Rules for Creating Effective Typography


Here’s a guest post by Ivana Craft

From newspapers and books to billboards and online content, we are exposed to an overwhelming amount of written content on a daily basis. Typography is as old as writing itself but the printing press, and later computer technology, have enabled an explosion of typographic variety and innovation. Although there are a lot of fonts out there, creating one that is aesthetically pleasing and engaging while being readable and functional is a true art form. The following rules will help guide you on your typographic journey.

Back to basics

If you want to create truly effective typography, you will need to learn the basics. To the uninformed, typography might seem like a straightforward task. It is quite a common misconception that if you can write out the alphabet, you are well on your way to a typeface. This could not be further from the truth, as typography is both a creative art form and a very precise science. Although there is room for freedom of expression, if you break the accepted standards and rules of proportion your letters will simply look wrong. Spend some time with a typographic glossary to familiarize yourself with the basics, as this is the foundation of every successful typeface.

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Kerning matters

Simply put, kerning is the spacing between characters, and is often overlooked when designing a font. Even the most beautiful letters can seem disproportional and forced if they are not spaced well. This may seem like nitpicking, and you might not even notice poor kerning when, for example reading a book. However, when it comes to just a few words, like a logo or a headline, bad kerning can be devastating. Fine tuning the spaces between individual letters can do wonders for the balance and harmony of a font. Of course, remember to keep the spacing consistent.



When it comes to typography, you would be hard pressed to find a more important factor than alignment. At some point in our lives, most of us have come to associate centeredness with balance and perfection, and that is the case for many things. This does not ring true, however, for typography. We are hard wired to read paragraphs from left to right, starting from a fixed margin. When a paragraph is center aligned, it can be extremely difficult to read. This awkwardness stems from the lack of a hard edge, as our eyes have to work harder when searching for the beginning of a new line. Needless to say, there is no need to avoid center alignment at all costs, just consider how important readability is for your needs. Mixing various alignments in the same article is a huge faux pas, resulting in a confusing page that is cluttered and visually off-putting.

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Now that you have decided on your font, spacing and alignment, the next question is size. Promotional material needs to grab people’s attention fast. In the world of print, a second or two is all you have to reel in a potential customer glancing at your promotional material. Big is undoubtedly sometimes better, but contrast is just as important. If all of the words in a sentence or slogan are the same size, the end result could easily be garish as well as ineffective. Making certain key words bigger is a great way of putting emphasis on them, as well as making the whole thing visually engaging. If key words stand out, your potential client will read them almost subconsciously. If a slogan says something along the lines of “this is your chance to win”, it makes sense to put the “WIN” in caps lock and make it bigger than the rest of the sentence.


And finally, break the rules

After all of these rules, this final piece of advice may seem out of place. On the contrary, breaking rules is what leads to innovation and genius. If you are breaking the rules by accident, or through lack of knowledge or skill, this is another matter entirely. Rules are nothing more than guidelines that give you a solid foundation on which to build great typography. Only once you have mastered the core concepts and rules do you have the opportunity to break them without compromising the end result.

Ivana Craft is an aspiring blogger, writer and does graphic design as well.