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Why typography matters

As a designer, developer or if you happen to be a random person to have just stumbled upon this blog, chances are that you have heard about typography or about fonts in general. You might not even realize/discern/notice it but typography is omnipresent in almost every aspect of our modern lives.

Why does it matter? We can get by with our work and lives without learning about the nitty gritty details but enlightening ourselves with the knowledge allows us make better choices with our typography. It helps us give more rationale and motive behind our design decisions. We’ll get into it why typography matters but lets start with what typography is.

What is Typography

Typography is careful consideration for the selection, arrangement and designing of type to enhance legibility and readability and convey a message or emotion.

Type exists in everything that involves reading. Making decisions on how to involve and apply type is typography.

Why does it matter

Typography affects us directly and subconsciously. It influences our mood and emotions. Its a powerful tool that can guide the user and make them perceive us in a particular way. It is a way to tell and convey to our users that we care about and it aids them in understanding us better.

The main function and use of type is to be read to convey information. Good typography guides the reader and convey information better. Bad typography on the other hand can make the experience frustrating and confusing.

Let’s take a look at the following example. They both use the same font. The block of text on the left is condensed and has varying spacings in between letters and makes the overall text cluttered, frustrating and headache inducing to read through. In contrast the typography on the right will make the content easy to read through.

It can establish visual hierarchy. It assists us organizing and displaying information and how they are related. The following example illustrates how typography sets visual hierarchy within a design. The exhibit on the left leaves the heading detached from the text and feeling like its floating and out of place within the text. While in the exhibit on the right the body text seems like it relates to the heading and the contrast in size and weight sets the hierarchy within the design.

It sends a message about you as a brand. Are you amicable? Friendly? Professional? Quirky? Typography can project emotions about your brand to the user. It promotes a certain sentiment and tone of voice.

Take for instance the example below. It’s pretty self explanatory on how type and typography can send a message.

Ultimately the most important reason why typography matters is because it enables you to have is the user/reader’s time and attention. Typography empowers you to hold the reader’s attention. Attention is the most valuable resource the reader can give to you and good typography will ease and remove the barrier of having to fumble through content to find what is important and relevant.

Its a way to care about the reader without being in their face.

Paul Rand, an eminent graphic designer and art director of the twentieth century has said - “Typography is an Art, Good Typography is Art.” and this is very true. In designing and art there is no flawless answer/solution, no defined ‘right’, there is only something ‘useful and effective’.

Every individual might have a different answer and different interpretation to a problem and understanding typography empowers us with knowledge to answer better.


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