The fonts and arrangements of text our customers choose for print designs can have a huge impact on the overall success of the piece. Not only does it affect the overall impression of your brand, but it can also influence their conversion rate. According to a recent study from Dr. Kevin Larson of Microsoft and Dr. Rosalind Picard of MIT, people who read a passage with “good” typography were more likely to read more quickly and successfully complete a cognitive task than those who read a passage with “bad” typography.
There are a few different type elements that affect the overall readability and attractiveness of your print materials. We’ll dive into the specifics of each one to help you achieve the best design every time.
Typography is one of the defining elements that will determine the overall flow of your print materials. Before deciding on specific fonts and other details, consider how the larger features in the design will fit together most effectively and appealingly. The way the designer places the text alongside other visuals will guide the reader’s attention down the page and hopefully make it easy to follow along. One of the most important considerations when placing typography is to keep the design visually balanced. Blocks of content should be positioned in a way that complements the structure of additional items, such as key quotes, facts or images, and helps each element look connected to the others.
To further organize different pieces of content, you may also consider using separators and text boxes. These features can separate pieces of unrelated content while also keeping a cohesive look and guiding the reader throughout a slightly more complex page layout. Once you have your basic layout finalized, you can make more informed decisions on the best choices for all the other type elements listed below.
The main function of your print piece is to communicate important messages to the audience. With that in mind, legibility is perhaps the most important element to consider when planning the typefaces you will use in your layout. In general, serif fonts are considered the most legible choice for larger pieces of body copy in a print piece. Traditionally easy-to-read serif fonts include Georgia, Garamond, and everyone’s favorite default font, Times New Roman. However, sans serif fonts have been increasing in popularity and are also considered very readable, especially if your design will also be viewed digitally. Helvetica and Verdana are popular choices for legible sans-serif fonts. Decorative fonts, which often feature more creative flourishes, should be sed only in small doses. For more advice on selecting specific fonts, check out our article.
Font weight, or thickness, also plays an important role in the legibility of a font. If your font is too light, the reader may have to squint to make out each word. On the other hand, a heavier weight can be jarring to read, and your audience may be turned off from finishing the piece. For your main blocks of text, stick to a normal font weight, and keep the super light or heavy weights to larger headings only.
For print pieces, there are some standard rules of thumb to use when deciding the appropriate font sizes. For larger passages of text, a font size between 10 and 14 is most appropriate. For headings, you can go a bit larger, between 18 and 26 points. To further distinguish headings from the rest of the text, consider using a bold, italicized or underlined version of the font.
Keep in mind that the distance from your print project to the viewer will also play a role in determining font size. The poster that people read from across the store will need a large point size to be readable, while the business card customers hold in their hand can feature smaller size.
The spacing you use between lines and paragraphs is also critical to the design of a print piece. For any piece you’re designing, remember that shorter lines of text and small paragraphs are easier to read. To create the most readable design, keep lines of text to just 10-12 words, and avoid shortening the leading between lines to fit more on the page. You might be able to include more information, but it ultimately makes the final design look cramped and unorganized. In many instances, it will be better to make the content more concise or carve out additional space than to sacrifice the whole cohesion of the piece.
There are a few additional and specific rules to follow around the spacing of words in a print piece. Whenever possible, avoid creating “widows,” or single words that falls on their own line at the end of a paragraph. Widows disrupt readability and simply look out of place next to the other full lines of text. To fix widows, you can edit a couple other line of texts to move a few more words on to the final line, or you can change the font size by a half point. You should also refrain from breaking up hyphenated words between the end of one line and the beginning of the next. Instead, just shift the whole word on to the next line of text to make it easier for readers to put the entire word together.