Dream Smarter Podcast Ep23 - Typography Tips


Dream Smarter Podcast Ep23 – Typography Tips

Below are the show notes/summary for this episode. Please listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify for the full show! Xo, Alex


Today will be a really fun topic because we’re going to talk about something that’s super important to design, which is typography. I am such a huge type lover. It’s a huge part of my designs and just my style in general. And I notice type is something that most people mess up. It’s something that a lot of designers struggle with. It’s something that is, especially if you’re not a designer, it’s tough to nail down and understand and get right in your brand design and your social design and website design and all those different things. I talk a lot about typography in all of my trainings. And I thought it would be great to give you guys some free tips on how you can up your type game in your business, whether you’re a designer or not.

I want to preface this lesson today by saying you can break the rules that I’m about to give you if you know why you’re breaking them. I love a good plot twist. I love a good rule-breaker, but the only way you can do that is if you truly know why you’re doing it. And if you’re educated enough on the topic, you can make that conscious decision to break the rules. If you’re not a typography master, then I would probably stick to all the things that I’m giving you today. All of these rules, I would probably stick to them. It just makes your stuff look better. Trust me. And then once you get to a point where you’re like following the rules over and over and over again, and you’re ready to branch out, and you feel like you’ve mastered the basic type rules, then feel free to break these.

I do it a lot in my designs and just within my brands in general, but it’s because I am at that master level. So just know that from the beginning.

Tip #1: Use a proper type suite

I talk about this all the time. We give all of our clients this when we do their branding type suites are really important. So, what is a type suite? A type suite is a combination of fonts that create a type hierarchy in your brand type. Hierarchy is what people look at first, second, third, fourth, the most important thing on the page or in the design or in the section, whatever it may be. And what’s the least important. And how can you make your type fit in a certain style or a way to help guide the eye down the information?

When you’re building a type suite, what you want to look at are your title fonts. Those are going to be the largest, most prominent pieces of information on your page. Then the subhead goes under or above the title to help support the title? And then what is your body copy font? So that’s the little texts like when you’re reading a book, that’s all-body copy font unless you’re at the title page, which has the title and the title font. You’re creating a set of three tight faces. Sometimes it will be, you’ll have a fourth, and that will be considered your display font. For instance, if you decide to include a script or something a little bit more ornate, that is called a display font, and those are used very sparingly throughout the brand, but just as little design elements.

You’ll have your title, your subhead, your body, possibly a display. What you want to do is you want to have all of these typefaces play together because you need to look at each one on their own and say, how do they look on their own? But how do they look like as a group? Because that’s really what matters. And that’s one thing when it comes to just brand design in general, I’m very good at because I have the experience in doing this, those Hanes he’s like, stop recording mom, play with me. I have experience with this. And it’s looking at brands in a macro way at a macro level, instead of a micro-level. I mean, you truly have to do both. What are the types we look like? What is the color palette? What is the logo? But truly, when you’re creating a brand, you need to be able to step outside of your body.

Almost like, imagine yourself here, you’re sitting, you’re standing, whatever you’re doing. And then imagine your spirit coming outside of your body and watching you do whatever you’re doing right now. Imagine it up in the sky, looking down at what you’re doing. How does everything look together in the space where you’re sitting or standing. We do this with brands because everything needs to play on its own, but truly it needs to play together. You have to look at each tight face on its own, but you have to look more at how it plays together. You don’t need to have these crazy typefaces. And that’s something that I noticed so many people do is they actually, which I’m going to get into this in a little bit here in the next tip.

But a lot of people will choose a display font for their title typeface in their type suite. Display fonts are not meant to be titled typefaces. They’re meant to be displayed typefaces, and a display typeface is used very sparingly throughout the brand. It’s more ornate. It just has a lot going on. It’s gaudier. Imagine walking into a room or a home, and there’s this gaudy wallpaper all over the wall. It’s too much, but maybe you walk into another space. And the wallpaper’s only on one wall as an accent wall behind the bed or something like that. That is just enough to bring in some elements to bring in some design interest. But it’s like an eyesore where you’re like, I can’t sit in here anymore because my eyes are so stressed out with all of this wallpaper.

That’s the same with typefaces. You never want to use a display font for your title. You want to have simply beautiful, iconic, tight faces that all play together. And all tight faces have their own personality. When you look at them, a serif has a different personality than a sans-serif. And if you’re not familiar with type, there may be some, some terms I’m throwing out right now. Just do a quick Google search, and you’ll get, you’ll get your information if you’ve never heard of these things before, but serif feels more editorial. A sans-serif feels form more modern. It depends on the actual typeface that you’re looking at. But as a whole, that is the feeling they both give. What you want to do is you want to create your type suite, but you don’t just say, okay, I’m going to use Helvetica for my title.

