Friday, July 30, 2010

More on Typography: Spacing

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I love good typography and was thrilled when fellow design chef Melissa posted a couple weeks ago about fonts and it received such a great response. Among the chatter was a request for more information on typography. So I thought I would take a few minutes to talk a little more about typography today. This inspiration piece was taken from Typography Mania, which I love to peruse for great inspiration.

I’m going to focus my thoughts today on spacing, both vertical and horizontal. Spacing is very important in typography and all too often, people will just leave it up to the computer to figure all that out. But it is a sign of good typography to pay attention to the details of spacing and make adjustments where necessary. I’ll review 3 different types of spacing; leading, letterspacing (also known as tracking), and kerning.

Back in the olden days, type was set with pieces of metal. Individual letters were set together and then words and then entire lines were set. Strips of lead were then inserted between these lines of type to make it easier to read. These strips of lead were called leading (pronounced ledding and not leeding). Some software programs still use the term leading, which originates from so long ago. The default in most programs is 2 points (pts.) larger than the type point size you are using. For example, a 12 pt. font would call for a 14 pt. leading, and a 10 pt. font would call for 12 pt. leading.

For large bodies of type, this generally turns out to be the most efficient use of vertical space on a page. It allows the designer to fill the page with type, while still maintaining enough space in between the lines for maximum legibility. But there are times when you may want to play around with the leading, either by increasing it or decreasing it.

Here is an example of closing up the leading, typically used for a title or logotype.


And here is a comparison of a paragraph of type that has been set with the default leading (2 pts. larger) and a paragraph that has been opened up, due to the bolder typeface. In this case, if I had made the typeface bold and left the leading at the default, it would have decreased legibility.


Tracking or Letterspacing
These 2 terms are often used interchangeably and they refer to the amount of general horizontal space between the letters in your type. In most applications, you will likely leave the letterspacing the default that your computer uses. But in some cases, you might want to open up the letterspacing. One particular case that I use this technique is for a subheading where I have used a bold typeface in all caps.


The last spacing item that I will cover today is kerning. While tracking or letterspacing refers to the overall space between all the letters horizontally, kerning refers to the individual space between 2 specific letters. Some typefaces have been designed to auto kern certain letter pairings, but most of the time, larger text can stand to be given a looksie to see if you can finesse some of the space between certain letters. Some letter pairings that typically need attention would be capital V and A, especially when used together. I have also found that capital F, T, Y, and O can also benefit from a 2nd glance.


Have fun creating your own typography and learning to finesse it!

Monday, July 26, 2010

flat note cards

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I like having small flat cards handy to send a quick message to the kids' teachers, to write a thank you or to attach to a gift. The only thing is that I'm very bad about purchasing any. I like to make my own. I prefer the handmade kind (block printing) but in a pinch the printed versions work out just fine.

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For this recipe you'll need:
• A few photographs that have interesting patterns and shapes
• Pencil and paper for sketching
• A scanner
• A color palette of your choice

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First I sketched out some shapes that I saw in my inspiration photos. I scanned them into my computer and imported the images into Illustrator. I drew on top of the images to trace them out and started playing with patterns and layouts. The grid like pattern of the beige poster gave me the idea of the band of parallelograms, while the randomness of the garden panel gave me the idea for the floral type card. The color combination was also inspired by the photos themselves.

There is no right or wrong way to do this. You could probably use the same photos I used as my inspiration and come up with something completely different. The idea is to play around with shape, pattern, negative space and color.

After I completed my designs I created a PDF file where 4 cards fit on a letter-sized page. Each card is a standard A2 size (5.5" x 4.25").
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Here is how the cards turned out. I definitely like these colors but I will also be adding a set with brighter colors like oranges and blues—the more the merrier!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Chore Tracker

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Recently my husband and I really cleaned and organized our home and backyard. This means that we can always enjoy the cleanliness if we invest a little time maintaining it. To help us out, I thought that a chore chart would be the key. I've set this up to be able to print on a notepad (according to specs) that we can keep on the fridge (they have a magnetic option) to make sure everything is getting done. The problem I find with chore charts that you can purchase (like these ones from Knock Knock, a company whose style I absolutely love) is that chores really are specific to the household (for example, we have no pets, so cleaning up after pets isn't a chore for us). If you design your own chore chart, you can make it fit your home, family, and chore needs perfectly!

