This is a continuation of my earlier post “7 Typography Mistakes You Can Easily Eliminate.” That post garnered quite a few reader comments, including some who pointed out “mistakes” I didn’t include. So I’ve decided to share five more:
1. Over Centering
This is one of my biggest pet peeves. Many non-designers use centered text way too often. Mind you, I’m not against centering … I like it. But you need to know how to do it in a way that does not make your text unreadable.
Our eyes read from left to right. When we finish a line of text, our eye slides left to the beginning of the next line almost automatically. An edge is formed by the flush left text and helps our eye find the beginning of the next line. Each new line starts in the same place. It’s easy and we don’t think about it.
When you center multiple lines of text, your eye struggles to find the beginning of the next line of copy. The line does not line up with the line before it. The straight edge is not formed and our eye now needs to search for the start of the next line. This searching slows down reading and tires our eyes. Not what you want when trying to communicate a message.
What’s the solution?
First, center only a few lines at a time. Do this to grab attention — to highlight copy.
There are also ways to center text where you don’t actually center every line. Center the block of text instead. This gives the “feel” of centered text without the readability issues.
2. Justified Text
This is when all the type lines up on the left and right margins. Although not used as often as centered type, justified text also can make type difficult to read. It’s also very difficult to make it work, even for the best designers. Again, use it sparingly.
Make sure the line length is long enough. Short line lengths have fewer words per line and therefore more space is added between words to justify the text.
Be ready to edit your text to create better word spacing. This way, you can adjust the spacing a word at a time.
My recommendation: Don’t do it. It’s just too difficult to make type look good with the tools available to most non-designers.
What is proximity? It’s the grouping together of items that relate to each other, such as a title with descriptive copy or a price with a product description. Grouping them together makes them one visual unit, organizing the information in a logical way that makes it easier for readers to take it in
In the wonderful book “The Non-Designer’s Design Book” (4th Edition) by Robin Williams, there’s a great example depicting how appropriate proximity and group content can improve look and readability.
Notice how much easier the example on the right is to read. Each block of copy now reads as a unit and has clear separation. The larger image has more visual appeal too.
Underlining is a holdover from typewriter days when there was no other way to boldface or italicize type as we do now on computers.