Type, Type, Type

Despite the fantastic time I’ve been having at the office and in London, there is also a learning curve to climb. Some things you can only learn while on the job, and some bad habits from Uni you have to train yourself out of now that you’re not the only person working on a single file. As everyone knows, Marc is a stickler for typography in particular, and over the past few months I've been learning little tips and tricks here and there that make my life a lot easier. 

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1. Use Style Sheets.

Whether it’s paragraph or character styles, they were never something I’d used a lot before. That’s something working at on-IDLE has changed pretty quickly. It’s much easier to make amends to a design when all you have to do is select the style and change within the options there. One little change and Bob’s your Uncle, everything is corrected across the entire document.  


2. Make the program do as much as possible.

Although closely related to point 1, it means a little bit more than that. 

Aligning the text within the textbox, using Paragraph Rules in the style sheets, using the correct keyboard shortcuts, and things such as pasting items in place all save a lot of time. It doesn't matter so much on smaller projects, but finding ways to make the program work for you is a good habit to get into. Plus, it saves the headache of trying to get text aligned without a baseline grid or getting text fully centred in an object manually. 


3. Aligning image to text, not grid.

With print materials at least, it’s easy to create more space in your work when an image has to be aligned to columns of text simply by aligning the image to the type instead of the baseline grid. By which I mean aligning the top of the image to the level of the lowercase type in the row next to the image.


It sounds like a small thing, but that extra half a row from the grid allows the image much more room to breathe – especially if you don't enough space on the page to use more than one line of spacing.    

Of course, if there's not much text around the image you don't need to adhere to this rule, especially if it's at the top of a column, and Marc's informed me that this seems to be a Swiss rule more than anything. Although considering the Swiss reputation for type, borrowing a page from their book every now and then doesn't seem like a bad idea, however. 


4. Letterhead Rules.

Two very simple rules that I had to learn the hard way from Marc:

The logo should go in the top right hand corner to facilitate someone flicking through invoices to find the right one, and the text should always be 25–30mm in from the edge of the paper so no text is accidentally hole punched if it gets filed. It shounds ridiculously simple, but neither were things I'd had to consider before (as someone who's never had to file away invoices or anything official.)


5. Baseline Grids. Use them. 

Simply aligning the text boxes doesn’t always cut it when it comes to aligning text, especially for projects with large amounts over multiple pages. The moment you have a header in a column that is a different size to your body text, everything else goes to pot. Aligning to a baseline is a lifesaver for making text easier to read. Even when you think it’s going to be barely noticeable, it makes a world of different when it comes to creating more professional looking pieces. 

6. Hyphenation.

Em and en dashes aren’t something most people really recognise, but they definitely still matter, and working at on-IDLE has only drilled this into me even more. It’s important as well to be able to recognise when you need to replace a hyphen with an en or em dash in the text a client gives you—or when not to.

En dashes can replace the word ‘to’ or ‘through’ when comparing ranges (e.g. 2001–2002), or connects phrase together (e.g. design–client relationship).

Hyphens come in two ways: hard, or soft, though it's hard hyphens that get confused with en dashes the most. Soft hyphens appear at the end of a line when a word is divided between two lines. Hard hyphens join words or parts together to form a compound word (e.g. anit-nuclear, Jean-Luc, good-looking). This gets a little bit confusing because there's not always a hard-and-fast rule for compound words (hard-and-fast for example can be written hard and fast, and you wouldn't be wrong). 'New Hart's Rule' from Oxford publishing is a pretty good guide to compound words if you need to know more. 

Em dashes can be used to denote clauses, replacing commas that would be used in this context (e.g. the meeting lasted­—as we knew it would—longer than usual), or to replace a colon or a semicolon (e.g. We had an idea—use the colour blue.) 

Spaces around em or en dashes generally aren't supposed to be used except at the end of a line where one part needs to be pushed to the next line. With responsive grids on websites it's now a little harder to see where those breaks need to be, however, and there's nothing that can ruin a webpage design more than finding out all the breaks that worked on your large screen look horrible on a smaller one. With that in mind, it's probably safer to add spaces on either side in web design and play it by ear on print projects. 


7. Fractions.

I'd always believed that you wrote fractions and 'parts' (as in, part one of two) differently in order to make sure people knew how to read the sentence correctly. Contextually, of course, it should be pretty obvious which way it needs to be read. There are multiple ways of displaying fractions, 'Design in Typography' by Jost Hochuli shows multiple ways of displaying it, the most interacting of which usually uses a different forward slash to the typical one within the fontface, but it depends on the type you have available. 

8. Use Swiss type at every opportunity. 

If you're stuck for a typeface, there's one created by a Swiss designer that's perfect for the job! 

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