Why typography rules are important for your design
Most typography rules refer to the readability and with this the most important point of your design. There is absolutely no sense in writing and creating something if you can’t read it and you should never put design over readability. The following typography rules will help every beginner or non-designer to avoid mistakes that can hinder people to read what you have to say or to lose interest after a couple of sentences. Just by putting a bit of effort into your typography, you can give your designs a professional look.
14 typography rules for beginners
Choose the right typeface
Your design will either stand or fall, just by the decision to pick the right typeface. The typeface, you pick, must fit your brand or project. If you take a look at different typefaces, you will soon see they have different attributes which lend them different moods, e.g. some are masculine and some are more feminine. Think about the message, you want to transport and choose the typeface accordingly.
Choose a professional typeface
The quality of a professionally designed typeface always wins. Usually, these typefaces are better balanced (no or less kerning needed) and you have more style choices like narrow or extended, bold or heavy. This will have a huge impact on the readability of your design and also means less work for you.
Don’t use too many typefaces
A general rule is to use 2-3 different typefaces tops. You can use these to create a contrast between your body copy, headlines, or special elements you use to set accents. Read more on this topic >> How to find the right font combinations
Whitespace is a good companion in every design project. The biggest mistake, beginners make, is filling every inch of their layout because they think they have to. This results in an overextension of the reader because he/ she can’t filter out what is important and what not. Don’t be afraid. Leave enough whitespace between texts, headline, and text or other elements like images and text.
The right font size is important for the readability, of course, but it also creates hierarchy inside your design. A standard size for plain text is 12pt. So for body copy, I recommend, you use between 10pt and 14pt. Headlines and subheadings are mostly between 16pt and 24pt. Normally, you can go in 4pt steps. If your body copy is 12pt, your subheading will be 16pt and your heading 20pt.
Line height is the term we use for the space between two lines of text. Again for readability reasons, you should put your line spacing to at least 120%. This prevents the lines from being too close together, which would make it difficult to decipher and the reader will not lose track.
The optimal line length for optimal readability is 45 to 75 characters. This won’t always be doable. Just try to keep lines from being too long and readers from running away.
Many people think centered text alignment is pretty but believe me it’s the hardest to read. You can try it yourself. If you read a two-line quote, you won’t be bothered but in a full page text, you will stop sooner or later because it’s too annoying. Exceptions for centered alignment are quotes or maybe headlines. Body copy should always be left-aligned or justified.
Break up long texts
Break up long texts into short paragraphs and use subheadings. Like that, your reader can easily scan the text for the information needed and skip the rest. This is especially important if you create for web. Web users in general, don’t take the time to read everything from top to bottom.
Are you an all caps fan? Here you can apply the same rule as for alignment. All caps is just used to make short bits of text stand out.
Underlining text or even parts of a text makes it difficult to read. If you want to point out a certain word or phrase, make it bold instead.
With kerning, you change the space between two letters. You change this space in order to get a visually even overall impression. If you zoom into your text you will find, that the space between some letters seems to be shorter or bigger than between others. These little faults can destroy your layout and are disturbing to the eye. But don’t start changing every space of your body text now. Just do this with short phrases of text. Mostly, the ones you made bigger in order to stand out.
No fancy typefaces
Never use display or decorative typefaces for body copy. Just like your mother always said: “Nobody can read your handwriting. Please try to write more clearly.” Nobody can read a fancy decorative typeface really easily. These are made for a special use e.g. the heading of an invitation or birthday card. Same with display typefaces which you use for large prints like movie posters.
Uggh! This one makes my hair stand up. Some typefaces take up more space than others. This doesn’t always look optimal inside your layout. You might be tempted to stretch or squeeze a part of your text to make it fit in a certain space. Consider using a different font style or placing the text differently but never, ever stretch or squeeze.
Typography can be your #1 design element. You can create contrast and hierarchy following these simple typography rules and lead the reader through your text. But that’s not all. Get a bit creative and try using phrases, words, and letters as design elements inside your layout. Break some of the rules if you need to, disassemble words, turn letters upside down. Just don’t forget that the important information must be readable. Beginners can find inspiration in magazines or advertisements. A quick tip at the end: It usually helps to print out your design. You might see little faults more clearly than on a computer screen.