Print Marketing: Size and Style Choices within the Typeface - dummies

Print Marketing: Size and Style Choices within the Typeface

By Alexander Hiam

Any given typeface presents a ton of choices for your printed marketing materials, so selecting your typeface is just the beginning. How big should the characters be? Do you want to use the standard version of the typeface, a lighter version, a bold (darker) version, or an italic (right-leaning) version?

Believe it or not, making your style and size choices is really rather easy. Just look at samples of some standard point sizes (12- and 14-point text for the body copy, for example, and 24-, 36-, and 48-point for the headlines).

Many designers make their choices by eye, looking for an easy-to-read size that isn’t so large that it causes the words or sentences to break up into too many fragments across the page — but not so small that it gives the reader too many words per line.

Keep readability in mind as the goal. This figure shows a variety of size and style choices for the Helvetica typeface. As you can see, you have access to a wonderful range of options, even within this one popular design.


Keep in mind that you can change just about any aspect of a typeface. You can alter the distance between lines — called the leading — or you can squeeze characters together or stretch them apart to make a word fit a space. Assume that anything is possible and ask your printer, or consult the manual of your desktop-publishing or word-processing software, to find out how to make a change.

Now, having said that anything is possible, remember that your customers’ eyes read type quite conservatively. Although most people know little about the design of typefaces, they find traditional designs instinctively appealing.

The spacing of characters and lines, the balance and flow of individual characters (with some white space around them or an appropriate illustration to break up the text) — all of these familiar design elements please the eye and make reading easy and pleasurable.

So when you need to provide emphasis, try to do so in a conservative manner. For example, try simply bolding your body copy before resorting to a new style of type. Too many type styles may reduce your design’s readability.

A good design uses two type families and varies the size of them, mixing in appropriate italics, bold, or reverse type if the overall design benefits from it. This figure shows a black-and-white print ad laid out using Garamond and Helvetica, which are traditional, easy-to-read fonts.

Some graphic designers avoid them because they like to be less traditional and more creative, but as the figure shows, these two type families lend themselves to clean, attractive, appealing, and (most important) readable designs.

A print ad that makes good use of traditional type styles and simple illustrations.
A print ad that makes good use of traditional type styles and simple illustrations.

Don’t just play with type for the sake of playing (as all too many designers and do-it-yourselfers do). Stick with popular fonts, in popular sizes, except where you have to solve a problem or you want to make a special point.