Ray worked with B-2-B and Consumer clients throughout the world ... including USA, Canada, Mexico, Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, the Middle-East, Central & South America, Africa.

This website is a compilation of Ray's 10 years on the Web.

 
Baker's Dozen INDEX

13 Platinum Ideas to Make Type Work For You

Ken Erdman and Murray Raphel taught me the base for these ideas.

No matter how good your writing, if it is un-readable, it will not be understood. Far, far too many current day magazines are so over designed, pages and pages are unreadable. Ditto scores of web sites.

Now, that is fine. If you don't care if they're read or not. Much of the legal "stuff" no one reads anyway ... so it doesn't really matter.

Frequently you can get away with poor type selection. Why? Because your audience is so devoted to you they'll plow through your material, no matter. In-house publications, association and membership organization publications are examples. You'll read your favorite whatever - because it is your favorite.

Still, for most things we write we want them to be read. And understood. Our marketplace may not be thinking about us today. So, we need to use techniques to make our writing readable.

Here are 13 Platinum Ideas to Make Type Work For You;

#1) Type has a first impression

So, you must make certain yours makes a good first impression.

Just like people, first impressions count. And quick counts, too. A quick glance at a page often tells your audience what you're thinking. Yes, the graphics have a powerful place in first impressions. Yet, when is the last time you saw a page of all graphics without text to explain?

In marketing a picture is NOT worth a 1000 words. Frequently it isn't worth anything!

Type is not the message. It carries the message. Just as graphics ... illustrations, photography, art, layout, design and format support the message. So must your type, your words. They too must carry and support your message. Not be the message.

#2) Type has a personality

Type is short. Or tall. Skinny. Or fat. Thin. Or weak. Plain. Or fancy. It could be tall, thin and fancy. Not necessarily a good thing - yet, type, like personalities, is not simple.

In fact type is very complex. There are literally thousands of type styles. And scores of sizes within each style. Each has its' own personality.

You must select type that fits your personality. That of your company. Your product and service. Your marketplace.

And the particular message of the day. Which can, and will, change when your product changes, when your service changes, when your audience is different.

It's not only logos and slogans and color and design that affect what you "say". Often it IS the words that go with the logo and slogan and color and design that pull it all together. Type can be the "leader" in getting you understood.

#3) Type has "sound"

Lots of type BIG and bold is a shout. When it is lesser and small it is quiet.

When it is ALL CAPS it is screaming. When it is very small it may not be saying very much.

When you pick your type you must first think of your message. What do you want it to "sound" like? The look many times dictates the "sound" - the feeling. Something serious like The Wall Street Journal most certainly will select a different type than the comic section of your local newspaper.

Still, type is to be seen, and not heard. Not really. It is not the message. The right type will "pull" you into the copy, and get you reading. Yet, it should just "be there".

#4) Type breathes

Yes, type breathes, too.

White space between words, sentences and paragraphs is needed. There must be a little "air" in your writing. So your audience can take a deep breath while they are reading your message.

Why is this important - breathing? Well, because as people read, they take time to breathe. If a sentence or paragraph is too long, or if the words are jammed together, if the writing "looks" tough to read, it probably is. Space makes a different.

Short lines of copy are easier on the eye than long. Proportional spacing slows a reader. Justified margins right and left make reading tougher.

The opposite ... indented paragraphs and ragged right margins are easier on the eye. These techniques improve reading, and thus understanding.

Write to be read. Include breathing in your writing.

#5) Type creates mood

All fund raisers ... such as the World Wildlife Fund, The Salvation Army, Save the Children ... must look poor. Because they are going to ask you for your money to support their cause.

Rolls Royce and Ferrari, Rolex and the Ritz Carlton must look rich. Because they are going to ask you for a lot of your money for their product and service.

Which are you? Are you different "moods" at different times? With different products or services? Fine - type can help you create the mood you wish to give to your marketplace.

Wedding invitations and funeral announcements should not look alike. Your teen-agers birthday party and your parents 50th wedding anniversary invites should not look alike.

"Mood" is important in gaining a decision. Help create the mood you're looking for. Pick a type that begins to "tell" your story.

#6) Type is atmosphere, too

Type is more than alphabet. It is bullets and *asterisks* and number#signs, it is slash/marks and {parentheses} and <arrows>, it is underline and "quotation marks".

Atmosphere is also created with a colon: and semi-colon; with a question?mark and an exclanation!mark. Every "symbol" is there for a purpose ... to make reading easier, more interesting and more understandable.

And each tool is there to help you create a "mood". To emphasis what is most important. To draw attention to a point. To clarify an idea. Each is as important as your type style. Select and use carefully.

#7) Type is background

Type has a singular purpose;

To get your marketplace to read and understand your message.

It is not to be the message ... unless you are selling type and type styles. Only then is type as important as what your words say.

Type must be in the "background" of your readers mind - just there. When it is so strong it "pops" off the page, vs. the message jumping out, your readers understanding will decrease.

