What Good is Typography? Tips for Graphic and Web Designers



life is simple good typography poster

Typography is the craft of creating, arranging, and modifying font types to appeal to different emotions and situations. While some might consider it a sub-skill necessary for a graphic designer to learn, in truth, it can be a career of its own. Just as painting, graphic design, and acting are considered arts in their own right, typography is starting to become universally seen as an art as well. But what exactly can typography do? And what use is it for a business? (image via shutterstock)

How Humans Read

To understand the usefulness of typography, you need to understand how humans read and react to different forms of the written word. According to Pick Crew, when someone reads, their eyes follow an instinctive pattern called a scan path. Humans naturally break up a sentence into saccades and fixations, or scans and pauses. The combination of scanning a sentence, then pausing is what allows humans to process the information they are reading. The average length of a scan is between seven and nine letters, then a pause is needed for the brain to process what was just read (image via shutterstock).

How Humans Read good typography

Understanding the process with which the human eye and brain work together to read is important in understanding how typography can influence people. Have you ever read over a phrase, but had to go back to reread it? Chances are, your normal pattern of scanning and pausing was temporarily screwed up, leading to your inability to understand what you just read and forcing you to read over it again. Typographers can specifically design the layout and font of a page in order to impact how a reader reads and understands the writing.

Reader Attention

There are a lot of different fonts out there to write in. And thanks to computers and programs like Microsoft Word, anybody can write something in an unusual font. The majority of the time, writing in a non-standard font is nothing more than a form of entertainment. But picking an unusual font for your next essay or other document can have an effect on how a reader understands and relates to the document (image via shutterstock)

Reader Attention good typography

A lot of fonts out there are very eye–catching. Whether through beauty or unattractiveness, people are drawn to unusual font types. They intrigue and entice people to continue reading, regardless of what the content of the writing actually is. According to Practical Typography, this is exactly one of the benefits of typography; attracting the readers attention and interest.

A stereotype of todays world is that everyone is getting more and more impatient, and the Internet is the perfect example of this. If an article or webpage doesn’t do something to pique a viewer’s interest immediately, they are liable to move on to something else more interesting. A typographer can manipulate the fonts and type on a webpage to draw more interest. A more interesting webpage means more visitors which can mean more sales if the site is an eCommerce store.

Do You Feel Funny?

Humans are emotional beings. Sure, you might be rational and logical the majority of the time, but sometimes the emotion gets to you and you react, not according to reason, but according to how you feel. In the same way that traditional art can evoke various emotions, so too can typography. According to Communication Arts, typography is like fashion, or furniture. Society certainly doesn’t need any new fashion or furniture designs (although, every once in a while a new design is practical as well as visually appealing), but new styles of both are constantly being created anyways. People are taking both new and old designs and constantly using them to create a particular “look” for themselves. They are using these different styles in the hope of eliciting a particular feeling or emotion, either from themselves (confidence, happiness, contentment, etc.) or from other people (desire, wariness, love, etc.).

Do You Feel Funny? good typography poster

In the same way that different styles of clothing are used to evoke emotion, so too does typography. A typographer doesn’t necessarily need to create a brand new font to attract attention and elicit emotion. They can take existing fonts and do whatever they please in modifying them in order to influence a reader in a particular way. Typography is a subtle art. Changing the font on a webpage can make a perfectly trustworthy site look suspicious, or vice-versa. A newspaper headline can look incredibly serious, or an absolute joke, all depending on the font (image via shutterstock).

If you’re still uncertain about the effect typography can have on your website or business, go check out an eCommerce site like Shopify, then go to a font site like FontSpace and imagine the former website if all its text was replaced with one of the different fonts.


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