How to Improve Your Layout and Typography!

Chris Do, a designer based in Santa Monica, California, says ‘If you don’t control type, type controls you.’ In an effort to improve my typographic skills, I read ‘Stop Stealing Sheep and find out how type works,’ by E. Spiekermann and E.M Ginger.

This book has been incredibly useful to teach the fundementals (and more) of type so I thought I would share my 3 biggest take aways from this book to anyone who also wants to improve their type skills.

This book has helped me to have more confidence making design decisions I am making and is a tiny titillating typographic titan. Want to know more about typography?

Here are my top 3 take aways from this little gem of a book.

1) Type with purpose.

Why should we care about type?

The shape, size and colour of type convey emotions to the reader before they even read and understand the content of what is written.

As you know from watching my previous video with Simon Sinek’s book called ‘Start with Why,’ which explains that people don’t buy what we do, they buy why we do it, we need to use emotion to make loyal customers. Type triggers emotion. It is a valuable asset as a result.

In a supermarket for example, ‘We often buy the typographic promise without knowing much about the product.’

Typefaces suggest different flavours and qualities.

If you are designing products in a specific category, it is important to be aware of the font styles that are being used by competitors. Ideally, you want to recognisably fit in to a specific category using similar type styles.  If you don’t it may not be so obvious to consumers what the product is.

With that being said, let’s go through some recommended type-faces for various categories that might guide you which typefaces to use.

Natural products/fresh products – Oatly. Hand drawn.

Financial branding – Investco Perpetual

Ersnt Young


Interstate font.

Traditional corporate type – Helvetica and Times New Roman.

Formal invitations + Posh chocolates – Bickham Script, Snell Round Hand. (flourishes, decorative.)

Body Copy – Baskerville, Garamond, Caslon. Most legible typefaces ever designed.

Death Metal Band – Ironwood or Wilhem Klingspor Gotich. (Sounds as Aggressive as it looks).

Teaching your mate to read and write – Sassoon Primary (researched with children to improve legibility for large blocks of reading matter)

The point is different type faces convey emotions due to their physical characteristics so choose your type-faces carefully.

Some type-faces were made for very specific purposes so don’t ignore those.

Remember, never use Comic Sans.

Don’t underestimate the power of type. 

2) Word Layout

After choosing the right type face, you must make sure it is easily legible.

If you have a large block of text, you need to adjust your layout accordingly. ‘Long texts need to be read the way a marathon is run.’

This means it has to be comfortable and should be regular so the reader can build a rhythm. Lines need to be adjusted accordingly.

Spacing between individual letters (kerning) – note that some letters paird together can make ugly gaps unless you kern the letters. These include the kerning pairs:

Tr To Ve Wo.

Spacing throughout an entire word/words throughout a document (tracking) – Needs to be fractionally wider for longer texts

Word spaces – need to be fractionally wider in proportion with tracking.

Line spacing (leading) – the more words per line the more space is needed between the lines. You can then increase the tracking (space between words) incrementally as the lines get longer.

Conversely, a text that is short and snappy like in a sensationalist newspaper, lines must be short and compact to draw the reader’s eye to the next line before he/she can get comfortable. Tracking can be tighter and line spacing can be shorter.

3) Know the rules before you break them.

As the book notes, ‘graphic design is about problem solving first and style making afterward.’

If you learn the fundamentals, you can then branch out to make whatever you want. However, you need to do this first.

If you don’t control type, it controls you.


Other type resources that might interest you are:

Futur – incredible free critique videos

Gleb – Useful quick animated video all about type rules.

Typewolf – amazing resources full of typographic goodness!

Hope that helped!

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