Or let’s say I’m going to use Prada for my title. I’m going to use Helvetica for my subhead. And I’m going to use Avenir for my body or something like that. You don’t just say that. What you need to do is you need to style the tight phase because it’s not just, just the typeface. Let’s say you’re using Prada for your title. Maybe you want to style that in all caps. Maybe you want to mix the, and I’m not quite sure if Prada has an Italian, but let’s pretend maybe you want to say, I’m going to do the regular in all caps. And then I’m going to have the italicized version of that to call out specific words in Italics’ title case.

You go through, and you say, how am I going to use this in my brand for the title? Then you go to the subhead. Usually, subheads are, I typically will use a serif for a title and a sans-serif for a subhead. That’s my particular style. Don’t copy me. And it’s not copying. But don’t feel like you need to follow that 100%. If your style is using sans-serif for and I’m talking to designers right now, if your style uses sans-serif a lot for titles, great do that. You don’t need to follow this 100%. I’m just saying, what I typically do with my style is I typically will do a serif for a title and then a sans-serif for a subhead. For serif, I put a little bit of spacing in between the letters for the titles.

I typically don’t ever do that. Sometimes, I’ll even decrease the letter spacing in the titles, and then the body copy font can be whatever you want, but the body copy needs to be super legible. You can’t choose a that is hard to read. It needs to be something very simple, very easy to read all of those things. Once you come up with that type suite, you have styles. You only want to use it that way throughout all branding assets, especially if you’re not a designer; just use it the way your designer gave it to you or how you designed it, stay consistent. It’s going to show brand recognition. If you can stay consistent with your type suite. The one thing that drives me crazy is when I will go to somebody’s stuff, and I see a typeface not used properly.

And I know that their designer did not give it to them that way because there are fonts, and there’s like a reason why your designer is sending you a type suite styled in a particular way. And I even see my clients doing this sometimes. And I have to coach them as to like, don’t do that. Don’t use this typeface in all caps. It’s not meant to be in all caps. And that’s why I’d never styled it in all caps in your branding. There are rules when it comes to the specific tight faces themselves as well. So you want to create something and then just stay consistent with it.

Tip #2: Stay away from fancy fonts.

Those display fonts that I was talking about, we’ve already gone through the display versus title.

Many of the fancy fonts that you find on Creative Market, especially on the first page, consider those a no. Because everybody will use them because they’re on the first page, everybody has seen some specific typefaces, you’ll scroll through, and you’d be like, I see this everywhere. And it’s almost like a cool new typeface comes out on Creative Market. And then everyone and their mama are using that type phase for their logo or their headers or whatever. And a lot of the display typefaces have what are called glyphs. And if you’re in my designer training, I show you how to use these glyphs, especially to make logos and do some really fun things with the type. But you don’t want to use those as titles throughout your brand; that would just be used for your logo or a little graphics here or there with one-word type of things.

Again, stay away from the first page of Creative Market. To be honest, Creative Market is a tool, but it’s something that I have really strayed away from in my designs and just in my like toolbox, just because it’s so overly used now, especially for type. I actually will go to different foundries. I spend a ridiculous amount of money on typefaces, a ridiculous amount of money, like thousands and thousands of dollars a month. But that’s why we are such a great company when it comes to design. Like that’s why people hire us. I don’t think the clients know how much money we put into it because whatever we’re delivering to the client, it’s not the first design that we created and just was like, Oh, this is good enough. Okay. Deliver. Like, we go through so many different options and possibilities, and then we deliver the best option to the client right after we’ve gone through and been like, okay, out of all of these different options, this is the one we liked the best.

I have to buy all of these typefaces that I might not even use for the client just to test it out. There’s just a lot that happens behind the scenes, but I suggest spending the money on good tight faces, like free typefaces. If you’re looking for, if you’re brand new, you’re like, I have not, I don’t have a dime to spend on this, go to Google fonts and use those. Don’t find like some free ones on the internet because of the kerning in them, which the kerning is the distance between the letters, and the kerning is always off. And it’s just little things that you probably wouldn’t notice as a non-designer, but I notice, and you can notice other people will notice. They won’t know why it feels off. But it just feels off. If you’re going to use free ones, do Google fonts, but I suggest going to some different foundries.

