Once upon a time, in a land far, far away a village quietly hummed along, replete with typefaces. Many were happy-go-lucky like Comic Sans, while others were stout and stodgy like Aharoni or Gourdy Stout. Others were deceptive chameleons like Wingdings 1, 2 and 3, purporting to be simple typefaces, when in actuality they were symbols in typeface clothing. Still others, such as Algerian, maintained elitism status, unlike those who were all business, no play, like Arial. There were some popular new kids on the block – Calibri and Cambria, as well as the well-seasoned favorites Times Roman, Courier, and Helvetica. The typeface village grew and grew, it seemed exponentially. Something strange happened during these growth explosions. There were so many typefaces rules had to be declared or there would be chaos on the sheets [of paper]. The typefaces organized and split into two camps: the serifs (with feet) and san serif (without feet). This separation was not enough for some. There was a revolution to include special titles to typefaces with “style” like “regular,” “italic,” or “bold.” Every typeface wanted recognition, and aspired to be the best that it could be …to become the ultimate “font” characteristic of extraordinary, specific traits. In fact, some typefaces became so disagreeable when put to work near each other they declared war, each vying for every reader’s attention, ultimately causing the reader to lose interest out of frustration and/or boredom. Typesetters were upset worldwide. “Why?” they wondered, “did some typefaces work so compatibly together, while others did not?” “Why did some typefaces diminish learning, while others seemingly enhanced learning?” The typesetters discovered certain typefaces were more compatible than other typefaces. Then, the typesetters remembered the old adage, “opposites attract,” Indeed, Serif typefaces seemed to prefer the company of san serif typefaces and often became best friends or more to the end [of the material]. That is how the couple Calibri and Cambria came about. Some typesetters put the two together and romance blossomed. It seemed every time they were put together, the readers enjoyed what they were learning! The typesetters took notice and tried to match other fonts together compatibly.
It was only a matter of time, once this discovery was made, that typesetters noticed that typefaces had other preferences for readability as well. Typefaces appreciate appropriate spacing between their letters (kerning), as well as spacing across words or lines of words (tracking). In fact, readability improves when the leading or spacing between lines of text is adjusted to maximize the typeface’s best features. Typefaces even have readability laws that should not be broken! For instance, decorative typefaces are forbidden to work in the body of text. Script typefaces are meant to connect with their partner letters and are therefore, forbidden to capitalize on paper. Serif typefaces may work with a Sans Serif typeface, but limited groupings are preferred. Typefaces are forbidden to lurk in the background where they cannot be seen. Typefaces are also forbidden to leave more than one word space between them in a line. It is also forbidden to have more than 72 characters in one line. Typefaces get really mashed together after that. Finally, typefaces are very particular as to following the leader of the sentence. Only special words are allowed to be celebrated with a capital crown.
In fact, as the typesetters, also known as designers, really took the time to get to know their typeface friends, they realized each had their very own personality that would shine best only when their potential is maximized. At that point, readability is vastly improved and all can live happily ever after.
How Text Delivers a Message
Prior to this week, typography existed in my knowledge database as simple formatting of text. Who knew there is an entire world of typography, including critiques, typeface personality, and even research into typeface effectiveness. As I will further elucidate there undoubtedly is such a world. But, first, on to the basics of the discussion prompt.
Approximately a decade ago my husband decided to become an official Disc Jockey and put out a shingle to every prospective Mr. and Mrs. Jones. Back in the day, website design was pretty exorbitantly priced unless the people designed it themselves with a simple plug in template. I opted for the plug in template format. A few years after that, the site required new hosting and a minor facelift. The results can be seen at http://celebrations-entertainment.com/
The website design reflects consideration of all important design elements discussed by Amy Pointer in this week’s video (Laureate Education, Inc. [Laureate], n.d.). Specifically, typeface choice, line length, color contrast, alignment, upper/lower case and decorate typeface utilization. The primary contrasting color is a dark blue selected for its loyalty and trust inference. The decorative/business typeface combination was selected to hopefully conjure up both feelings of formal elegance (events are typically weddings) in addition to trustworthy, business-like attention to details. The combination also appeals to the more romantic partner, as well as the typically more practical (purse string) partner. Color is used sparingly. The site has a splash of silver, again inferring elegance and romance, dark blue, for trust and loyalty and white background for the body of text. The navigation bar is set in a simple san serif font. There are dark blue bullets highlighting services provided. Two pictures are displayed, one of the DJ and one of the DJ with a group of wedding attenders (happy celebration). The text is all left aligned, jagged right, with the exception of emphasized centered, bolded text describing a possible savings, and the DJ’s contact information. The navigation elements are again linked on the bottom of the page (in case they were missed at the top). Line lengths were within the 72 character limits and there is plenty of white space preventing overcrowding.
The elements of typeface design are of such import numerous research studies have been conducted determining the many ways readers are affected by typeset, albeit indirectly. For instance, fluency, defined as ease of processing information, “influences a wide range of people’s judgments, including, preferences, familiarities, truth and risks” (Huang, Song, & Bargh, 2011, p. 506). In fact, research has demonstrated a positive relationship between fluency and categorization, decision-making (Oppenheimer & Frank, 2008) and assessment of future potential (Huang et al., 2011). In still another research study, it was found that “typography is not neutral but can ‘massage’ the message, by altering people’s perceptions of a name or word” (Doyle & Bottomley, 2008, p. 396) actually altering the meaning of the word towards the meaning of the typeface. Meaning of the typeface? What? Yes, you read it correctly. There are even articles devoted to the personality of typefaces characterizing them with adjectives such as crisp, delicate, unobtrusive, modest, subtle, warm, classic, modern, or contemporary (Shaw & Coles, 2011). Lastly, but certainly not least, there are numerous websites, blogs, and e-books ripe for the reading regarding all that is typography, demonstrated through a simple Google search. I have to admit, I will never be able to take typography for granted again. In fact, Ms. Pointer would be proud, I will forever use the more politically correct term, typeface, giving it the credit it so definitely deserves.
Doyle, J. R., & Bottomley, P. A. (2008, June 1). The massage in the medium: Transfer of connotative meaning from typeface to names and products. Wiley InterScience. doi: 10.1002/acp.1468
Huang, J. Y., Song, H., & Bargh, J. A. (2011). Smooth trajectories travel farther into the future: Perceptual fluency effects on prediction of trend continuation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47(2), 506-508. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2010.12.002
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Effective use of text [Video]. Available from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com.
Oppenheimer, D. M., & Frank, M. C. (2008). A rose in any other font would not smell as sweet: Effects of perceptual fluency on categorization. Cognition, 106, 1178-1194. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2007.05.010
Shaw, P., & Coles, S. (2011, April). The new classics. Stereotype, 62(2), 42-43. Retrieved from EBSCOhost