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For this recipe you'll need:

a bold condensed font (I used Headline One)
a regular condensed font (I used Arial Narrow)
a fun (gender neutral, if you want the boys in your family to use this) color palette
lines and tab box (a rectangle that is modified)

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In Illustrator, I made a background color (blue) and a white box on top. Then I added "HOUSEHOLD CHORES" as a headline at the top, set in Headline One. To make my tabs, I simply made a rectangle with the rectangle tool and then used the direct selection tool to modify the shape of my rectangle. I made enough tabs for chore days (I take Sundays off) and positioned the tabs (and lines) evenly over my page.

To print this online, I will need to make a PDF of this file and upload it to my online printer!

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And here is the end result! Something that I think will help us stay on track!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Recipe for Font Success

I'm going to change things up here a bit today. Today's post is a recipe for typography success. I don't claim to be an expert typographer, but I've learned a few things about typographical in my experience as a designer and I'd like to share them with you.

Old Script VS. Zapfino

I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one out there that absolutely HATES Zapfino. This font should seriously die an awful death. The spacing, ascenders and descenders are ALL messed up. Please do everything you can to avoid this font. Instead, try Old Script, England Hand, CAC Champagne or Chopin Script.

Learning Curve Pro VS. Curlz MT

Curlz MT is another font that has made it's way into way too many invitations. Girl parties, baby showers, I've even seen people set this as their standard email font. PLEASE NO. If you're looking for a girly font and want your classiness intact, try out Learning Curve Pro or Marketing script.

Blokletters VS. Comic Sans

Comic sans could probably die, too; it's over-used and old. Comic sans is an informal font, which I often see in more formal settings. NOT COOL. Stand out from the Comic sans crowd & try Blokletters or Quicksand instead.

Chantilli Antiqua VS. Papyrus

Papyrus is another font I wish would just die. The aesthetic is not my style and it's WAAAY over-used. I started noticing gated communities using this font; like Rustic Estates or Mesa Grande Villas. There's just something so cheesy about this font. Try Chantelli Antiqua or Devroye and keep your street cred intact as a budding designer.

Other tips for success

• NEVER stretch your fonts - keep the aspect ratio intact.
• Don't use novelty fonts for large amounts of text - try to keep those to titles & key words
• Use an easily readable font for large text blocks - serif fonts are king of readability
• Lurk design sites & take cues from the pros - follow the design trends closely & you'll be sure to impress your friends

Additionally . . .

Please don't hate me for my opinion on fonts. I, of all people have been victim of nearly all of these fonts at one point or another.

How do you feel about these fonts? Do you have fonts you use instead?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Designed Thoughts on Organizer Boxes

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I'm a long-time collector of "thoughts" and sayings, and am always on the lookout for ways to design, display and share them. I like this bold, typographic stacked phrase, and really like the effect of this poster printed on different backgrounds. Combining these things together gave me a great idea about how to cover some old organizer boxes.

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For this design recipe you'll need:
• A few swirly elements. I used some from Bodoni Ornaments - free!
• A bold, condensed font, such as Bebas - also free!
• Sheets of earthtone colored papers, or you can print a background color on white paper. I chose sage green, warm sand, and khaki

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I had 3 boxes to cover, so I chose a quotation that still worked and read well when split into thirds. I typed out the phrase, then played with the size and position of the words. I chose specific words that I felt like should have more flavor, and made them larger. Then I arranged the other words giving them variety, while making sure that there were various alignments and relationships between words, and the most important part—making sure that the whole phrase still read well together, even though it would be printed over 3 boxes. (A taste test is important here! I printed and cut the "panels" out, put them side by side, then asked others to make sure they could read it). Once I liked the way it looked, I made sure to include the name of the person who is attributed to this quote, then I added a few dashes of graphic swirls in gray, then set it up to print.

Because my printer's maximum width is 8.5", I didn't cover the whole box. I centered each panel on the page, and made sure there was enough on both sides of the design to wrap it around a couple inches. I printed on 3 different colors of paper—in the same tonal range. I kept the type in black for continuity between the 3 boxes.

I used spray glue to adhere them to the boxes, and voila! My tired old boxes have a new look!

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You can see I've got some striped boxes on surrounding shelves...I like the way this turned out so much that I think I'll cover some of the striped boxes too!
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