Sunday, 1 September 2013

7 Deadly Typeface Usage “Sins”

In a previous series of articles, I tried to shed light on the two main typeface scripts in human history, which are the Latin scripts and the Arabic calligraphy scripts:

Creative Examples of Calligraphy Art

Arabic Calligraphy in Contemporary Design

Along with this long history, typeface is the initial and most important visual element in your design that delivers the design message to the audience. Unlike the other visual elements in a design, typefaces are used to visualize the text and paragraphs in your poster or layout. So, they should be used carefully to ensure readability for a wide range of audiences who will see the design or content.

Although many books and courses try to pinpoint the above-mentioned concept, the truth is really shocking. Many designers, and allow me to admit that I have seen a lot of them, are committing real crimes against typefaces in their designs. Some of these crimes are language-related and others are general and can be noticed in different languages. One example of the language –related mistakes is the wrong usage of Arabic calligraphy scripts. The general mistakes include readability issues and text colors. In this article, we will reveal some of the deadly sins that are committed with Latin typeface usage in the designs.

Bad Readability

As designers, we are attracted to creative typefaces and fonts with special styles, but are there specific fonts that we should use in our design? Many new designers make this mistake while they are building a design layout. Although unique font styles and glyphs may look more creative than the simpler ones, they can be hard to read and follow, especially in long paragraphs.

When choosing a design typeface, you should consider the characteristics of your audience and the amount of content that will be written using the font. For example, for a kid’s game UI and design you may need to choose a casual font that young people can read easily. On the other hand, business designs require decent and standard fonts. Paragraphs usually require standard fonts in order to make sure they are easy to read and follow the information through the lines.

Generally, if you get confused about the fonts in your design, just stick with the readable fonts that can work with multiple purpose designs and text lengths, such as Helvetica, Cambria, Arial, and Myriad Pro, etc.

Here are some examples of good typeface designs, and some bad ones that you should avoid in your designs:


Not Enough Leading

Typeface leading is simply the space between the lines inside paragraphs. If the space is too small, the text will be hard to read and follow, and the lines will be too close to each other. On the other hand, large spaces between lines do not give a professional look to the design and consume a vertical space that you could use to add more content to the layout. Usually, the default leading is the best choice, especially when using professional fonts.


Some designers need to adjust the leading in order to fit the text in their design. If so, you have to use this trick carefully to keep the text readable.

Bad Tracking and Kern Usage

The difference between tracking and kern is a little bit confusing, so let me clarify it first. Tracking, also known as letter-spacing, refers to the constant space between letters. It affects the whole word or block of words in an equal amount of increased or decreased space.

Kern refers to adjusting the space between characters to create a proper arrangement of the letters in a word. The kern value is letter-related, which means it is different for each letter. The wrong usage of the tracking and kerns can lead to inconsistent typeface appearance.

In the figure below, you can notice the difference between the tracking space and kern value.


Too Many Fonts in the Design

How many fonts can you use in one paragraph? One of the common mistakes is using too many fonts and styles in a design layout. The typeface and styles should be used wisely to serve the content. For example, Italic style can be used for terms.

Too many fonts and styles can be confusing for the reader and the paragraph will not look consistent. Therefore, you should only use a limited number of fonts in your layout. For example, you can use one font for titles and another one for the content.


Inconsistent Font and Style Usage

When you think of adding fonts and style to a design layout, it should be consistent with the general design layout. It is a plain and simple idea, since the typeface is part of your total design concept.

The paragraph text should follow one style regarding the font’s typeface and style. Consider following the same settings for letter-spacing and leading through the whole layout.


Losing Color Contrast

As mentioned above, readability is the most important factor that you need to consider when working with typefaces. Additionally, the contrast between typeface colors and the background is another important factor that ensures that the viewer can read the design easily. The contrast becomes even more important for long texts and paragraphs.

If you are not sure of the color that you should choose for the typeface, start by adding the text in black and a very light background color. This can give you an idea about the suitable color combination to choose.


Faulty Capital and Lowercase Letter Usage

This mistake is related to language usage more than it is to the design rules. However, it affects the design layout for typefaces and paragraphs. The use of capital and lowercase letters depends on how you style the paragraph header. For example, some styles only use capital letters for the first letter of the first word in a title, while others use capital letters for the first letter of every word in a title. In order to get a better layout, you need to unify the usage of capital and lowercase letters in the whole design.



Typeface is a very important, if not the most important part of your design. Thus, committing any of the above-mentioned deadly sins will affect your design badly and make it hard for the audience to read the design content or message of the advertisement. If you feel confused and would like to avoid the mistakes above, just stick with simplicity and default typeface settings.

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