QR Code contains TinyURL of this article.Typography Matters

I spent a couple of hours this morning making some oh-so-subtle tweaks to the typography on the Perpetual βeta. There were quirks, that have been irritating me for a while now, that I have finally addressed.

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t

Let me tell you something about typography that may surprise you: good typography is invisible.

Think about that for a moment. The purpose of typography to is make the message accessible; the glyphs; typeface; media… all fade away, leaving nothing to detract from the author’s message.

We do notice when the typography is bad. We do notice rivers of white-space, widows, orphans or bad hyphenation in a text. We know that reading requires an effort when the line-height is too great or small, lines are too long or the contrast between the text and the background upon which it sits is too low.

The average reader might not be able to identify what it is that’s wrong with a body of text, she’ll just notice that it’s a struggle to read.

That’s what we endeavour to prevent with good typography.

The Typeface is Not Typography

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “typography is a multi-faceted discipline of which choosing typefaces is but a small part.”

It’s true, one can make a body of text look beautiful with a carefully chosen typeface. But, conversely, that same typeface can have a negative impact on readability. If it’s too ornate, for example, or simply incompatible with the media with which one is working.

Websites that use gorgeous typefaces but have poor typography are abundant on the Web. I wish their designers and content producers would invest more time and effort in correcting this.

In Closing

Again, good typography is invisible.

Hopefully then, you won’t notice any of the tweaks I have made this morning. They should not stand out in any way. They should enhance, not detract from, your reading experience.

Afterword

The text excerpt in the hero image1 is from the all-time classic novel, “Moby Dick; or, The Whale” by Herman Melville. If you haven’t read it, or at least seen one of the multitude of film versions, then I wholeheartedly recommend you do, at the earliest opportunity. There’s no excuse, the text is available online.

  1. The “hero image” isn’t actually an image at all. It’s real text. You can select and copy it into your clipboard. I have borrowed the cool CSS — that gives it that almost photo-realistic look — from an article by Lucas Bebber titled “Creating Realistic Text with CSS.” I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s a pretty neat effect. ↩︎