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Type 2
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2.5 Typography as ‘Art’

Even though typography is very rule-bound, can we still consider it to be a truly creative field? Watch the lesson to find out…

2.5 Typography as ‘Art’

Welcome back. We've moved through the centuries and picked up some excellent typographic ideas and skills along the way. You can now use the ancient heritage of book printing to inform your type setting skills and also turn to the Swiss-inspired international style when you need some typographic Inspiration for your poster designs. Before we delve even further into the world of typography in the next section of the course, I want to tie up what we've covered so far by having a chat with you about typography as a possible art form and where the typographic rules should restrict us as designers. First things first, we need to acknowledge that typography is very rule governed. That's one of the reasons your taking this course, right? If anybody could be a typographer, they wouldn't need any guidance or rules. But that's not the case, there are hundreds of books written on the subject of typographic rules. Which would suggest that there is something to be said for getting to know your kerning from your tracking. But more of that a little bit later. Just as a painter needs to learn how to mix his oils or a dress designer needs to learn how to cut patterns, typographers also need to pickup some essential skills before they can feel confident with mastering the art of setting type. But these skills and guiding rules certainly shouldn't restrict us. If anything, they are out there to help prevent incidents of really bad typography, which sadly occurs more frequently than we would like to see. Serial abusers of Papyrus, I am looking at you. If you stick to the following golden rules of typography, you'll find that your typographic creativity is not going to be restricted, it's going to be channeled instead. And you'll find that these tricks of the trade open up lots of new doors of creativity for you. So let's take a look at some of the key typographic rules that are going to help you achieve a really fantastic result in you typographic designs. The simplest way to remember these rules is as part of a whole typographic equation. Grid + typeface + formatting + alignment, and then a bit more formatting at the end as well. Before you even begin to draw a text frame or type anything out, you need to decide on the structure of your type. We looked at the importance of establishing a grid in the previous lesson, and this should always be your first task when you start designing. It's true there are designers out there who will tell you that grid theory is overrated, and you can take a look at David Carson's amazing work for Ray Gun Magazine in the 1990s to see what they're talking about. A bit of chaos in typography can sometimes look just right. But it has to be said, in most cases you're going to find that a grid gives you the structure and guidance that will allow you to get your typography looking really professional. So make sure you get friendly with the layout tools in your software of choice, and make use of guides and baseline grids to get your page organized before you even begin. The second part of our equation is the typeface. Now we could have a whole other course about typefaces and fonts alone. It's such a huge subject, and one that really represents the changing tastes of designers over time. As I advised at the start of the course when we looked at typesetting a book, there are some classic typefaces that will never go out of style, and they can look as good on more traditional media, like books, as they do on the covers of contemporary magazines. There is of course also a huge range of new typefaces being generated all the time, which are available to you for a cost or sometimes for free online. Some of these are great. Some of the freestyle-mode ones I'm really loving at the moment are Aller, which has a really clean simple look and you can download that from Font Squirrel. And I also really like Paciencia, which is a really cool take on a traditional sort of style and you can also get that for free from Font Squirrel. Returning to our typography rules equation, the next thing you need to think about when creating a type design is to format it. Formatting can include what seems like an endless list of options, but here are some of the major tricks that you need to consider when you head up to the formatting panel or character window. So we've got weight. You can set your type in the usual suspects, regular, bold, or italic. Or venture into the other weights offered by some typefaces, such as condensed, black, thin, medium or semibold. You've also got your size to think about so you can decide on the size in points of your type. The next thing to think about should be your leading, which defines the space between the baselines of each line of type. So keep this set to at least the auto-value that teams up with your chosen font size for the minimum leading that's going to look good. And then we've also got tracking and this is gonna define the space between letters in a line or block of text. And don't confuse tracking with kerning, which instead is going to adjust the space between just two characters. And this is a nice little tweak just to get your type looking really symmetrical. You can also have a think about whether to apply a drop cap, which is going to pull out the first character or first few letters of a paragraph in a large size, which will spill into the lines below, and it's gonna give you that dramatic elegant effect which looks really great in magazines and books. So once you've decided on the typeface and applied some formatting to the type, you can think about the next part of your equation which is all about alignment. So you can choose to flush your text to the left, right or center of a text frame, justify it to structure across the frame, or if you're setting up a book or magazine layout in InDesign, you can also choose to align the text towards or away from the spine or the inside edge of the page. When you've aligned your text, it's time to take a second look at the formatting of your type. Is there anything that now needs changing or a bit of tweaking? Make sure to think about hyphenation, whether you want words to split across lines or not. And think about whether larger blocks of text would benefit from indents at the start of each first paragraph line. If you're getting even more creative with perhaps headings or titles, consider whether individual characters would benefit from a baseline shift upwards or downwards. And larger blocks of text will always look much better if you optically align them. If you're working with type in InDesign you can do this by going up to the window menu, going down to type and tables, and opening up the story panel. Then you can check the box that reads optical margin alignment. So this will shift small characters and pokey little serifs to outside the boundaries of the text frame to create a smoother, more visually even paragraph. So it's a really great tip. Okay, so that's our typographic formula. It's a great idea to maybe just have this written down somewhere, or whenever you need a little help with remembering the rules, and you can have this to hand. Now that you have the rules committed to memory we can get back to this whole sticky subject of typography being an art. After all, that sure seems like a lot of rules for something that's meant to be artistic and creative, right? But don't panic. These rules are simply there to guide you and you can actually achieve an endless variety of created outcomes while just keeping these rules in mind. The thing is, these rules are only known to the designer, but to the viewer, the end result looks effortless and artistic. Typographic rules should be used to guide your technique, but they're not designed to get in the way of what you can create. So all that's left for you to do is get out there and get creative. Typography is an art form because it's both highly creative and it also takes a certain degree of technique to practice it, just as with any art form, like painting or drawing. In the next section of the course, we're going to go even further beyond the type rule equation and explore how typography can be intelligent. How it can take on a personality of its own, how it can shape our emotional response to the world around us, and how typography is continuing to evolve through the digital age. We'll also pick up some cool skills along the way, like how to contribute to the field of digital typography, and create our very own fonts.

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