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Bay State Design Shop’s Tips on Typography for Designers

Guest Author on October 25, 2018
Typography tips for your design

Hover is attending the Bay State Design Shop event happening October 26th 2018. The event is tailored to the design community in the New England area and will feature prominent influencer in the design-space, Aaron Draplin. Come meet us before the sessions or swing by our booth in the evening. We can’t wait to meet all the attendees! We’ll be there with the awesome Top Level Design crew to get you on a .DESIGN domain name. The Bay State Design Shop has come tips on typography for you below.

Hey Hover fans!

It’s your good friends at the Bay State Design Shop (BSDS) coming at you with some cold hard opinions. Now, whether you’re a greenhorn or veteran designer, you likely know that type is the backbone of visual communication—and what a fickle beast it may indeed be. But don’t despair, friends. We asked the 400+ members of BSDS to share some of their go-to typography tips that’ll help you win the day.

bay state design shop tips

So, here’s a quick roundup of some of our favorite typographic axioms to help you get through whichever project lies before you:

Don’t stretch or squash type unless you have a darn good reason

While this may be a mainstay of cable TV news tickers, or certain word processing and/or presentation applications, don’t treat your type like a piece of salt-water taffy to be stretched and pulled asunder. (Unless of course you have a thoughtful, communicative reason for doing so.) In general, here’s the deal: type is purposefully designed to work within its crafted proportions, so if you distort a regular width typeface just to save some space, it’s going to look about as professional as a resume headshot taken in a goofy funhouse mirror.

Don’t fear though, friends. There are actually condensed typefaces out there specifically crafted to jam pack as much information into an economy of space, all while still looking good. In fact, if you need to go further, some designs have compressed widths that narrow proportions to an even slimmer extreme.

Know your dashes, and treat ’em right.

Friends, hyphens ( – ), en dashes ( – ), and em dashes ( — ) are all separate typographic beasts, each with their own prescribed use cases. Sure, this may be a prime example of persnickety typography minutiae, but it’ll make your typography carry itself with a more thoughtful demeanor. It shows you’re willing to do right by even the smallest typographic details.

Em dashes ( — ) are used to evince a pause in thought, or separate a thought similar to using parentheses or a colon. They’re also used for attribution of a source for quote or other piece of information.

En dashes ( – ) are useful for dates, times, and ranges of information.

For example:

In terms of domain registrars—of which good friends of ours have always been best—we’ve recommended Hover’s services from 2010–2018.

— The Bay State Design Shop

Everything Old is New Again

New typefaces are released constantly—in quantities more plentiful than you could shake a composing stick at—thanks to the democratization of tools to design type. This makes type very nimble to adapt and play off of the visual trappings du jour.

But, typographic predilections—like fashion, music, food and the litany of popular culture machinations—are often cyclical. What was once thought of as visually obsolete or prosaic can often be rescued from the ash heap of typographic trends, with a new, modern application or project.

So if you’re feeling uninspired by whatever’s currently popular in the world of type, make time to look at old design, even if just from a few decades prior. Don’t be afraid to mine the depths of history for some hidden typographic gems, friends. It’s surprisingly easy to breathe new life into tools of the past, so go seek them out and make them your own if you can.

Get Your Hands Dirty

There are some amazing script and handwriting-inspired typefaces out there. Tons, actually. And make no mistake—they’re expressive, visually arresting, and filled with personality, plus a boatload of panache.

But, sometimes you require a typographic tool that’s bespoke. While it may seem antithetical to a list of typographic tips, sometimes the type tool you need isn’t a typeface at all.

If you find yourself in a rut, or helplessly vacillating between typeface styles, don’t be afraid to break out the pencils, pens, markers, crayons, and brushes and take them to paper. Get your hands dirty and make something custom. Scan the results in, and clean them up using your favorite design software for some custom lettering that fits your project just right.

Don’t Steal Fonts!

As much as we here at the BSDS like to pontificate about each of our different design sensibilities being the best, there’s one thing all our members agree on: stealing fonts is like stealing candy from a baby, in that both are easy to do, and the perpetrators thereof deserve to sit upon a cactus.

Type designers are the living, breathing, and incredibly talented folks who bring the typefaces you use to life. They’ve got to provide for their families just as much as the rest of us. So do you part, and pitch in: make sure you use type that’s properly licensed.

If you’re truly in a budget-pinched situation, there’s no shame in seeking out free fonts. They do exist, and many are, indeed, of top-notch quality. Alas, though, many free fonts you’ll come across are served from shady, ne’er-do-well sites that might be offering you a side of virus with that free design you think you’re getting. In short, make sure you do the legwork to ensure you’re getting a quality free or open-source typeface. Do your homework. Do your research and be safe.

About the Bay State Design Shop

We’re the Bay State Design Shop. Nice to make your acquaintance. We’re a growing community that’s for New England-area designers, by New England-area designers. An inclusive gathering spot for all stripes of designer—veteran practitioners, up-and-comers, and greenhorns alike—we’re an egalitarian, pretension-free place for designers to talk shop, chew the fat, and lend each other a helping hand. Think of Bay State Design Shop as a lively potluck dinner that everybody’s invited to. Interested in joining our open and inclusive community for New England designers? Sign up at now!