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Team Think Labs | Type as a design element
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Type as a design element

This is for you, Creative Strategists. I’m not sure why, I’ve just always wanted to say that.

Sometimes words can be pretty.  Sometimes they’re your only design element. No photos. No core shapes. No hand-drawn arrows crossed into the shape of an X, like we’re all back at 5th grade camp or something.

Helloooo, I started this trend back in 1994.

There will be times when you’ve been stripped of all your pretty picture making options and are left with the stodgy type as your only path to aesthetic nirvana, kind of like having to pick the kid who wears the scoliosis-corrective shoes for your kickball team. (he can’t run, but he kicks like a mother.)   There are a lot of basic rules about typography that set the foundation for good design:

but ultimately, when you start, there’s really only one question you have to answer:

DOES YOUR TYPE HAVE TO BE LEGIBLE?

imge1

 

 

If the viewers looking at your masterpiece actually need to be able to read the words, all those super fun typography basics still apply (somewhat) and you still have to consider them when creating your design.   How much depends on the balance between the overall look of how your type fits within your design, and the minute details, or macro vs. micro:

Macro typography is the overall structure of your type, how it appears in the context of your design and its aesthetic when you consider your text as a block on its own.

Micro typography is more concerned with the details of spacing, the issues that determine whether words are easy to read.

You can also still be creative while sticking to a CSS box model (see what I’m talkin’ bout here: http://css-tricks.com/the-css-box-model/).  Imagine that each line of text fills space similar to a box or rectangle within your design; this dictates not only the kind of space it fills and it’s visual weight, but how it can interact with the other “boxes” in your design space. You can create clean and visually aligned headlines so perfectly spaced it would make a baby Unicorn cry:

or you could stack your text in a shape while still honoring those borders:

OR, you can break the lines of your boxes in creative ways in order to emphasize, lead the eye, and pull focus to various words like some typographical lego masterpiece.  Just be careful, because now you’re breaking into illegible territory, like so:

So if your reader needs to be able to read, keep in mind that you need to maintain a narrative and a sense of direction with your type so that the readers can follow what you’re saying.

Also keep in mind that our brains are pretty awesome, and some things that you think might be illegible are actually quite readable.

This person used repetition to communicate what the jumble was meant to be saying:

In some cases, your type doesn’t have to punch the reader in the face with the power of its legibility.  Type and lettering can be used as a graphical device, as a mark, as an illustrative element, as pretty much anything you want to use it as, in which case it’s primary purpose can change from telling a literal message to the reader, to acting as a visual element.

Sometimes you will have clear and legible supporting type to give the viewer more information in a lower place on the type hierarchy, but you don’t always have to do this either.   This depends on the type of information you want to (or in some cases, have to) pass on, but there are creative ways of dealing with this as well.

Remember, your brain can do remarkable things, and ignoring this tends to lead to some pretty bland toast design. Type can’t always run, but it can kick like a mother.

In closing,  just remember, slavery was abolished in 1865, so even with something as structured as type and lettering you can really do whatever you want, as long as it fulfills a creative need for the project and is done on purpose.  (or just tell people later that you meant to do it that way.)

After all, someone intentionally made this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pzp-BfoNQVs