Because it is so easy to integrate image and type into their work using software applications, students tend to find all sorts of fonts to include in their work. Yet they do this without really knowing how they work or why they were designed in such a way. Underpinning knowledge and understanding of type is easy to overlook. However, the pitfalls of not appreciating the importance of the subtleties of fonts are huge. While also looking at technologies, this resource will help develop an understanding of letters.
Making educated type choices
We have all seen posters created using incredible image manipulation techniques. Yet, frequently the slogan, type or banner is slapped on as an afterthought. Students sometimes forget that everything on the page is of equal importance.
On many occasions the image and type bear no relation and the font plays centre stage even when most of the creative input has been done by the font designer.
To avoid this, it is really important to spend as much time on the typography as the layout, design or image.
Careful use of freely available fonts
While looking through design, you will undoubtedly have seen graphics with incredibly created fonts that they want to use them in their own work. There are many free font sites out there with incredible fonts for download and installation.
It is important to balance the use of these and ensure that you make educated and sensitive choices about font use. Consider the overuse of Filters in Photoshop for example, when it really feels like the computer is doing all of the work.
Here are some of the sites with free fonts (please note that these will include copyright and usage details):
Producing your own fonts
There is nothing more satisfying than creating your own fonts and then being able to type with them in Word or Photoshop. The comparison between using something you have created and pre-installed fonts is similar to students using stock photos or their own photographs in their work. Creating and installing fonts might seem complicated, but there are many simple software applications out there and some of them are free.
Font creation software
Producing fonts using a combination of traditional and digital methods can support the understanding of the elements of type and produce innovative and unique examples. The process can be as simple as printing out an alphabet and using collage or mixed media to manipulate the type and then scanning it back in. Here is a handout to get you started with some low tech techniques:
Download: Low tech type manipulation handout
Another method of font creation is using online software. This means that learners can produce fonts at home and reduces the cost of installing software across many machines. A useful site is: https://fontstruct.com/
When undertaking font creation it is absolutely critical to learn about the basic elements of fonts, including: style, spacing and metrics. Here are some the essentials:
Type style relates to the forms the letters take
Type metrics relate to the heights and invisible lines they are set on
Font designers for consideration
Learning about fonts and their designers can play as much of a central role in design projects as learning about painters, sculptors or directors. Here are some of the font designers that have shaped a lot of what we read:
Frederic W. Goudy
Morris Fuller Benton
Chauncey H. Griffith
Learning to manipulate type and to create typography can take considerable practice using trial and error methods, much of which can be sped up by engaging with the above resources and practices. There are no simple rules and, like on most creative practices, rules can change depending on the application, audience or style. Breaking the rules is something that creative people are good at and that is something we should celebrate. However, my teacher always taught me that you need to know the rules and be able to use them to support your work before you go out and break them.
Download the: Digital type manipulation handout