When you reader reads without noticing your type, you win. When your type dominates, you loose.

#8) Type must be readable to be understandable

There is a reason over 2/3rds of the worlds population wear glasses or contacts; they cannot see!

It is really very simple. People need help reading. Meaning whatever your message, whoever your audience, whatever their age, sex, income level, job title and responsibility, their place on earth ... if you want them to read what you wrote - you must select type that is readable. Or your message will be mis-understood. As Murphy says, "Anything that can be mis-understood, will be mis-understood".

So, in addition to "mood" and "atmosphere" and "personality", your text must be readable. "Breathing" enters here, too.

And point size ... size does matter. Too small (which is far too often the case - too many words jammed into too small a space, with a point size far too small!) and your reader will read through you. Too LARGE and your reader may pull back.

Paragraphs too long (anything more than 7 lines of copy is too long) reduces readership. Sentences too long (average of 14 words per sentence is about right ... this article averages 8-9 words per sentence) and your reader fails to understand.

No matter your media ... direct mail ... print, newspapers, magazines and newsletters ... flyers, brochures and the like ... your web site ... e-mail ... a fax message... do whatever it takes to make certain your audience can read and understand your words. When you do you'll be much more successful.

#9) Type rarely in reverse, or italics

Reverse is beautiful to look at.

So is italics.

Problem with each of them is too much of either slows a reader down. And when you combine them, something in reverse italics, it is nearly impossible to understand what you are saying.

Since your audience is unlikely to read every word you write, no matter how good you are, or how compelling your message, posting hurdles will reduce understanding. Translated; you will enjoy less response.

So ... don't do that! Instead, use these techniques rarely.

#10) Type rarely small, or in all CAPS

Almost every one of the first 9 points support #10.

Small may look nice on the page. Yet, anything less than 9 point is truly impossible. And nearly unreadable. Personally, I prefer 11+ point size. No matter the type style.

WHEN YOUR MESSAGE IS ALL CAPS it too is nearly unreadable. And makes a "sound" not pleasant to most. All have received such E-mail or fax messages ... and are offended. Never is everything so important it must be in all CAPS. Or all underlined - not as bad, still not all good.

Sometimes things need a CAP. Or underline. Or bold. Or explanation mark! Fine. When that time comes, do it. Just don't do it all the time.

#11) Type rarely in san-serif

Serif type is that with hooks, feet, the "serifs" at the end of the letters. San-serif is without hooks, i.e., san.

For everything you hold in your hand ... a newspaper, magazine, newsletter, direct mail, anything paper ... serif is unquestionably the type style to use. Countless research proves that to be so. It is not debatable.

For what you read far away - a sign, a poster, a billboard, a slide presentation -

san-serif is just fine. That too has been researched, and is not debatable. It is what fits our eyes - no matter where on earth you are from. It is physiology.

Exceptions? Sure, BIGGER BOLDER headlines and sub-heads in your writing can be san-serif.

What type should you use in your E-mail and on your web site?. This IS debatable. Why? Because there has not been sufficient research for us to really know what is best. And because the screen is farther away than a magazine, yet not as far as an outdoor poster, we are guessing B serif or san-serif?

I vote for serif. Why? Because when those pages are printed out to be read, they will be readable.

#12) Type stands alone

For some unknown reason, over-printing graphics has become "hot". Of course, all it does is ruin the illustration, and make the copy unreadable.

Why do art directors do this? In my opinion, they think it looks good. And frequently, it does look good. Thing is, that is not what type is about. It must be readable. Period! Readable.

Type truly stands alone. It must have its' own space. Beside a graph or chart. Underneath a picture. Or in paragraph style, as body copy. The message is with the words - type needs to allow the words to act. To do their thing. To give the reader the message, the call to action.

And ditto for the graphics. Why do you want to over-print a nice photo or clear illustration? Beats me. Don't do it. Let the type stand alone.

#13) Type is family

So, keep the family together.

Mixing too many type styles reduces reading. The type begins to become the message, rather than the words. Using as many as 2 or 3 type faces in the same ad or mail piece is about as many as you can get away with. Certainly not 5-6-7 ... which has been in vogue with some graphic folks.

Just because computers make it easy to do, doesn't mean it's a good thing to do ... to use a dozen type styles or faces.

Yet, there are groups, or "families" of type that do work well together. You may elect to use different type on different pieces inside the same direct mail package. Sometimes different on opposite sides of the same sheet of paper.

Certainly in a magazine or newspaper different type may show up within different sections. The financial pages vs. sports, vs. society. They need not all be the same.

Still, your entire presentation will work better when all your type comes from the same "family".

Well, that's it ... 13 Platinum Ideas to Make Type Work For You. This time the list is not something to choose and select from. All 13 are applicable. Every time. No matter the discipline, the media. Use them well. All of them!

Baker's Dozen INDEX

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