Graphic designers use typography in hugely diverse ways, and the results can be incredible. Typography alone can instantly lend a mood to a print design, whether it is paired with images or not.
However, the abundance of typefaces now available to designers can be overwhelming. You might have no idea where to start! Serif or Sans Serif? Gothic or Modern? Handwritten or Industrial?
In this tutorial, we suggest some starting points for choosing fonts and creating suitable typography styles, depending on the InDesign publication you’re producing. What would be appropriate for a novel, a travel brochure, a fashion magazine, a wedding invitation, or food or drinks packaging?
Open your InDesign document and get ready to experiment...
Have any more typography tips you’d like to share? Please include them in the comments!
1. Typesetting a Novel
Whatever the genre of your novel, it’s always a good idea to go for a classic typeface that makes reading pain-free, and works across different weights and sizes.
Try setting a paragraph of the book in different typefaces—it quickly becomes clear that quirky fonts that looked great on a flyer or poster become an eyesore in large chunks of text.
For timeless legibility, why not try Garamond? Adobe Garamond Pro is a popular and refined version of the 16th Century typeface.
Choose a Versatile Typeface
Throughout the novel, there will probably be dialogue, quotes, and emphasised words or sentences. You should look for a font with the versatility to cope with all of these, something that looks just as good in bold and italic. Semi-Bold and Bold-Italic weights would be a bonus.
Why not try Baskerville? ITC New Baskerville Std is a 1930s interpretation of the typeface and gives a high-contrast appearance to printed text. So it ticks both the legibility and versatility boxes!
This book is set in Baskerville and has a timeless, literary aesthetic:
Consider a Dramatic Drop Cap, or an All Caps Title
If the typeface looks good both small-size (10-12 pt) and much larger, as in the examples below, you can start typesetting your book with confidence.
Fournier is a beautiful, elegant typeface with an old-world feel. It looks great when you apply a Drop Cap to it (Character Formatting Controls panel > Drop Cap One or More Characters and Drop Cap Number of Lines) which can add a dramatic flourish to a page in your book.
Want a More Modern Look?
Still stick with a classic-inspired serif typeface, but find one with a bit of added personality. Electra is a great choice. Created in 1935, it’s light and elegant with a strong 20th Century feel.
2. Designing a Travel Brochure
Brochures, flyers and catalogues are usually trying to sell the reader a commercial product or an idea. The typography you use will be a hugely important factor in whether the customer chooses to buy a product, or chooses to throw the brochure in the trash! Choose a typeface with clear legibility that fits with the brand of the product. Is it formal or informal? Is it aiming at a young audience or an older demographic?
Go With a Fun, Accessible Sans Serif
To play it safe, you don’t want to alienate the reader by using a typeface that might be seen as stuffy or that makes the product look too expensive. Coolvetica gives a playful, exciting look to any text. Set the Font Color to [Paper] to contrast against a vibrant photo, like this one from PhotoDune.
Remember the Context
A subtle reference to the travel destination in the typography looks thoughtful and is immersive for the reader.
Or try Quicksand for a clean, oriental-inspired aesthetic. Set the Font to Quicksand Light, increase the Tracking to 120 and Rotate (Control-Click [Mac OS] or Right-Click [Windows] > Transform > Rotate 90 degrees Anti-Clockwise) the text frame for a dramatic look.
Pair with a photo rich in color and drama, like this image of a bronze lion from the Forbidden City.
Remember, keep your typography elegant and simple. If referencing a place in the typeface keep it subtle, not obvious (no Papyrus please!).
3. Creating a Fashion Magazine
Magazines are a great place to showcase more creative typography. Fashion magazines come in all sorts of design styles, from more formal, high-end glossies to quirky, on-the-pulse independents. If you’re creating a fashion magazine of your own, you need to think first about your readership (who will buy and read your magazine?) and what typography would fit best with their demographic and interests. Once you’ve established that, you need to find a font that can be applied with consistency throughout articles, and works well across contents pages, article titles and body text.
Use an Elegant Serif Typeface for a High-Fashion Style
Try Bodoni. This typeface will give a timeless look to your InDesign layout, but you can easily add modern flair by applying bold color to titles and quotes.
Experiment With Creative Typography
As long as you keep the font and styles (Window > Styles > Paragraph Styles / Character Styles) for your body text consistent throughout your magazine layouts, you can experiment with more creative typography in your title pages, to give each article an individual look and feel. For this spread, I used an atmospheric, ethereal Day of the Dead-inspired photo.
In the example below, I set the Font of the header to Blackout, varying between the 2 AM and Midnight weights, and varying the Size of each line of text from 110 pt to 160 pt.
The individual characters 'S' and 'T', which cross onto the dark background, I changed to [Paper].
I then used the Eyedropper Tool (I) from the Tools Panel (Window > Tools) to lift a color from the roses on the woman’s headdress before converting the RGB Swatch to a CMYK Swatch by double-clicking on the colored square at the bottom of the Tools panel.
I then set the Font Color of the last line of the header and the first Drop Cap letter of the body text to this new swatch, C=28 M=90 Y=92 K=27.
This typography gives a young, punky look to the layout. There are thousands of typefaces, many of them free to download, which you can use to give different, themed looks to each magazine feature.
Be as Bold as You Like!
Why not give Cluthchee a try, for example, to give a retro, disco-era look to your magazine typography? Set separate words in contrasting colors to complement your chosen images.
