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From the Design Desk: A Tale of Type

My graphic design professor in college was an avid collector of letterpress type.  We had an old hand-cranked press in the art building, and got to experience first-hand how to arrange and place type.  There’s something about the tactile experience of hand-placing letters and spaces that makes you think twice about just how type comes together. Nowadays, most designers have turned in their hand tools, and do most of their work on the computer. Technology allows us more freedom in our designs – not to mention the wide variety of fonts, art, photography, and templates available to us online.  But although all these tools exist to make design easier, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it makes it better.  Paying a little extra attention to your design can sometimes be the difference between bad, good, and great. Fonts are one of the easiest examples of how a little goes a long way.  I love fonts, and there are a number of really great sources for free commercial fonts out there.  But the thing you sometimes find with free fonts is that they don’t take into account variations in letter spacing.  The more refined fonts will have variable spacing based on the letters that follow, and often times will come with a number of ligatures (which are special characters for connected letters, like “tt” or “ff”, which often appear together and might require special spacing), and alternate glyphs.  Scripts with a lot of flourish often have additional swirls that you can add to the end of a line for effect.  The “Glyphs” panel in Adobe CS like opening a type drawer, it shows you all of the different characters available for the selected font – especially helpful for ornament and dingbat fonts! Whatever tools you use, learn how to adjust the kerning (spacing between letters) and the leading (spacing between lines) for text.  Especially when doing logos and call out text, it is important to pay attention to the letter spacing so that it looks visually coherent, even if it’s not exactly even. Our business has come a long way, but we still need to remember the design principles it was built on.  Technology has streamlined the way we do our work, but the work itself hasn’t changed - there's just more of it!

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