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The Art of . . .

❧ Typography is the art and technique of arranging type in order to make language visible. The arrangement of type involves the selection of typefaces, point size, line length, leading (line spacing), adjusting the spaces between groups of letters (tracking) and adjusting the space between pairs of letters (kerning).

The terminology we use today on our laptops, desktops and other devices has its roots in letterpress (lead letters) introduced by Johannes Gutenburg (1439).

Upper case: the upper of a pair of cases, holding the less used characters (mainly capitals) - see below . . .

Lower case: the lower of a pair of cases, holding most used characters - see above . . .

I believe the art of typography has been lost over the years, designers are simply not taught the basics - perhaps the tutors have lost or never knew the basics either!.

The age of the ‘typographer’ is in decline, at Satsumo we understand how ‘type’ works. Typeface design has lost its purity and classic fonts are few and far between in this digital age - we like to revert back and use classic cut fonts (fonts that took years to design), I guarantee you will notice the difference!

The composing stick above is my left handed one from the 70's! My name is written in 36pt Palace Script to a measure of 30 picas (another alien term from Gutenburg!).

A typographers eye and skill over a headline and body of text is paramount to a classic look and feel.

Typography terminology:

Pica is a typographic unit of measure corresponding to approximately ​1⁄6 of an inch, or ​1⁄72 of a foot (which is different to an imperial foot! But only slightly!). One pica is further divided into 12 points - this is where point size comes in modern day usage..

Leading: Was quite literally a slither of lead between lines to give 'line space'.

Justification: Range left, range right, justified, semi-justified

Ligatures: For example one piece of type - ffi, ffl, fi, fl

Widows and Orphans: Solo words at end of a paragraph

Sans-serif, sans serif, gothic, or simply sans letterform is one that does not have extending features called 'serifs' at the end of strokes. Sans-serif fonts tend to have less line width variation than serif fonts. In most print, they are often used for headings rather than for body text. They are often used to convey simplicity and modernity or minimalism.

Sans-serif fonts have become the most prevalent for display of text on computer screens. On lower-resolution digital displays, fine details like serifs may disappear or appear too large. The term comes from the French word sans, meaning 'without' and 'serif' of uncertain origin, possibly from the Dutch word schreef meaning 'line' or pen-stroke.

Before the term "sans-serif" became common in English typography, a number of other terms had been used. One of these outmoded terms for sans serif was gothic, which is still used in East Asian typography and sometimes seen in font names like News Gothic, Highway Gothic or Trade Gothic.

Sans-serif fonts are sometimes, especially in older documents, used as a device for emphasis, due to their typically blacker type colour.

Basic rules of typography:

  • Never use script/old English as caps: ZAPF CHANCERY, OLD ENGLISH for example

  • Never double space after a sentence

  • Don’t use ornate type for body copy

  • Don’t use & (ampersand) in lower-case text

  • Turn ligatures on

  • Use small caps only in a font designed for small caps

  • Use same family(s) across all your collateral

  • Don’t mix fonts that are too similar

  • Do use different font styles

  • Don’t use hyphenation unless text is justified

  • Never use the underscore

  • Don’t put text over a busy background

  • Do leverage typography to create a strong design


Written by Paul Thompson

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