Improve Your Typography With 4 Simple Steps

Ben Groulx
Aug 03, 2015
Improve Your Typography With 4 Simple Steps

These four things will make your typography more readable. Use them right away!

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Typography isn't just for designers. In fact, you don't need to know anything about design in order to design. There are some basic things you can do right in this moment to make your copy more readable.

Let me walk you through four of them by demonstrating how text can change by using the opening passages from Alice In Wonderland.

Four tips for better typography (bad text)

1. Create a hierarchy

Typographic hierarchy works like an upside-down pyramid: big at the top, smaller as you descend. We use hierarchy to bring clarity and importance to text, such as outlining headlines and captions. 

The hierarchy of font size will be based around whatever size you use for body copy. Generally we want to use a 15-17px font size on the web and 9-12pt for print. Of course, this can change but start here. 

Your primary headline should be around 200% of that body size, and secondary headlines around 150%. So if your body text is 16px, aim for ~32px for your headline. Easy, right? It's all about differentiating text elements, so play with sizes.

Four tips for better typography (hierarchy)

2. Choose a better typeface

No, you shouldn't keep using Arial. There is a time and a place for each typeface, so make sure to choose something appropriate. I won't delve too much into here because a lot of type selection is merely what feels right. And that's difficult to convey.

That being said, Typekit Practice has an excellent breakdown of what makes a good body text selection, which you should read.

Four tips for better typography (better typeface)

3. Adjust your vertical spacing

Give your text room to breathe! Increasing your line-height (known as leading) will a. Generally, you'll want to shoot for 120-160% of the text size. Which means a 22px font should have a line-height of 26-35px (on the web) or a 12pt font should have a line-height of 15-19pt.

Four tips for better typography (vertical spacing)

4. Adjust your line lengths

The width of a given line of text in a paragraph -- or in other words, how many letters fit on a line -- is called a measure. Quite often we make them too long, making jumping from the end of one line to the beginning of the next difficult. We can lose our way here. Robert Bringhurst, author of "The Elements of Typographic Style" suggests…

"Anything from 45 to 75 characters is widely regarded as a satisfactory length of line for a single-column page set in a serifed text face in a text size. The 66-character line (counting both letters and spaces) is widely regarded as ideal. For multiple column work a better average is 40 to 50 characters."

Tip: Use the combination of uppercase and lowercase letter together to find a desirable line length. Of course, this can be narrowed or widened, but it gives a good starting point. It looks like this:


Four tips for better typography (measure)

Isn't that a whole lot easier to read? By applying these four things to your written documents and pieces, you will be making them more pleasant and easy to read.

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