Spring is finally here, and the season of renewal and rejuvenation can be a time to reassess, redesign and ultimately revitalize your own small business’s brand elements. For the next four weeks, we will be studying each of the four brand elements that make up your digital branding (typography, color scheme, logo, tagline), and helping you decide whether or not it’s time to replace your current branding elements and align with the fresh, new season outside of your office window.
Typography is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the style, arrangement, or appearance of printed letters on a page.” While that definition may appear fairly simple and straightforward, applying typography to a digital medium such as a website can be one of the most challenging, and ultimately rewarding, elements of your brand. The ever-evolving technologies that drive the web, including the software used to render websites, the hardware utilized by internet users, and the advancements made to the networks that deliver content, all determine and influence the ways in which typography is designed and used.
Web designers can create amazing or terrible websites, depending on what may appear, at first glance, to be small and subtle changes in the typographical layout. It is now more important than ever for website owners to understand the basics of typography, the terminology used and a few of the core principles in order to effectively communicate with their web designer and convey when a particular layout is working and when it isn’t. And if it isn’t working, what changes will need to be made in order to ensure that your site is legible, functional and aesthetically-pleasing for your customers and clients?
Understanding The Terminology
Many of the terms to describe various elements of typography are foreign to those outside of the web design industry, and are often used incorrectly. For instance, many believe that the terms “font” and “typeface” can be used interchangeably – however, a typeface refers to a broad family of similar font styles, while a font is a subset of a typeface. For example, Android’s “Droid” typeface comes in either a serif or a sans-serif. A serif font has small lines trailing off of the edges of the letters, and a sans-serif (sans means ‘without’) does not have the small lines, or serifs, trailing off the edges of the letters. A common serif font is ‘Times New Roman’, while a common sans-serif font is ‘Arial’. When it comes to the spacing in-between letters, words, and lines, understanding the difference between kerning (the space between letters) and tracking (the space between words or groups of letters) is important to properly describe a particular typographical style you want to implement. A designer may understand what you mean if you get any of these terms confused, but a few quick online searches ensuring that you are using the proper terminology can help you describe exactly what you want.
Write Or Approve Copy As Quickly As Possible
In order to properly create, adjust and fine-tune a typographical layout, a good designer needs to know exactly what copy will be included in the website. This doesn’t just apply to word counts – it’s vitally important for a web designer to a have a clear understanding of the content itself in order to make the proper adjustments to the layout to accommodate and properly highlight your content. If you wait until the last minute to write or approve content, your web designer may have to make significant changes to the typographical layout, which can result in costly delays for your business or organization.
Ensure That Your Typography Is Scalable
In the early days of the Internet, web designers often had to create very structured and inflexible layouts for webpages in order to meet client demands. At the time, this worked reasonably well, simply because most web users used the same browsers (often either Netscape or Internet Explorer) and personal computer monitors were limited to low-resolution outputs. Now, as of 2015, things are much, much different and a wide variety of web browsers are available on a wide variety of devices. This means that inflexible web design is a poor choice for most companies. Your website should be responsive and display properly when scaled up or down and on a variety of different displays, and if it doesn’t, it’s important to fix it immediately – otherwise, you could be losing visitors and important conversion opportunities when they are unable clearly read your website on their device of choice.