Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Couple of Docs: Guides to Better Typography

While listening to Doug Cole's Gaming Ballistic interview with Tim Shorts of Gothridge Manor (because I tend to put these on in the background while I work, rather then actually watching), there was mention of the Formatting Guides for GURPS Fourth Edition. There was a specific reference to a guideline where authors/publishers are told to find/replace all double-spaces with single-spaces (especially after periods). Some people may see this as a very minute detail that is unimportant. But would it surprise you to find out that this has been a standard in graphic design and advertising firms since the invention of desktop publishing? Or that this is one of the first things I teach my students in my Art Direction class? Hell, even Stan Richards of the Richards Group (the largest privately-owned advertising agency in the country) says it's one of the first things they teach newly-hired writers and art directors (go to 18:48 at the video on the link).

So what's the big deal about double-spaces after periods? Well, simply put... it's a matter of finesse. Most typefaces are designed with proportionate spacing in mind, and there's actually a little extra space after the period in most typefaces by default. Double-spacing after periods is a leftover from the typewriter (and the nature of monospacing). And finesse is the difference between an "average" layout, and an "elegant" layout. Like using a "space-after-paragraph" rather than blindly double-spacing between them (hell, even Microsoft Word actually let's you adjust spacing between paragraphs).

Today, I'm sharing two documents that are part of my initial typography lecture. Really, I'm just sharing them because I think there's a lot of stuff in here that people just don't know to do, but would if they did.

The first is a Guide to Better Typography, which details things like number of typefaces, spacing after periods, using grids, etc. These are more about suggestions for improvements.
Click here to download the Guide to Better Typography from MediaFire.

The second is my 10 Commandments of Type for Students, which really dogmatic and is not so much a list of suggestions as it is a list of Do's and Don't's. And treats things like using the typeface Papyrus what it really is... BLASPHEMOUS AND SINFUL!
Click here to download the 10 Commandments of Type for Students from MediaFire.

Please understand, while both documents appear dogmatic (particularly the second one), there's nothing to say there shouldn't be exceptions to each rule or suggestion. Nothing above is concrete; they're just ways of making you give more thought to something that most people are doing blindly. For hundreds of years, typography was in the hands of masters who apprenticed and studied to master their craft. These are just a couple of documents to help you on the path to design/layout mastery.


  1. Nice!

    Though you might want to fix the typo in the first doc ("Justification usually spacse out words awkwardly").

  2. And the layout error in:
    There are some types of literature that people will r
    ead no matter how it looks. But for most material, it

    Good stuff, and hopefully we'll all see more good looking docs out there!

    1. The typos are a very clever way to check for readership and to encourage audience engagement. I often make mistakes in lectures for the same reason.

    2. I make them because I'm usually in a rush to get things ready for class, then forget to change them before the next time I use them.

  3. Very helpful stuff. Thank you.

    Also on the typo bandwagon: "Use indents or spacing, not both, do separate paragraphs."