Typography and typesetting for the small business owner

Before we start, let me quickly explain what typography and typesetting are:

Typography is the technique of arranging typography.

Typesetting is the technique of arranging paragraphs and typographic compositions.

Why it’s essential for an entrepreneur to know?

  • Knowing typography and typesetting will give your marketing materials the finesse and professionalism that all businesses need.
  • Typography is everywhere. Look at your desk or open the fridge and look how many letters and type compositions you see.
  • It helps emphasise and express an idea. Moreover, differentiate from other competitors.

Font types

Serif
Times New Roman is possibly the most famous one. This style has conservative connotations, so it’s excellent for established and traditional brands. It’s also perfect for body text because it’s designed for small dense texts. (EG. Newspapers and books)

Slab Serif
The slab serif has the serif squared and thick. This font is excellent for making a statement. Rockwell usually comes with your computer, to mention an example. Avoid using it for body text, but good for titles and highlighted paragraphs.

Sans Serif
Helvetica and Arial are possibly the two famous guys. It’s a font for modern brands, depending on the design, will give you a greater degree of innovation feel.

Script
This style is not great at all for body texts. It’s a good font type to create personality and a human feel and to be used on titles and highlight texts. Things to bear in mind in this style is that all the letters look the same, so be wise when you choose one that the material in which you use the font doesn’t end up looking a bit naff.

Fancy Pancy (not called like that officially, basically decoration fonts)
These fonts are fun but possibly very limited use for a brand.

Steer clear of Comic Sans
I would advise you to exercise caution when considering it for your brand’s typography. The widespread use of Comic Sans has stripped it of a unique personality, while its playful, juvenile characteristics don’t often align with a professional brand image. It simply lacks the gravitas necessary for serious branding endeavors.

Basic concepts of typography

Kerning
Space between letters. This tip is handy. The space between letters can be really useful but also can damage the readability. Some fonts are not well designed, and therefore the kerning isn’t well adjusted, which creates strange gaps and breaks the words in the wrong way.

An image showing how kerning might make read N ote instead of Note.
See in this image how bad kerning is making you read “N ote” instead of “Note”.

Kerning can also be used to express an idea 👇🏼

Together is a tight kerning expresses the concept of close. A part with a forced kerning out, gives the impression of far.

Typesetting

Let’s have a quick look at some typesetting concepts now.

Size
The first concept you already know pretty well. What you need to think about it is that depending on what size you use, the marketing leaflet or business card will look crowded or missing finesse. I always try a few different sizes on printed paper to see what feels best. Also, think about the end user and accessibility because some people need bigger font sizes.

Document or column width
Size and width are very related. If you have a wide document, it might be worth splitting it into two or three columns as it will air the readability. Long sentences make things difficult to read and tire the eyes quicker

An example of how a long sentence is more difficult to read that a shorter column.

Leading
AKA, the space between the lines. If the leading is too big, you will tire your reader’s eyes. If it’s too small, you will make the document dense and claustrophobic. A rule of thumb is something like 1.5 (in a Word document) or 3 points more than the text size on InDesign.

Justification
I am a prophet on a NOT JUSTIFIED text. The reason is that justified forces the space between words making it harder to read. Also looks more organic when the text is aligned to the left and gives a bit of dynamism and helps the reader to find the next line.

Widow
A widow is a word that stands by itself at the end of the paragraph. If the last word is a long word, three or more syllables, I usually don’t consider it a widow.

Three paragraphs showing a widow example and two examples of non widows.

Orphan
An orphan is a stand-alone word or words from the previous paragraph that goes to the next column or page. It’s important to make that work fit in the section because it can be really disruptive for the reader.

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