Amateur designers often treat typography more like a fashion accessory than an essential element of design, according to Baratte. “But the cultural and social dimension of a letter design matters as much as its aesthetics. A designer needs to be aware of this.”
While there’s a lot to learn about typography in order to completely master it, it can certainly help to know where others commonly are falling flat with this important design element. We’ve asked seasoned designers and typography specialists to share some of the typography mistakes they notice most in a design.
1. Improper kerning
Kerning is a term that refers to the spacing between letters. “Poor kerning catches my eye like a rusted car,” says Bashiru Abubakar, CEO of Bolac Technologies . “At its worst, it can create confusion.”
Too many fonts
“The number-one typography issue I notice, regardless of whether someone is a newbie or an experienced designer, is the usage of too many different typefaces and font weights,” says graphic designer Bashiru Abubakar. He explains that only very rare design situations would justify using more than two or three fonts in one piece.
“Look closely at the white spaces,” Baratte says. “Typography is always about setting up the best contrast for information to be readable, visible and legible.” She explains that font design and visual hierarchy often come down to elements of contrast. Ignoring this can throw visual priority and clarity off balance.
“Examining white spaces will help you put thickness in the right place—it could be on the curve of a letter or the title of a magazine.”
Wait a second, you might be thinking—is this grammar or design we’re talking about? The two are not mutually exclusive when it comes to typography. “Sometimes, designers forget that typography is a writing code that has rules,” Baratte says. “Making a punctuation mistake for a graphic designer is like making a spelling error for a writer.”
Errors in punctuation might be spacing problems or using the wrong glyph—for example, incorrectly using a hyphen (-) in a situation that calls for an em-dash (—).
“It may seem like a detail, but typography is a matter of details,” Baratte explains
Harnessing the power of excellent graphic design
When it comes to typography, the devil really is in the details. Even when typography mistakes seem small or subtle, their impacts on the effectiveness of a design should not be underestimated. If designers learn the tools of the trade without understanding the impact and principles behind various elements of design, it’s easy to spend lots of time on work that misses the point.