Typography plays such a key role in design, and sets experienced designers apart from others. It is not a science or a formula you can follow to achieve a dynamic typographic design. Rather, it is an art that is subjective. With that said, there are a few key concepts that help up your typography game.
Respect the Concept / Content
While I love a good typographic approach to design, it means nothing if it distracts from the concept/content. Most likely, this becomes instinctual to the designer, but it is worth noting! Does your typography align with the message? I like to say that each typeface has a personality: Friendly, bold, delicate, feminine, classic, modern, etc. If you are designing a logo for a traditional company, a bold modern font might not be cohesive with the message.
Understand your Audience
One of the answers in my brand discovery questionnaire that has been most helpful to me is defining the client's target audience. Are they youthful and modern? Bohemian? Traditional? Whimsical? A playful + whimsical typeface might not be the best fit for a traditional law firm. Understanding your audience plays a key role in the typography choice.
If you are fairly new to design, I would suggest researching previous designer’s work to hone in on what works, and why. Go to your local library and research some of design’s greats including Paul Rand, Saul Bass, Paula Scher and Milton Glaser among many more. Discover designers who have a keen eye for typography, and analyze why you are attracted to their work.
, by Ellen Lupton, for a good read.
are of course great places to search as well. Beyond the web, I recommend looking through beautifully designed publications including:
, etc. While you are in the grocery store, define what packaging design appeals to you and make a note of its attributes. You can even snag a photo if you want! I’ve been known to do this while shopping and coming across a sudden source of inspiration :). No shame here.
Use Quality Fonts
I can’t stress this point enough. Guys, free fonts from dafont.com aren’t going to cut it if you want to up your typography game. I wish there was a free + easy solution, but it does require some investment! If you have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, you do have access to quality fonts through
. Take advantage of this! For font purchases, I recommend
. There are several places to purchase fonts, but these will get you started in the right direction.
Good typefaces are designed to be used appropriately, and for the correct purpose. Not even the very best typefaces are best suited for each situation. Keep this in mind when designing, especially with a recently purchased typeface! I have fallen victim to getting so excited about my newly acquired font, that I instinctually try to use it for every project. Think of it as the new perfectly fitting pants you just bought, and are eager to wear with every outfit. Sometimes… it just doesn’t work and you have to move on.
Lastly: practice, practice, practice. In order to grow as a designer, you need to practice the skill as much as possible. Graphic design isn’t like taking a test in school, you can’t cram in the last second and become an experienced designer. You must be persistent at honing your craft. Experience can’t be accelerated, so increase your exposure to setting type and you will be well on your way!
If you are just getting into graphic design, try designing your favorite quote through only using type. You could also practice on your blog post graphics, documents, or presentations.
Let me know if you have any other tips you recommend, or are searching for more resources to get you started. I'm here to help!