Pleasures of Design

Whenever you make or arrange a physical object in a particular way, you are “designing” it. Whether you are deciding the length of a bracket to support a bookshelf or arranging a vase of flowers, you are practising design. If the shelf falls down or the flowers look a mess you clearly aren´t designing very well – you need to refer to some established principles to help you get it right.

The same goes for the design of text.

No matter how much, or how fast, technology changes, the human eye and habits or perception do not. Over a period of 500 years practices have been established which are intended to help the reader to receive the message off the page as quickly and directly as possible. Of course there have been changes in fashion from time to time but these are, by nature, ephemeral and do not alter the underlying principles which are concerned with legibility and readability.

Whether or not you find one typeface more legible than another will probably be a matter of personal preference. With some obvious exceptions, the difference in legibility between typefaces is very difficult to assess with any accuracy.

You are much more likely to be aware of the suitability of a particular typeface for a particular job. A long legal document set in a small size of sans serif might seem inappropriate and difficult to read; whereas a cover design in a self-effacing classical type is unlikely to do the job required of it.

Whether or not a document is easy to read or achieves what you want, is as likely to depend as much on the layout and the use of space as on the typeface.

In order to design a layout that both works efficiently and looks good, it is necessary to have some understanding of the principles of typographic design. This feature sets out some of the well established, basic principles to help you to design your own publications more successfully.

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