The Basics of Typography

Typography is certainly more than just text on a page. It expresses the type in much the same way a person’s voice can vary in tone. Typography communicates a message through the use of styles and faces.

In the bygone years, metal type was constructed to allow ink to pass across the surface of the type to the paper. Mechanical printing presses and specialised typographers used their skills to craft columns of text until the dramatic changes to the industry.

Terms used in typography come from both contemporary and modern computer graphics. The invention of computer graphic programs made typography available to everyone who got their hands on the software, allowing users to resize styles and format fonts to make expressive text layouts. The problem is everyone thinks they are a typographer but not everyone can do it well.

Font vs. Typeface
A font is computer software, while a typeface is a collection of letters in a similar style. Typeface is used by graphic or website designers when describing a particular style. The term font is only used when referring from the computer.

Paragraph Alignment
This term is used to describe which side a column of text leans up against. Left align is the default paragraph alignment used by graphic designers. Right-align paragraphs of text are used in pull quotes or short pieces of text. Ragged text is opposite side of text to an unjustified block, so a left-aligned text the right hand side would be ragged and vice versa.

Printers use this term when referring to the parallel space between the lines of copy. Metal blocks were crammed between lines to make spaces so text is spaced out correctly. Leading is used by designers to make lines of text appear less cramped and easy to read. It is increased on purpose to provide a design solution.

Kerning comes with the typeface style as built in, though some graphic designers prefer to manage and adjust the kerning to change the spacing visually. Tracking is very similar to kerning except it affects the whole word and not individual letters.

Rob Steele is a freelance graphic artist for roller banner ads.

Top Tips to Become a Better Graphic Designer

© nyul -

© nyul –

The digital world changes extremely quickly and working as a graphic designer means the need to get caught up in learning new techniques when the main focus is pushing your creative limits. Inspiration is tough to find when you feel pressured by a looming project deadline.

Below are some tips to help with inspiration, how to find it and prevent stagnation, and become an improved designer.

Buy Design Books
Make it a habit, at least once a month, to search for a good design, typography, or art book. Build a good book collection to create an on-shelf inspiration library.

[Read more…]

The History of the Business Card

tradecard_1Business CardHidden behind other cards, these small cards usually sit in your wallet for weeks on end, only to appear when you have met someone you would like to share your contact details with, either a business acquaintance or a potential client. Deemed as inconsequential pieces of paper, business cards have a long established history, which most of us don’t appreciate in modern times.

Born in 17th century Europe, business cards were used to advertise and announce aristocratic people arriving in their town. Shaped similar to playing cards, they became well-used by the middle of the century by aristocrats or prosperous folk.

Techniques changed through time with cards becoming more luxurious and highly decorated with engraved gold and lavish fonts. The middle classes all had business cards; you were practically non-existent without one.

Homes had card trays specifically placed for callers to leave their cards. Ornate in construction, these trays became the norm. Any visitor would simply leave their card before departing.

In the 19th century, social cards were presented when visiting a house. The card tray was presented to the visitor and cards were placed in the tray as a matter of etiquette. The tray is then taken away to be delivered to the head lady of the house. She would examine the card to get a first impression of the visitor. The design and fold of the cards illustrated who the card was intended. Folded corners meant that the card is for a specific person of the house; folded in the centre meant that it was for all family members. There are also letterings on the card that held meaning. P/C stood for condolence call, P/F for a congratulatory visit. Cards were also used in trade meetings across the UK.

Formality changed in the industrial revolution. Visiting and trade cards merged, so cards were given out the same way in informal encounters as well as business meetings. The upper class had an aversion to informal cards. In the US, however, their use increased and became widespread.

Business card snobbery dissected in time. Etiquette had vanished, but some rules still apply today. Cards are not presented loose. There must be no writing on the card face and it must not be presented using the left hand.

Today’s business cards are expected to display the name of the card holder, title, company with which they are employed, and any relevant contact information such as mailing address, email address, and telephone numbers. A business logo is used for company cards, but some personal cards may have a personal logo as well. Traditionally, business cards are printed with black typeface onto white or ivory board. Modern business cards, depending on the professional background of the cardholder, are heavily designed, with some using a double-sided print to make use of the cards reverse for other company information.

Rob Steele is a freelance writer. He writes about the web, graphic design, and pop up exhibition stands for

Graphic Design Fundamentals

© diego cervo - graphic designGraphic design isn’t rocket science, but creating an artwork that will get the message across effectively is a science. If you stick the main principles, it will set your design apart from the rest. Mastering these fundamentals will greatly improve your marketing material, as these rules apply across the board, whether you’re creating brochures, posters, email newsletters, or your business website.

Your content needs visual balance to make sure that there are no blank spaces but at the same time, the layout isn’t cramped. You can purposely make the design off-balanced to create a different mood or achieve a certain effect, but the rule of thumb is to balance the page.

White Space
This is also in line with balance. If your design has no space, it will look cramped and very difficult to read. White space in graphic design is known as breathing space and gives your design some room to breathe. Do you have enough margins all around? Do the images have padding around them? Is your design easy to read and look at, or does it lack focus because of too many elements?

All the different elements in your design need to have a bond that links them together to create unity. Elements are laid out in relation to one other.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that your layout should be in blocks, but following invisible lines give a semblance of order in your design. Alignment is especially important in laying out text, such as headers, product descriptions, and contact details. If you want the reader to get drawn to specific parts, you can break it out of the main copy using a different font type, colour, or size.

Using repeated styles and elements helps the reader navigate and creates consistency in the design. Are the style elements, such as bullet points, the same colour and style throughout your design? Are you using a specific typeface for your headlines, subheads, and regular copy? Is your headline in the same position on each page? These keep the design cohesive.

Contrast is one of the most important principles of design, whether you use large and small elements, dark and light shapes; they all create contrast. The most important elements should be larger thus giving them priority over others. Subheads can be larger than body text but smaller than the main headlines. Contrast can make the design more interesting and make the important elements stand out.

If you follow these principles, you will have an uncluttered design that gets the message across.

Written by Rob Steele writes about graphic design.