Typography - AMA Manual of Style

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Typography 

Typography

Chapter:
Typography
Author(s):

Annette Flanagin

DOI:
10.1093/jama/9780195176339.003.0022
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Subscriber: null; date: 28 August 2016

  1. 22.1 Basic Elements of Design

  2. 22.2 Typefaces, Fonts, and Sizes

  3. 22.3 Spacing

    1. 22.3.1 Letterspacing

    2. 22.3.2 Word Spacing

    3. 22.3.3 Line Spacing

  4. 22.4 Layout

  5. 22.5 Specific Uses of Fonts

    1. 22.5.1 Lowercase

    2. 22.5.2 Capital (Uppercase)

    3. 22.5.3 Boldface

    4. 22.5.4 Italics

    5. 22.5.5 Small Caps

  • Typography is the efficient means to an essentially,
  • and only accidentally esthetic, end, for the enjoy-
  • ment of patterns is rarely the reader’s chief aim.
  • … any disposition of printing material which,
  • whatever the intention, has the effect of coming
  • between author and reader is wrong.
  •     Stanley Morison
  •  (inventor of Times New Roman font)1
  • Good design is a blend of function and form, and
  • the greater of these is function. This is as true of
  • typography as it is of an opera house or space shuttle.
  • Typography fails if it allows the reader’s interest to
  • decline. It fails absolutely if it contributes to the de-
  • struction of the reader’s interest.
  •     Colin Wheildon1

Typography is broadly defined as the composed arrangement and appearance of text and other elements on a surface that involves elements of design. The editor and graphic designer often cooperate in the process of creating the typography and design for a book, monograph, or journal (in print or online), with the goal of achieving a balance of form and readability.

According to typographer Edmund Arnold, good design and typography for English-language publications follow the linear flow of the Latin alphabet and support the act of reading.1 The English language is read from left to right and from top to bottom. According to Arnold, when a reader of such language begins to read a printed page, the eyes first fall naturally to the top left corner and then move across and down the page, first from left to right and then in a right-to-left sweep to the next line, until reaching the bottom right corner. Any design or typographic element that forces the reader to work against this natural flow (reading gravity) interrupts the reading rhythm and should be avoided.1 Wheildon conducted a controlled study in which half of the participants read an article with a design that followed Arnold’s “reading gravity” principles and half read the same article but with a design that did not follow these principles. Rates of comprehension for those reading the article designed to comply with the principles of reading gravity were better (67% good, 19% fair, and 14% poor) than those reading the same article that disregarded the principles of reading gravity (32% good, 30% fair, and 38% poor).1

Typography for reading on a computer or other digital medium should follow the basic principles of reading as described above. There are a number of shared design considerations (eg, consistency and size of typeface; use of boldface for emphasis, subheadings, or calling out citations to tables or figures in text; concerns about overly long or wide tables or figures). However, online typography has additional attributes and concerns that are not seen in print and must reflect standards that address a different set of reading, browsing, and searching habits. For example, a Web page must work across different computer platforms, browsers, and screen sizes, and the publisher cannot control how the typographic elements (such as typeface, font, size, and color) appear on different users' screens; the Web is designed for interactivity and scrolling, so links and navigational buttons need to be clearly marked; and brightly lit screens may lead to eye strain so that online text must be presented in a different format than the same text designed for print. This chapter focuses primarily on typography for the printed page and for Latin character sets. Resources for design and typography for the Web are listed among the Additional Resources and General References at the end of the chapter. Many of the technical terms and concepts of design, typography, and composition mentioned in this chapter are listed in 24.0, Glossary of Publishing Terms.

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