may be needed. If you’re strapped for space, you can use incremental line spacing, if your type is say 10 on 12pt, then use a half-line return (6pt) between paragraphs. Although it will throw copy off any baseline grid, the text will balance again on the next paragraph return and save you space if needed.


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