Typographic principles.

So you want to know about typographic principles but have no idea where to start? You’ve looked around the web and found lots of contradicting opinions from multiple people. Your search is over, use the following information to guide you on how you develop your designs. I’ll go through almost everything you need to know about layout, typefaces, clean design, better communication and more.

Busy backgrounds and text.

Text on a busy background can be the easiest way for it to get lost, obviously dark text on a dark background means it will be hard to read. Even white text on a dark background can still be hard to read depending on the pattern of white on the background. It’s best to create a box around your text to make the background more contrasting.

Hard to read:


Hard to read:

Hard to read:


Easy to read:


When placing text on a page it’s important to consider the text’s background. In almost any design the text is the most important element, not being able to easily read the text is bad design. 

Easy to read:


Hard to read:

Neither hard or easy to read:


Hard to read:

Junk design.

Often as designers, we’re asked to add all kinds of junk parts to the designs they want, it’s up to us as designers to know when to stop adding junk to the design. In these next two examples, the messy version is hard to read, our eyes jump all over the place. The clean and inviting version is much easier to read and less headache inducing.

Messy & headache inducing:


Clean and inviting:

Junk elements?

Boxes, shadows, and underlined text, is almost always not a good look, it usually looks messy and over distracting, boxes sometimes can be used, how ever these have to be used sparingly. The more boxes within boxes you use, the more you need to let the text breath, which means you need to take up more space with boxes, leaving less space for the text.


Being more inviting through design.

Often when we are presented with big blocks of text this can put us off reading the page, there are ways to make a page more inviting, one way is to create a single column of text, it helps the text breath helping the reader want to read the content and not skip it.

Less inviting:


More inviting:


There are many ways to make more important text stand out, here are a few of them. Keeping consistent sizes, bold, non bold, and position of text, this allows the reader to skim much easier when looking through pages.

When your design isn’t consistent your eyes can’t skim the page properly, you miss titles and then possibly even the copy itself, not only that but the page looks messy. 



Not consistent:

Left aligned.

Left aligned, centred, or justified which is best? It’s left aligned and I’ll explain. Left aligned text is easy to read, the eyes can scan text very quickly. Centred text makes it harder to read, and also scan. Justified text is slightly better than centred text but leaves gaps in the text that is random on each line which again makes it hard to read.

Left aligned:





Hierarchy in design.

There are many ways to make more important text stand out, bold, italics, type sizes, different typefaces, etc, here are a few of them.


When to use bold and capitals.

You’re probably new to design or are just refreshing your skills. If you’re new to design you’ll most likely assume that when text is in capitals and also is bolded that it’s easier to read right? Well actually no this isn’t the case, when viewing lower case text when compared to the uppercase text at the same height, the lower case text is easier to read. When upper case text is compared to the same text but in bold again the less bold text is easier to read.

Reasons why not to use capital letters in design:

  • Text in all caps reduces the shape contrast for each word, making it harder to read.
  • Using capitals in marketing can come across as aggressive, because you’re shouting at your reader.
  • Using capitals can make you less trust worthy, because you’re shouting at your reader.
  • It is not grammatically correct to use capitals in the English language, and this standard is widely accepted.
  • I hesitate to say this, but every now and then a single word in all caps can actually emphasize a word. This only works when it’s done in moderation. Again, if everything is capitalized, nothing is emphasized.

See these side by side comparisons to come to your own conclusion on shape contrast for each word.


Proximinty effect.

Elements that are close together look like they belong to each other, elements that are further away, look like they arn’t related.


Not ideal:




Ascenders and descenders.

When aligning text together, Ascenders, Descenders, baseline and X-height should be taken into consideration, always align to the Baseline of the text never the bottom of the Descender.


Line breaks?

When creating your paragraphs it’s important to keep the ends of your paragraphs as uniform as possible, while you don’t want your paragraphs justified, you do want some variation. Having some variation but not too much will allow your reader to scan lines in your text better. Having too much variation wastes space, and looks messy.


Not ideal:




Orphan elements?

Orphan elements is an element that gets separated from it’s main content. The most common case of this is where text ends up on the next column by accident. Its much better especially on a printed page or pdf that this doesn’t happen, as people can miss this information.


Doesn’t look right:


Looks right:


Doesn’t look right:


Looks right:


Breaking up pages.

Sometimes looking at a page that just has blocks of text on the page can be daunting for a reader, often breaking up the page with a quote can make the page more inviting.


My page is too busy.

When you first start designing its easy to get carried away with adding elements to a page to make it look more interesting, but you can end up adding too much making the page too busy, your eyes don’t know where to start not to mention the headache you start to get looking at the page.


How to Use bold?

When making text bold, try to stick to a 10% rule, which means that the maximum bold text in any section or page should only contain 10% bold text. The more text that is bold the more it begins to lose its ability to emphasize, so what you end up with is a very busy page where your eyes don’t know where to read, and once again a headache is started. 






Too much:






Too much:


Red is too much, but the bold lower/uppercase combination is ideal:


How do we emphasize?

There are only a few ways that we can emphasize in a paragraph without being too distracting. The best way is to make some text bold. Using colour is too distracting, as well underline and making text uppercase. It’s important to stick to the rules of the english language which states that you must only use uppercase for names, places and the at the start of a sentence. To make everything in uppercase is making it harder to read, and breaking the rules of english.


Underline too distracting and unprofessional, uppercase is harder to read.

Uppercase is harder to read:


Old typesetting technology.

Kerning the space between letters. During the typesetting days, a typeface would have each letter inside its own box, each letter couldn’t be pushed closer to another letter there was a limit. There were often gaps between letters that didn’t look correct due to a limitation of the press technology of the day.


Modern Kerning.

Today we can adjust the kerning between the letters to a much better extent.

Sans Serif or Sans?

Sans Serif typefaces are more decorative, usually, on the ends of each letter. Some typefaces as we will so take this concept and stretch it far as possible. Serif typefaces don’t have the more decorative parts. There is debate as to which category has the best readability. At smaller screen and print sizes Serif performs better while at large sizes there is no different in how much people can read the typefaces.


Serif typefaces:


Sans Serif typefaces:


Which is the best typeface?

For me it has to be Helvetica, its versatility in all sizes in print and on screen make it technically easy to read. Whilst it’s obviously used in many big corporations branding and logo’s, it’s not saturated enough so that if you choose to use this font in your branding you can still remain unique. 


Impact vs Helvetica who wins

Here I compare what I consider the hardest to read typeface Impact and one of the easiest typefaces to read Helvetica. If the purpose of graphic design and typography is to convey information, then your typeface should be able to do this even for all types of people. Some have bad eye sight, or people before they even read anything on a page are just skimming. 

Your favourite brands in the best and worst type faces. 

In these next few examples we have Impact on the left and Helvetica on right right, this is for you to test optically which is easiest to read.

Impact vs Helvetica: Blurred brands.

This is a test to simulate bad eye sight, again which is easiest to read? We all skim pages before we read them, which one can you read the quickest when skimming?


Whilst this list doesn’t cover the entire gamet of typographic principles or does it cover anything to do with branding this one web page is enough for you to get started in your design adventures. Picking up these skills is not easy so be ready to test your ideas against the rules I’ve outlined here.