On Web Typography

Wed, 6 Aug 2014

Jason Santa Maria wrote a book on web typography.

To say that Jason’s ideas and designs have influenced me is an understatement. I have followed his blog since version three. Years later, we started talking and he encouraged me to write for A List Apart. Soon after, we started working together on Typekit. I can show you many instances of my work that improved dramatically because of his feedback or example.

That same influence pervades this book. It’s not only an education in solid typographic fundamentals, written by a designer who deeply understands the web and has profound respect for design history — it’s a sneak peek at the way Jason practices design, full of advice so great and so plain that you simultaneously smile and smack your forehead because now you get it.

Read an excerpt, and buy the book.

On headlines:

Many folks, myself included, tend to use sans serifs for headlines. It comes down to simple geometry: most sans serifs can be packed in tighter than serifs because the letters take up less space. This allows for more characters per line and a larger type size.

On margins:

Without a healthy margin around our text, our words will feel congested like a highway on-ramp at rush hour. In general, I like to allot at least around 1.5–2 ems of margin around body text.

On word association as a method for choosing typefaces:

Rather than scrolling endlessly through pages of typefaces and getting tangled up thinking, “Is this the right one?”, come at it from a different angle. Ask yourself: what do I want my design to convey? Think of words that describe the feelings or moods you’d like to impart.

On typographic systems:

Like any good system, typography provides a method to accomplish a task. A typographic system establishes hierarchy, meaning it helps us prioritize content based on individual elements and relationships between them. It also helps our readers easily scan chunks of information and understand what they’re looking at. When done right, a typographic system feels intuitive, like an unspoken set of instructions.

On balance in typography:

Typography is a pursuit that combines the best of history, writing, math, artistry, and craft. No one thing rules over another. Sometimes the math won’t add up, but the type may look right. When that happens, you need to rely on your instincts.

Originally published on Medium.