Guiding by Design: Typography

Posted March 12, 2014, under Gosh, That's Handy!

In the last Lunch Meat, we discussed the efforts of architects and urban planners to guide and control actions through designs and features of public spaces.

It should come as no surprise that similar efforts occur in graphic design – although we’re less about being unfriendly to hoboes and more about presenting content in a manner that is comfortable to read and easy to absorb.

Eye Trail

First things first: What we guide in graphic design is eyes. There are a multitude of tools for doing so, each prone to being misunderstood. Adding to the fun: these are dynamic, co-dependent tools, morphing to suit the needs of the design.

We covered the use of white space before, but then there’s also such things as positioning of photos and the content of those photos relative to the text.

If done wrong, the almost subliminal directions will force your readers look away from your message and at something else. Like a competitor’s message.

Drop Off: Not Just for Dry Cleaning

There are a lot of reasons people stop reading something. There’s not much you can do about readers not giving a hang for your material, but you can aid their comfort levels. If the lines are too wide, getting to the end of the line (much less to the beginning of the next one) becomes a hassle, and the reader “drops off” the edge.


Pretty soon, they’ll fall right off your website, magazine, ransom note – whatever.


One way to combat Drop-Off is the use of columns. By reducing line width, columns literally make your piece easier on the eye by reducing eye movement and effort. They also allow for somewhat higher density of text per page.

But line width isn’t the only factor and columns are no panacea. The forms of the letters themselves influence readability. The spacing between the lines (“leading”) can’t be too great or too little, because either can adversely affect reader comfort.

Not Obvious

The Layout Director here at Rigney Graphics was once asked by a friend to help set up the type settings on his e-reader. The default settings were giving the friend eye-strain, headaches and otherwise negatively impacting reading pleasure.

Despite the friend being thousands of miles away, thanks to knowing the principles of typography, he was able to guide his friend to adjust the typography settings on the e-reader to the point where reading was comfortable and fun again. “Thanks,” the friend tweeted. “I would never have thought to make these changes. They were Not Obvious.”

That’s really the point we’re making here. Typography has never been about sitting at a keyboard and typing away using default settings. It’s about crafting the ideal reader experience. If a typesetter does the job right, readers won’t notice the type at all – letting your message shine through instead.

Rigney Graphics is a Pasadena graphic arts company that can help you create an impact with design and marketing solutions for print and web.