What Does Typography Mean To You?

What Does Typography Mean To You?

Typography is defined as:

The art or process of setting and arranging types and printing from them.

The style and appearance of printed matter. So you’re an “out-of-the-box thinker?” 
Learn to look beyond the shape, design and juxtaposition of typography on a page.

Typography and font usage is so much more than just that.

Find the order in creativity.

Here’s some information (certainly not a comprehensive view) on typography/typesetting and some common grammatical mistakes you’ll want to look for in your company’s designed materials and particularly in publication design (magazines, articles, annual reports).

  • When you have columns of information, consider using serif fonts. (Times New Roman, Garamond, Palatino are some examples of serif fonts.) These are the fonts that carry ascenders and descenders or little squiggles darting from the tops and bottoms of letters. The reason is that the serifs provide a break in the white spaces between the lines of text, AKA “leading.” If you insist on using sans-serif fonts (fonts without squiggles) like Arial, Verdana, Georgia, for publication design make sure there is extra leading space so the readers’ eyes are given time to adjust from line to line.
  • When possible, keep your columns to 12-14 words or about 45 characters in width. This will also prevent “tired eyes.” If a reader’s eyes have to work too hard to get to the end of a line of text, they are more likely to stop reading.
  • Break your text and columns up using block quotes.
    — again to prevent tired eyes. Enlarge the fonts and put it between columns to add visual interest.
  • Hyphens, En Dashes and Em Dashes
    Hyphens are typically used when indicating a phone number. Ex: 847-991-2766.
    • En dashes (half the length of an Em dash) are typically used to separate dates.
    • Em dashes are the length of an “m” and are used when expressing a quick change of thought.
      Ex: Em dashes are frequently used to indicate a change of thought — or the addition of a new thought — like this.
  • Ellipses
    Ellipses indicate missing text. Ex: It was an incredibly interesting story…and when ending a sentence, an extra period should be used….

These are only a few of the many, many type-setting rules to follow in creating excellent publication design. If your designer implements these and creates interesting page design, I guarantee the odds of your articles being read — and shared — will drastically increase. A designer with both left and right-brained talents will make all the difference; and if your designer isn’t familiar with these notes, I encourage you to find an editor who is.

Designer Truths

Designer Truths

Designer Truths

I read a great article posted on istockphoto, which unfortunately has been relocated/removed since. But the article describes, in soft and funny quips, their take on what it means to be a designer. I laughed, out loud, at the author’s musings. Here is a summary of their findings, as well as my personal assessment on each point.

Graphic Designers…

Spend the majority of time in:
A. Our Own World or B. Lala Land.
TRUTH. (We) have the courage and desire, to be everywhere simultaneously. For clients, this is a bonus because we can take you or your audience to places you and they haven’t imagined yet.

We see green.
TRUTH. 
(Most of us care for the environment relentlessly.) In certain sectors, paper is still our lifeblood. We love this planet and I’ve not yet met another designer that isn’t voraciously protective of it.

Finding the right image for a project is like finding a million dollars.
FALSE.
Finding the perfect image for a project is like finding a trillion dollars. And, if we can’t find it, we will create it.

We have the attention of a goldfish…
OH! Sorry, I lost my place…oh yes, the attention of a goldfish.(Apologies for that over-used and tired clichéd time-stop.) If we do, in fact, have more on our mind, it is spaced evenly between “command-z” aka “undo,” and “I need a bigger monitor;” or “Bacon,” (in my case, Veggie Thai Rolls). 
SEMI-TRUTH.
I admit that when I work hours-on-end on the same project, I do check the “before” and “after,” constantly analyzing which works best. And, yes, ingest a roll or two, in the process.

We’ve trained our brains to think rectangularly. 
NOTSOMUCH.
Granted, many of us do, but I would surmise that these days, at least half of us (obviously and especially, package designers) think in 3D — and rectangularly, squarely, cylindrically, etc.

We pray for a “Unicorn Deathmatch.” 
NO COMMENT.
I’m climbing off of the Unicorn wagon right now.

We see the world in fonts.
TRUTH.
Admittedly, my ego grins just a bit when I see the font, “Anastasia” — albeit mostly on diner menus or marquees….and yes, I audibly cringe with too much papyrus or comic sans out in the world. At the same time lauding those designers that create their own fonts.

Our schedule is like a that of a night club. 
SEMITRUTH.
Only when it absolutely needs to be. And, one reason it is: we work well internationally. Actually, most of us are ever-accommodating. That, or perfectionists, usually one of the two.

For all that we designers are, we love what we do and most of us do it well.

I’ve made a lot of comments on behalf of designers everywhere. If you are a designer (or a member of the general audience) and have more to say, or share, please do!

