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Alex White: Typographic Craftsmanship

aligning the type In reading and thoroughly enjoying Alex's latest book Advertising Design & Typography I came upon this section that I wanted to relate to you. Of course, both Alex and Allworth Press graciously extended permission for me to quote selected passages from Alex's books. Yay!

Alex writes:

The level of craftsmanship is magnified in display type, since it is the primary type and intended as the first type to be seen and -- at least subconsciously -- evaluated as an attractant. Mistakes or "errors by default" are simply more visible in the biggest type. Text mistakes are just as bad, but at least they are small, and computer defaults are generally set to text sizes so text will look okay (if not great). Merely okay is not adequate for display type.

At right Alex shows a superb example of typography craftsmanship as wielded by the extraordinary talent of Herb Lubalin. Alex writes:

Herb Lubalin adjusted every letter pairing to make this look simply and perfectly spaced. The right edges of each letter extend beyond a vertical line defined by the stroke of the t. This creates optical alignment which is far more important than digital alignment, particularly in display type. The display type is set flush right and has punctuation "hung," or set outside the right edge for optical alignment.

Your computer won't do this. You can hang typography left, but not right. So each character here would have to be carefully kerned to move the vertical strokes in perfect alignment along their right edges. This is a spectacular example of crafting large display type to perfection. Of course if anyone would do it, Herb would. But this was an ad targeting art directors for one of Herb's clients -- so it had to be perfect.

The small text of the ad also shares an important message about typography:

"Let's talk type
Some ads must whisper, some must shout. But whatever the tone of voice, creative typography speaks with a distinction that sets your advertising above the clamor of competing messages. If you share our interest in good typography, and the other creative tools that work with it, we would welcome the opportunity to show you how we at Sudler & Hennessey...
let type talk."

This ad is brilliant in its simplicity and elegance of message. While one would never expect to see this kind of excellence in main stream advertising, you as designers can strive to approach this level of perfection. It's your duty as graphic designers.

Then Alex shares this sentiment that all graphic designers should have displayed on the wall:

If you only use ready-made materials, you are sure to have results that look like everyone else's. It is like cooking with prepared, frozen food: How special can your cooked results be? Possibly good, but certainly limited by the ingredients you use.
NOTE: Make your design elements from scratch and you will surely have distinctive results.
NOTE: The last word on type craftsmanship is this: If, after careful consideration and thoughtful adjustment, it looks right, it is.

Next time you are confronted with a design project involving headlines or display type, consider building it from scratch to portray exactly the message you want to deliver to your audience. You'll find you get much better results.

Next: Alex demonstrates static space in headlines

Back to Alex's Design's Function & Typography

Return to the DT&G Type Department


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