What is typography?

Typography is a design discipline, one that typically requires many years of study and a certain level of maturity before a practitioner can claim any level of expertise. Lots of graphic designers place type on a page, but that does not make them typographers any more than my getting dressed every morning makes me a fashion model (there's a reason I don't have a picture of myself on the site). I started putting squiggly black marks on paper in an organized way over four decades ago and have been studying the art ever since. Now I use colors and some of my pages are virtual, but I still work squarely within the boundaries of traditional typography.

Typography encompasses the design and layout of the printed or virtual page, the selection of fonts, the specification of typesetting variables, and the actual composition of text. The goal of good typography is to allow the unencumbered communication of the author's meaning to the reader. Typography that intrudes its own cleverness and interferes with the dialogue between author and reader is almost always inappropriate.

The mechanics of typography have long been automated. Anyone who can use a computer can put type on a page. The question is whether the resulting page looks professional and serves its intended purpose effectively.

Appropriate typography

The essence of the typographer's art is connotation, which is necessarily a subtle side note in the denotative world of words on a page. It is the typographer's sensibilities about the cultural clues embodied in a font choice or a list style that enable the matching of design to content so seamlessly that the reader is drawn into the page rather than repulsed from it.

So while you, my potential client, may have a font you just love, I, as a typographer, have to judge which fonts best match the subject matter you've written about, the style of your prose, and the space budget for the project. And while you may have sketched out a rough design for a project, I have to apply what I know about readability and, more than that, the factors that affect reading comprehension.

What does that mean to you?

In the end, a design and a style of typesetting that is appropriate for a perfume ad in a fashion magazine has to be quite different from that of a textbook on the chemistry of fragrance. A scholarly text on theology should not look like either a modern romance or a software manual. A Web page selling surfing clothes should not look like an information site reporting on today's surfing conditions.

So you should not rely on cookie cutter solutions that apply the same design template to every book or every brochure or every Web site. You should work with a professional typographer who can develop an economical and appropriate approach to meeting your specific needs and deliver high-quality, accurate, on-time output.

I'm that professional. Let's talk.

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BONUS: Interior book design: the column…