4. Designing a Wedding Invitation
Wedding invitations need to appease two different audiences—the couple getting married, and the invitees (who could be of all ages)—so no pressure! Invitations are very personal, but they also often need to meet traditional standards, as the event is formal and special. Here are some tips to get started on choosing appropriate typography whatever the style of the event.
Choose a Handwritten Typeface for a Personal Touch
A wedding invitation can be the ideal context for experimenting with beautiful, handwritten typography. Look for a formal appearance to the typeface, rather than anything too jaunty or scruffy.
Redressed is a lovely hand-drawn style which references 1950s typefaces.
Traditional Calligraphy Can be Beautiful and High-Impact
For a bolder, more calligraphic look, try Carrington. This style would also look great on letterpress-printed cards to bring out its high-contrast, traditional character.
Here, I reduced the Size of the ampersand, and navigated up to the Character Formatting Controls panel to increase the Baseline Shift of the character, to let it sit more snugly between the two names.
Look for Heavily Ornate Fonts With an Italic Slant
These are best suited to formal wedding events, but have the benefit of looking appropriate for almost all fancy events.
One of my favorites is Mutlu, which has swirls of ink that create a joined-up effect when you place words close together.
To imitate this example, type ‘Name (paragraph break) Name’ and set the Font to Mutlu Ornamental, Size 42 pt and Leading 68 pt. Highlight the second name and adjust the Orientation of the text to Align Right from the Character Formatting Controls panel.
Type ‘&’ into a second text frame and set the Font to Mutlu Ornamental, Size 90 pt. Change the Font Color to a contrasting CMYK Swatch of your choice (here I used C=0 M=29 Y=0 K=0), and manoeuvre the text frame so that the ampersand sits comfortably between the two names.
5. Creating a Label for Food or Drinks Packaging
Clever use of typography on food or drinks packaging can ensure a consumer browsing the supermarket shelves takes that product home, whether they can see what’s inside the packaging or not!
If you’re creating simple labels for drinks bottles, jam jars or anything else food-based, follow these tips to make your typography choice stand out and increase the appeal of the product.
Embrace the Organic Movement
It’s not only the food that’s become organic, designs have caught onto the nature- and body-friendly trend too. Pick a hand-drawn, playful font like Playful Like a Sista and choose a calming color palette of slate greys, khaki greens and sky blues to give the packaging a homely, friendly appearance.
To recreate this example, I created a New Document for Print in InDesign, 636 mm in Width and 264 mm in Height. I then created a polygon shape using the Polygon Tool, giving the shape rounded corners (Object > Corner Options). Over the top of this I laid over a text frame with type set in Playful Like a Sista, including adding two star symbols from the Glyphs Panel (Window > Type & Tables > Glyphs) in the same typeface on either side of the brand name.
Below, this I created a second text frame using the Type Tool (T) and inserted a few sentences of text also set in Playful Like a Sista. I then set each line in a different pastel color to make the text stand out.
Tip: You could also team the typography with quirky, naive illustrations for an extra homespun touch.
Know Your Market
Food and drinks products aim at all sorts of demographics—different age groups, genders, lifestyle preferences and spending budgets.
The typography choices you make for your packaging labels should reflect the consumer demographic you want to target. You might want to make a product seem aspirational, or make it look more expensive to target a demographic who would be more likely to spend more money on a product. Wine and other alcoholic drinks packaging labels are prime examples of this.
If you’ve been briefed to design a label for a wine bottle, you might want to adopt some of these typographic tips to give your InDesign label an aspirational appearance.
You don’t need to be limited to traditional fonts to create an expensive-looking design. Choosing something more cool and modern can work just as well.
To recreate the label design shown here, create a New InDesign Document 524 mm in Width and 270 mm in Height.
Introduce a black frame using the Rectangle Tool (M) 147 mm in Width and 245 mm in Height. Set the Weight to 12 mm and Type to Thick-Thick from the Stroke Panel (Window > Stroke). Set the Stroke Color to [Black].
Create a New Layer in the Layers panel (Window > Layers) and create a second frame using the Rectangle Tool (M) with the same dimensions as the first frame. Set the Weight to 13 mm and Type to Thick-Thin. Change the Stroke Color to a new CMYK swatch, C=18 M=0 Y=7 K=5. This creates a simple Art Deco-style frame.
Create another Layer, and introduce two text frames, setting the text to Raconteur. Type the product name in the first frame and insert a few decorative glyphs from the Glyphs Panel (Window > Type & Tables > Glyphs) into the second text frame, below the product name.
You can build up the typography on the label by creating additional text frames above and below the product name, and setting some of the type to Bickham Script Std to add a more ornate flourish.
Finally, use the Polygon Tool to draw a flat polygon shape, setting the Fill to [Paper]. Sit this in a Layer in front of the art deco frame but behind the text, to give a framing effect to the product name.
And you’re done! An expensive-looking label with no images needed. Just let the typography do the talking!
Well-judged typography choices can elevate your print projects, and have the capacity to instantly give a mood or theme to your InDesign document. Appropriate font and style choices can transform your text from dull to spectacular in hardly any time at all!
With these tips in mind, start confidently experimenting with the huge choice of typefaces available to you, and look at how playing with color, weights and sizes can really make a difference to your designs.
If you have any of your own typography projects you'd like to share with the Tuts+ community, please comment below.
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