Design Surrounds Us.

Design Surrounds Us.

Design Surrounds Us.

Have you ever taken a walk in any populated town in the world and noticed, really looked, at the amount of design that surrounds us? Signage, sewer covers, construction, food and beverage and so much more…design truly is — everywhere!

As you might guess, this is especially exciting for me and probably for a lot of designers, photographers, and people making a living designing these products and signage. I’m not talking about the money. For me, it’s more about marking our place in history. It’s wonderful and intriguing to view world history through the lens of a designer. To know what mankind was doing, learning, creating and sadly, even destroying, just by looking at the advertising and design of the period.

Some eras you’ll easily notice are The Renaissance, Baroque, The Industrial Age, Roaring 20’s, Art Deco, Civil Rights and 60’s & 70’s. And depending on your interests, experiences, and backgrounds these eras easily expand.

But the beauty of design is that it doesn’t pick favorites. It speaks the truth — no matter the hurt.

Contemplate memorials that surfaced from The Vietnam War (Maya Lin), The Holocaust (consider Hedwig “Hedy” Strnad) or The Great Depression and the resulting Pre-Modernism.

The next time you’re hailing a taxi, riding a bus, strolling through your nearest shopping mall, take it nice and slow and witness the thought that went into the signage, advertising, and design that surrounds you. And then, consider what your outing would look like or what in the world, it would communicate — without design.

The Artist Inside You…

The Artist Inside You…

The Artist Inside You…

Do you have a secret Michelangelo or Caravaggio hiding deep inside you, aching to surface, but when asked about your creative capabilities, you clam-up or change the subject?

A lot of people claim they are not creative, but when pushed, eventually admit they haven’t actually given it a proper chance. My challenge to you is…relax, let your mind go, remove expectations and simply see what you come up with.

We all know that creativity comes in many varieties and is more than artistic creativity. You may be a visionary, mechanical engineer, architect, pianist, entrepreneur, barkeep or barista — all known problem solvers, but they still may not practice the relationship between creativity and problem solving.

This is where I think we could all do with a generous helping of creativity every day! If you are concerned about your artistic abilities; don’t be.

Artistic ability is just one kind of creativity. Because I’m a designer, let’s concentrate on the artistic kind of creativity. Since some of the others creativities happen as a result of tiers of processes, artistic creativity is something we can easily see.

So how do you know if you have artistic creativity? Typically, you understand relationships and comparisons and then define the discovered relationship in an artisitic way.

Before taking my college illustration classes, I eagerly planted myself among the illustration wallflowers. It was never an issue (despite being a graphic designer and art director) because I knew I could always hire the experts when I needed a custom illustration done properly.

However, I quickly learned that despite being able to sketch and convey ideas while storyboarding or simply describing a layout, knowing how to create simple illustrations would just make me a better designer.

So today, if I choose to create an illustration myself I revert to one guideline that has stuck with me and proven to be a lifesaver over the years. This is quite literally a quick drawing tip if you want to utilize artistic creativity:

The difficulty most people have when attempting to draw is that we perceive our world quite differently than it is in reality and the more familiar the item we try to draw, the bigger the challenge; because even though we are overly familiar with it, we are actually only familiar with our perception of it rathecr than its reality in time/space and perspective. So here’s the trick my amazing art teacher shared with our classroom that made a world of difference to all of us: she instructed us to “…separate your mind from the object.” (Yes — what followed was an audible, collective, “huh?” from every participating student!)

It turns out, the easiest way to separate your mind from the object you are drawing is to literally turn the object upside down or on its side. This break the predisposed image your mind is used to seeing and instead, it allows you to draw what is really before you. This way, you will learn to draw a large oval with an opening on one side and a swirl on the other…or in other words, you will learn to draw a pitcher. Same idea with any still-life: instead of drawing an apple, you learn to draw the heart-shaped, red, shaded object before you.

So the next time you’re asked about your own creative abilities, give it a try, you might surprise yourself! I belong to the “everyone can do anything they want to do, once they make the decision to” — school of thought. That, and a lot of practicing is the answer for me.

But let’s get back to those of us who may hold a pencil like a chopstick and honestly have no ambition nor interest to learn drawing or painting or any of the obvious ways to artistic problem solving…you still have options! Consider this Toronto-based nurse who made a masterpiece out of ephemeral little plastic caps and pieces that are typically thrown away and unused when she prepares an I.V. or any number of other daily responsibilities for her patients.

She still managed to problem-solve and did it extremely creatively. We can all learn from her ingenuity!

So again, keep your mind limber and practice problem-solving everyday…in one way or another, your creativity won’t have any other option than to blossom with each and every problem you solve!