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Typographic Principles of Design

written by: Michelle Strait•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 8/19/2010

You can achieve different design goals with type. If you're stuck for design ideas, consider using type to your advantage. Check out these examples of typographic principles to help make your designs better.

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    Type is Powerful

    Type is one of the most interesting aspects of design. You can evoke feelings of happiness, sadness, wealth and more simply by choosing certain typefaces. Learning the typographic principles of design will improve your design skills. You might not learn them all, but there are a few basic typographic principles all designers should know.

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    Concord

    concord 

    You create a concordant design by using only one typeface on the page or throughout the entire project. The catch is that you use different variations of the typeface. For example, you could use the bold version of a font for a headline. For paragraphs you could use the normal version of the font, and then include the font in italics to stress certain points. The symbols within a typeface count as well. Designers often use this principle to create a formal or calm appearance.

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    Conflict & Contrast

    contrast 

    Using two or more similar, but not identical, typefaces leads to conflict. As you can imagine, conflict is not pleasing to the eye. Conflict often results when designers try to create contrast. The problem occurs when they choose different typefaces, but stop short of choosing typefaces that are clearly different. Having access to hundreds of typefaces can also cause conflict.

    Some designers think using several typefaces in one piece shows their creativity. Instead of creating a design masterpiece, they end up creating an unattractive mess. Conflict has its place, but is best avoided in newsletters, brochures and other professional literature.

    Contrast happens when you use two typefaces that are clearly different. An example is pairing a sans-serif typeface with a serif typeface. You also can get contrast by using colored and different sized typefaces.

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    Imply Emotion & Importance

    font emotion Decorative typefaces provide a way to express emotion with type. Certain typefaces are designed to represent certain feelings. Decorative typefaces are best when used in moderation, and never for long lines of text. You should have a reason for using these typefaces. It’s also important to use a typeface that represents the desired response. For instance, a typeface that invokes fear is probably inappropriate for a story about the benefits of holiday giving.

    Large typefaces denote importance. Headlines are larger than subheads because the headlines are more important. It’s also common to see magazine layouts and advertisements with the main idea presented in huge text. For instance, a Rolling Stone article about Elvis Presley might have the words “The King" in huge print next to a photo of Presley. It’s a way to impart Presley’s important position within music and history.

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    Learn More about Typography

    It’s probably impossible for one person to know everything about typography. You might not learn everything, but it doesn’t hurt to learn all you can. You should also remember that nothing is set in stone. When it comes to creativity, rules are made to be broken. However, it’s best to know which rules you’re breaking and why you’re breaking them. These examples of typographic principles will give you the foundation to do that.