Obeying the Rules

My graduate typography class, taught by Kristin Hughes, began with a review of the basic rules of typography, very much like Karen Moyer's lecture on What's Normal.

The rules to generally obey are the following:

  • For optimum legibility, choose classic, time-tested typefaces with a proven track records.
  • Be mindful not to use too many typefaces at once.
  • Avoid combining typefaces that are too similar. It looks like a mistake.
  • Text set in all capital letters severely retards reading. Use upper and lower case letters for optimum readability.
  • For text type, use sizes that according to legibility studies prove most readable. These sizes range from 8-12 points.
  • Avoid using too many different types sizes and weights at the same time.
  • Use text type of book weight. Avoid typefaces appearing too heavy or too light.
  • Use typefaces of medium width.
  • For text type, use consistent letter and word spacing (kerning) to produce an even, uninterrupted flow.
  • Use appropriate line lengths. Lines that are too short or too long disrupt the reading process.
  • For text type, use line spacing (leading) that easily carries the eye from one line to the next.
  • For optimum readability, use a flush left, ragged right style.
  • Strive for consistent rhythmic rags.
  • Clearly indicate paragraphs. You never have to indent the first paragraph of a column.
  • Avoid widows (words left on a line by themselves) and orphans (a single word at the beginning of a column or page).
  • Emphasize elements within text with discretion. Never combine small caps and regular caps.
  • Always maintain the integrity of your type. Avoid stretching or distorting your typefaces or putting text on a curve.
  • Always align letters on the baseline or the meanline.
  • When working in color, ensure that sufficient contrast exists between type and its background.

Originally posted on Tuesday, September 7, 2004

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