Category: Typography

old fashioned metal letters for printing

Serif vs Sans Serif in Design

So does it matter if I pick a serifed or a sans serifed typestyle for my design project?
Yes and no. There aren't any hard and fast rules about which style to choose, however, there are some choices that are more pleasing to look at as well as easier to read. When designing a long format document especially, you'll generally have three options when it comes to the headlines, subheads, and body text:
  • All serifed type
  • All sans serifed type
  • A combination of sans serifed and serifed type
Option 1 is an example of a layout using an all serifed typestyle, Georgia. Looks okay, it'll pass inspection. It's got a bold headline, a couple of font treatments, not too shabby, but a little unimaginative. Option 2 is a version with all sans serifed type. Again, doesn't look bad, but could certainly use something to jazz it up a bit. Option 3 would be my personal choice. It combines a sans serifed style for the head and subhead, then the body text is set in an easy to read serifed style. I'd also use the sans serifed face to draw attention to other subheads, pull quotes, and image captions. Remember, there aren't any hard and fast rules when it comes to picking out typestyles for a project. Just try and keep them to a minimum:  three at the very most. Also, make sure that no matter the style, it's easy to read. Folks will give up on your content in a heart beat if it's difficult to navigate. Simple and clean is best. If you'd like to learn more, check out my Graphic Design Tutor Master Class. A graphic design course built specifically for businesses who'd like to save money by keeping their marketing designs in house.

Stop Stretching Your Type!

Hands off the horizontal scale tool.
I mean it, don't touch it!

In most layout applications there is an option to change the width of text. This tool is generally called the "horizontal scale" tool. It's meant to stretch the width of characters from their original state.

All three of these sets of letters is the same size: 29 point. The top set is set at a normal horizontal scale, the center is set at 50%, and the bottom is set at 150%. Neither option is all that attractive and obviously manipulated.

One of the ways this feature could be utilized is in the creation of logos and illustrations. Think twice before using this option with characters or words used in every day text for projects and designs. Do some testing to ensure that the characters aren't over manipulated.

There are times when you'll need to shrink up the text in your document to fit a specific area or to make room for something else. You might feel tempted to shrink the text by changing the horizontal scale. Try not to do this. If over done, it will be obvious to your readers that the text has been manipulated in this way.

Here are three ways to manipulate the text to free up space:

  1. Change the font size - even .5 of a point can change the text area dramatically.
  2. Tighten up the kerning - be careful using this tool, it can get obvious and difficult to read.
  3. Tighten up the line spacing - again, be careful, tighten only slightly.

If done correctly and with care, all three of these tactics can be used to free up space by shrinking the text area. Remember, you don't want to sacrifice readability.

For a more in depth lesson on spacing, kerning, and layout, check out the Graphic Design Tutor Master Class.