Typography in web design – Typography is the art and technique of arranging and styling text on a website. It is not only about the design or composition of the letters and characters and their arrangement, but also about communication, visual identity, brand persona, usability, and much more.
Typography plays a critical role in web design, as it affects how the users perceive and interact with the content. Good typography can enhance readability, comprehension, engagement, and trust. Bad typography can ruin the user experience and drive away visitors.
In this guide, we will cover the basics and usage rules of typography in web design, and show you some examples of creative typography that you can use for inspiration.
Typography Elements to Know About
Before we dive into the principles and guidelines of typography, let’s first review some fundamental terminology and concepts that you need to know.
- Typeface is a specific look and feel applied to a set of alphabetic and numeric characters. For example, Arial, Times New Roman, and Helvetica are typefaces.
- Font is a specific style of typeface with a set width, size, and weight. For example, 12pt Arial Bold is a font.
- Font family is a collection of fonts that share the same typeface but have different styles, such as regular, italic, bold, etc. For example, Arial is a font family that includes Arial Regular, Arial Italic, Arial Bold, etc.
- Serif is a small stroke or projection at the end of a letter or symbol. Serif fonts are usually considered more traditional, formal, and elegant. For example, Times New Roman is a serif font.
- Sans serif means without serif. Sans serif fonts are usually considered more modern, clean, and simple. For example, Arial is a sans serif font.
- Script is a typeface that mimics handwriting or calligraphy. Script fonts are usually used for decorative or expressive purposes. For example, Brush Script is a script font.
- Display is a typeface that is designed for large sizes and high impact. Display fonts are usually used for headlines or titles. For example, Impact is a display font.
- Monospace is a typeface where each character has the same width. Monospace fonts are usually used for code or data. For example, Courier New is a monospace font.
- Hierarchy is the visual order of importance of the text elements on a web page. Hierarchy can be created by using different sizes, weights, colors, alignments, etc. For example, headings are usually larger and bolder than body text to indicate their higher level of importance.
- Contrast is the difference between two or more elements on a web page. Contrast can be created by using different typefaces, fonts, colors, backgrounds, etc. For example, black text on a white background creates high contrast and improves readability.
- Alignment is the position of the text relative to the margins or other elements on a web page. Alignment can be left-aligned (the most common), right-aligned (usually for languages that read from right to left), centered (usually for titles or short texts), or justified (where the text stretches to fill the entire line). For example,
This text is left-aligned. This text is right-aligned. This text is centered. This text is justified and fills the entire line.
- Line length is the horizontal distance of a line of text on a web page. Line length affects readability and comfort of the users. Too short or too long lines can make reading difficult or tiring. A general rule of thumb is to keep the line length between 45 and 75 characters (including spaces) for optimal readability.
- Line height (or leading) is the vertical distance between two lines of text on a web page. Line height affects readability and aesthetics of the text. Too little or too much space between lines can make reading hard or unpleasant. A general rule of thumb is to set the line height at 1.5 times the font size for optimal readability.
- Letter spacing (or tracking) is the horizontal distance between two letters on a web page. Letter spacing affects readability and appearance of the text. Too little or too much space between letters can make reading difficult or unattractive. A general rule of thumb is to use the default letter spacing for most fonts and adjust it slightly if needed for better legibility or style.
- Word spacing (or kerning) is the horizontal distance between two words on a web page. Word spacing affects readability and balance of the text. Too little or too much space between words can make reading awkward or uneven. A general rule of thumb is to use the default word spacing for most fonts and adjust it slightly if needed for better legibility or style.
The Main Kinds of Typeface
There are many kinds of typefaces, but they can be broadly classified into four main categories: serif, sans serif, script, and display. Each category has its own characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages. Here is a brief overview of each category and some examples of popular typefaces in each category.
Serif typefaces have small strokes or projections at the end of the letters or symbols. They are usually considered more traditional, formal, and elegant. They are also more readable in print than on screen, as the serifs help guide the eye along the lines of text. However, they can also look cluttered or outdated on some web pages, especially at small sizes or low resolutions. Some examples of popular serif typefaces are:
- Times New Roman: One of the most widely used serif fonts, designed for newspapers and magazines. It has a classic and authoritative look, but can also be boring and overused.
- Georgia: A serif font designed for screen readability. It has a warm and friendly look, with large x-height (the height of lowercase letters) and generous spacing.
- Garamond: A serif font based on the work of a 16th-century French printer. It has a refined and elegant look, with subtle contrast and graceful curves.
- Baskerville: A serif font based on the work of an 18th-century English printer. It has a sophisticated and dignified look, with sharp contrast and vertical stress.
Sans serif typefaces do not have serifs at the end of the letters or symbols. They are usually considered more modern, clean, and simple. They are also more readable on screen than in print, as they have less visual noise and more clarity. However, they can also look cold or impersonal on some web pages, especially at large sizes or high resolutions. Some examples of popular sans serif typefaces are:
- Arial: One of the most widely used sans serif fonts, designed for screen readability. It has a neutral and versatile look, but can also be bland and generic.
- Helvetica: A sans serif font designed for clarity and neutrality. It has a timeless and professional look, but can also be overused and boring.
- Verdana: A sans serif font designed for screen readability. It has a friendly and spacious look, with large x-height and generous spacing.
- Futura: A sans serif font based on geometric shapes. It has a futuristic and minimalist look, with sharp edges and even strokes.
Script typefaces mimic handwriting or calligraphy. They are usually used for decorative or expressive purposes, such as logos, headlines, or invitations. They can convey a sense of personality, elegance, or creativity. However, they can also be hard to read or inappropriate on some web pages, especially at small sizes or in long texts. Some examples of popular script typefaces are:
- Brush Script: A script font that simulates brush strokes. It has a casual and playful look, but can also be messy and illegible.
- Zapfino: A script font that simulates elegant penmanship. It has a graceful and sophisticated look, but can also be ornate and complex.
- Comic Sans: A script font that simulates comic book lettering. It has a fun and informal look, but can also be childish and unprofessional.
- Lobster: A script font that combines cursive and retro styles. It has a lively and stylish look, but can also be trendy and overused.
Display typefaces are designed for large sizes and high impact. They are usually used for headlines or titles, to catch attention or create mood. They can range from bold and dramatic to quirky and whimsical. However, they can also be distracting or overwhelming on some web pages, especially at small sizes or in long texts. Some examples of popular display typefaces are:
- Impact: A display font that is very bold and condensed. It has a strong and assertive look, but can also be aggressive and loud.
- Cooper Black: A display font that is very round and heavy. It has a friendly and retro look, but can also be goofy and dated.
- Rockwell: A display font that is very geometric and slab-serifed (with thick serifs). It has a solid and confident look, but can also be rigid and harsh.
- Papyrus: A display font that simulates ancient writing on paper. It has an exotic and artistic look, but can also be cliché and overused.
Important Rules and Tips for Beginners
Now that you know the basics of typography elements and types of typeface, let’s see some rules and tips that can help you improve your typography in web design.