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“Setting type and graphics is a process of weighing and balancing elements until a harmony between content and display is achieved." –Robert Slimbach, typographer

Evolution of Type | Thinking With Type


Text forms are the purest representation of our alphabet because they represent a dual connection between the fundamental nature of the alphabet as a tool for reading and as a barometer of the aesthetics of modernity.

The craft of typography is about making the complex clear and the uncomplicated interesting, all with an apparent effortlessness that is democratic in its presentation. The experienced typographer knows that his primary purpose is to be a facilitator, to organize content in a lucid manner to best impart to the reader the intent, mood, and content of the work displayed.

Type aids readability first and foremost. Form should follow function. It also suggests voice and reflects tone, attitude, personality. Type should, therefore, be appropriate to the audience, message, client, medium and image.

Typestyles have different expressive qualities: cold, sensual, clean, ostentatious, graceful. (look at Stall Wall Weekly and page 1 of the handouts)

To choose a typeface, think about:

Respect and reflect content, research, know your audience, and understand what you're designing before you begin selecting and aranging your typography.

What must type accomplish? It should:

Some terms:

Size (handouts, p. 2)

12 points in a pica, approximately 6 picas in an inch. So, 6 x 12 = 72 points in an inch.

Once a type size reaches 2", however, it is measured in inches. 5 points to 72 points, measured in points.

Measure a type size from ascender to descender (highest point to lowest point). General rule: type less than 10 points is difficult to read. Another general rule: Web ignores points and picas. More on that later.

Line length is measured also in picas. Designers use pica measurements on layouts to indicate line length. For example: 8-point type can be set in a 22-pica line length on standard 81/2x11 paper. Line length, then, is closely related to size of type. You want the reader's eye to move smoothly along, never forced to slow down or lose its place. (look at line length illustration)

Text type is any type under 14 points in size. Display type is larger than 14 points, typically 16 points and above.

Type Groups:


What type would you use for the Bible?
A diploma? Newspaper nameplate?
Stop signs, street signs and billboards?

Assignment 1: In Microsoft Word, choose a font that best represents your personality or mood. Type your first and last name in that font. Include a paragraph on why that particular font best represents you now.

Assignment 2: Using only type, communicate or signal the following:

  • isolation
  • movement
  • instability
  • conflict or unfriendliness

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Last Updated: January 2008
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