TYPOGRAPHY – Simply Put – Simply written – Simply Understood

Let me start of by saying that typography is an art – that said – it is the responsibility of every typographer to uphold the aesthetics of the typefaces and not degrade them.

Two responsibilities that we bear as designers when using type are, to make the readers experience pleasurable and lastly we owe a responsibility to the typefaces we employ.



Serifs or San-serifs?

Discussions on which one is better when it comes to extended text has been quite pointless. It’s been said that san serifed type is better for extended text because they lead your eye along…, all I can say is , what is readable is credible! Decide for yourself!


Is It Safe?

In web design and development, this is a matter of whether the font will show up on the users interface. The font that you use on your design projects might not be available on the viewer system. Choosing type for the web is easier owing to fewer choices; however, that’s beginning to change. We now have sIFR and ‘web fonts’, so it’s all the more important to think carefully about the type we use.

Honor Content

Typography is a craft by which the meanings of text (or its absence of meaning) can be clarified, honored and shared…
Robert Bringhurst

If the content is for example about love, your type face should be easy and dreamy with exaggerated curls to express the heights of love and romance – let the type face represent and communicate the content appropriately.

Simply, read it

When you are setting up text and your done, read it – really read it. Ask yourself, is it easy to read? Does it bore you every time you have a fresh look at it? and even when in doubt you can always ask other designers or non designers to give you feedback, after all design is subjective.


If your text’s final destination is paper, then print it and see. Your type might look exquisite on screen, but horrible on paper. There really is no substitute for printing.

If setting for the screen, then check it on both PC and Mac, and at different resolutions (screen sizes).

Mix it Up a Bit

The interplay between text gives them energy. The more distant the typographic palette the more vibrant the final design is.

Choosing type families with different features helps prevent redundancy.

Mix typefaces with similar proportions; the best way of doing so is to assign each a different purpose and limit each to a specific range of sizes.

Note – Titling preserves its spotlight by appearing occasionally and always in large sizes. Example below:



Courtesy of Erik Spiekermann


NEVER use CAPITAL letters to accentuate words in running copy. They STICK OUT far too much spoiling the LOOK of the column or page. Use italics instead. If you have to set words in capitals, use proper small caps with or without initial capitals.



There are three different ways to connect or separate words: the hyphen -, the en dash –, a little wider than the hyphen, and the em dash —, wider still. The regular hyphen is easily accessible on any Mac or PC keyboard, whereas the en dash needs the combination option-hyphen on the Mac. The em dash is accessed by pressing option-shift-hyphen on the Mac. The use of these dashes depends on house styles and tradition. The em dash with no space around it is traditionally used to separate thoughts—like this one—but I think its length is a distraction in running text. Try using the en dash to separate thoughts – like this one – with a character space on either side. En dashes without space on either side are also used between numbers and compound words as in: the shop is open 10–7, while you can take the New York–Kansas City train or the New York–Baltimore train only 8am–3pm.



A ligature is defined as the visual or formal combination of two or three letters into a single character. They consist of letter combinations such as ff, fi, fl, ffi. Ligatures keep letters from overlapping and improve legibility. For example: affluence, configure, deflate, affinity.



Avoid flush settings! Most applications create justified text by hideously stretching and squishing words and spaces. Note that it takes many hours of tedious work to typeset justified text that is truly well-proportioned and legible. For this reason, professionals prefer to use ragged-right composition, either with or without hyphenation, depending on how much line-length variation they wish to allow. This gives the text a more harmonious appearance and makes it easier to read, since all word spaces have the same width.


Use bullets or centered points instead of hyphens (-) when you list items. Bullets are part of the standard character set.

Note: Terminologies

glyph is an element of writing: an individual mark on a written medium that contributes to the meaning of what is written. So, for example “fi” comprises two glyphs, namely “f” and “i”; however, they can be combined into a single “fi” glyph (in this instance the combination of “f” + “i” to form a single glyph, is known as a ligature).

Finally, always seek out great typographic examples and keep on learning because the art of typography is ever evolving just like any other field in the arts.

– Aina Kiwelu, Designer at AKSENT