A Beginner’s Guide To Typography: Ready, Set, Go!

CreativeHerb.com on WebDesign.org

CreativeHerb.com on WebDesign.org

What Is Typography?

Basically, typography refers to a design that includes text, so yes, it’s crucial to creating a custom made sign. By avoiding pitfalls, like using too many different fonts in the same sign, even a beginner in typography can design awesome signs that are easy to read. And Easy. To. Read. is what all sign makers need to shoot for; anything that puts clarity in jeopardy on a sign should be avoided. After all, the main idea behind any sign is to convey a clear message. Other than the overuse of different fonts, how many errors can you find on the yellow sign above? (Hint, too much yellow and too much bold are also “bad, really bad.” ) Do your eyes hurt from looking at all those different fonts as much as ours do? Ouch! We apologize, but this example does make a good point about clarity in typography, doesn’t it?

Just Your Type

Sometimes, the terms “font” and “typeface” are used interchangeably, but they are actually different. Font means the files that allow typeface to be set in a certain style within a particular height and width. Typeface is an alphabetic style such as Arial Black, Verdana or Times New Roman. Each typeface contains parts that are uniquely styled, such as the stem of the ‘p’ and the curve of the ‘o’ as well has how the “diagonal strokes” such as that on the ‘y’ look. These differences between typefaces keep each one looking unique like the text on these different Interstate road signs:


Interstate Road Sign

How To Pick A Typeface

As Ralf Herrmann mentions in his post, “The Onion Layer Model of Legibility” on OpenType.info/blog, both legibility and readability are important when choosing a typeface for a sign. His following definition of the two can help us get a better handle on what our sign typeface selection should accomplish: “In the most broad sense, legibility deals with the perception or decoding of information and readability deals with the understanding of this information.” Road signs, as well as fence or wall-hung banners and outdoor business signs, are great examples of this because they must be read and understood when people are driving, which means basically that an almost instant “decoding” and “understanding” by this audience is necessary. Once this clarity is reached in our typeface options, then we can go with the option that will also best fit the style of the sign’s subject.

Now we can make sure our sign typography looks professional:

What In The Heck Is Kearning And Why Should I Care?

Example Of Kearning Essur.com


This sign on Essur.com visually explains what kearning is — adjusting the spacing between letters and characters to create an even appearance.

How To Avoid Rookie Mistakes In Typography

Really, you can design amazing signs by avoiding big mistakes like we’ve mentioned here such as using too many fonts, not considering legibility or readability, not thinking about the style that’s right for your sign and not evening out, or kearning, the spaces between characters. Also stay away from using all capital letters in your signs as a general rule, with the exception being for small amounts of text that really require emphasizing. Also avoid colors and color combinations that make your typography less clear or set the wrong style for your message. Usually red on blue or vice versa and grey on red or vice versa make it difficult for eyes to focus on the message. Especially when beginning your sign design, limit your colors and include one neutral color.

Have fun playing with colored text and background options on Sign.com as you only need to save your final design choice!