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How to Use Typography to Your Advantage

Flickr user Jeremy Keith

When creating content, typography isn't always top of mind. Typography refers to the appearance and arrangement of type. According to KISS Metrics, there are six key components of typography:

Typeface Typeface is not the same thing as font. It refers to a group of characters, letters and numbers that share the same design. For example Garamond, Times, and Arial are typefaces, not fonts – a very common misconception.

Fonts 

A specific style of typeface with a set width, size, and weight. For example, Georgia is a typeface; 9pt Georgia Bold is a font. People in the type design community consider a font to be the delivery mechanism and a typeface to be the creative work.

Line Length

This refers to the distance occupied by text that is present between the right and left margins in one line.

Leading

It is the space between baselines (the lines upon which letters “sit”) and is expressed in points.

Kerning

This term refers to the white space between individual characters or letters. Many fonts come with a default kerning value that is best suited to make the space between letters look more natural.

Tracking

Also known as letter spacing, it is used to adjust the space uniformly over a range of characters. Tracking can affect the character density of the passage.

 Why Does Typography Matter?

Typography not only sets the tone for content, but it can actually affect how readers perceive the text. In 2012, The New York Times and Errol Morris ran an experiment about typography in the paper. Readers -- 40,000 of them -- were shown a passage of The Beginning of Infinity by David Deutsch and then given a questionnaire afterwards. The text was exactly the same, but the passage was presented to readers in different typeface. It turned out the typeface actually affected how people felt about the passage - those that read it in Comic Sans or Helvetica felt the passage was less believable and readers were most likely to agree with the sentiment in the passage if the font was Baskerville.

Readability is one of the most important factors in typography, obviously. If a font is hard to read, people will pass on by. So what font is the most popular? According to a study by Wichita State and Michael Bernard of Usability News looked at eight different online typefaces. Of those eight studied, Verdana, Comic Sans, and Arial in 10, 12, or 14 size were the preferred styles.

To use typography to your advantage, know what type is

  • Easiest to read
  • Fits the tone of your content
  • Will be best received.

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