Archives for posts with tag: Typography
Snippet of the London Underground map

London Underground map

I’m rather enjoying this trip down memory lane, revisiting some of the interesting things I remember from my graphic design days, though I was always more of a ‘suit’ than a ‘roll neck’. I hope you are too, because I’m about to continue in this vein.

One of the great things about typography is the detail. We take the printed word and fonts for granted, so much so that we forget that someone very gifted actually invented each of them, drawing each letter out, labouring over every contour and fighting for them to get popular so that printers would design the blocks to print stuff using them.

One such someone was Eric Gill, a superb artist and – as it has emerged many years after his death – a complex, pretty disturbed individual. He did, however, give his talents and his name to one of the most recognisable typefaces around. You see, the eponymous Gill Sans typeface is the one used to this day on the London Underground, an infrastructure and system so brilliantly signposted and easy to follow that you’re only reminded of this when you try and navigate the systems of other world cities. It was also adopted by many of the UK regional railway bodies and graced advertising posters up and down the country for generations.

A long time ago, I wrote a corporate brochure using the Leitmotif of ‘renowned art’. As well as a Henry Moore statue, the Chrysler Building and a few others, I also featured Mr Gill and his Gill Sans typeface. Worthy company for an inspirational typeface I think.

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Speak of graphic design, there are some handy words from the world of typography that are good to know if you are in any way responsible for marketing end products like websites or brochures. Design used to be this black art that creative types used to jealously guard like masons. Now, with the advent of technology, everyone can turn their hand to design and everyone in turn can contribute to the creative process.

First, the typeface. Typeface means the same as font as far as I’m concerned. The typeface is the generic family of font style used for letters. For example, Arial is a typeface and you can have variations of it, like bold, italic, and so on. OK, that was easy.

Next, we have pointsize, or more accurately, point size. Otherwise known as – yes, you’ve guessed it – font size, the pointsize is the size of the typeface measured in the number of points high, a point being kind of a full stop. So, standard document lettering might be Arial regular, 12-point, for example.

When you get a bunch of letters forming a paragraph, then you have more choice around how you present those letters, for visual attractiveness or readability. For example, how close together should the letters be together, horizontally or vertically?

The leading is the distance between the lines, or more accurately the between the bottoms of the lines. It has the similar effect to the ‘line spacing’ in Microsoft® Word, so the greater your leading, the more white space between your lines and the more readable and less dense it it. The word is pronouncing ‘ledding’ and harks back to the heavily metallic engineering days of printing. A designer is able to adjust the leading by minute amounts using design software, which can often buy an extra line on a page to help with layout.

Finally, and most obscurely in today’s post, we have kerning. Kerning is the spacing between the letters. Again, this allows the designer to cheat slightly by adjusting the kerning in a few words to avoid unsightly widows or orphans.

Handy, eh?