I love using the resource type wolf.com, or I will use, I forget, there’s another one that I use just to search different fonts. You can just Google search for different fonts or like type foundries or what have you, but type one is such a good resource. There are not that many out there. I decided I’m going to create one. I’m in the process of creating a full-on type resource website. And basically, what I’m going to do is I’m going to create different types suites that you can just go in and be like, I love this type sweet. I’m going to pull this great. You want to stay away from the fancy fonts. You want to prioritize readability, stay away from Creative Market, buy some good fonts. I promise it’s worth it. And yeah, make sure you’re using an actual title font for your titles and not a display.

Tip #3: Use scripts sparingly

Because we’re talking about display fonts here, I want to do a little mini-lesson on scripts because script fonts are, Oh, they’re a struggle. I hate them for the most part. Hate is a strong word, but I rarely ever use them in my designs. You’ll see. And if I do, it’s because I know it’s right for that particular client, but I’m so particular about the actual script I’m using. And usually, when I do use a script, it’s because the client is like, I need to have a script. Right. They, they want it. As a designer, I will never leave a project as something that I don’t like, but a lot of times, I have to find a middle ground between something that I’m obsessed with and then something that the client is obsessed with.

And we have to find that middle ground of like, okay, so you love this, and I love this. And as a designer, sometimes you have to coach your clients because I know trends, and we set trends at Homeland studio. I don’t follow what’s out there. Right. I mean, I do I follow it. I know what’s going on. I’m always analyzing what’s happening in the market to do something differently or take it to the next level. I just like to want my clients to have something that’s different and fresh and new. And that’s why they pay the money to hire us. They’re not paying us to execute. What’s popular in the market right now and copy other people there. They’re paying us to come up with something and have a brand that stands out from everybody else’s, that’s completely different.

The reason why I don’t love script is that it goes out of style so quickly. And then B, there are rarely good script fonts on the market. And the reason why is because the script is supposed to emulate handwriting, but it’s digital. This is not handwriting it’s digital. You have to digitize a script font handwriting into something that you can use on a computer to do that right in to make it flow and be seamless and truly look like handwriting. It’s very, very difficult. I mean, I would never want to be a script font designer. There are font designers out there; that’s the people that create these fonts. I would never want to be a script font designer because the attention to detail and the way that you have to flow the letters into each other, it’s insane.

The work that they do. When there is a good script font out there, everybody’s using it, everyone’s using it. And why would you want yours to look like everybody else’s? So often, with my clients, I will use my own handwriting because I know nobody else will have that. I can just do it on my iPad, export it to my computer, digitize it in their outline at all the things, and then pull that into their brand that way. A lot of times, when I do use script, I will use my handwriting. Sometimes if it’s not right for the client, I will just search. I spend hours searching. When I find the right script, I also spend hours after finding the right script, adjusting the endpoints of the script.

I outline it and adjust the endpoint so that it still doesn’t feel 100% like the tight face. Because I want it to look different, and I want it to be fresh. And I also want it to look natural and have a nice flow to it. It feels like a script. So it needs to emulate handwriting. Don’t pick cheesy fonts. There are so many outdated, cheesy fonts when it comes to scripts. There are so many outdated, cheesy scripts. And that’s why I like to stay away from them in and just in general, because they go out of style so fast. You guys, it’s so amazing how fast the script goes out of style. I would just avoid it as much as possible if you want it to be in your logo or something like that. Get somebody to hand draw it who is a hand-drawn letterer.

Get somebody to draw you something custom so that it is custom, and it is handwritten? And you can digitize that or just use part of the logo in the script. For instance, we have a client this week who wanted script wanted it in the middle of two other words in her logo. And so that’s where we introduced that script. You sparingly never use it as titles. If you’re going to use it as a display in your type suite, you can do that, but you never want to use it as titles. And you only want to use it in like a word or a few words, never in a sentence ever, ever a good place to look for inspo, which many people give this as inspo is Jenna Kutcher site.

Her designer, which I believe they use Tonic Site Shop. Tonic is super good at using scripts because they understand these rules, and they only use them very sparingly as design elements. Look there, and you’ll see what I mean. If you’re going to do it in a logo, get it hand-drawn, stay away from script trends. If you can try and do something different from what’s on the market so that you’re not feeling your brand doesn’t feel like everybody else’s and then a big one, I see people sometimes do that. It’s so cringy to me to uppercase script font, like you can do title, cap, title, case, or sentence case, which is where the first letter of the word is uppercase, but never put two letters next to each other that are uppercase in a script ever.

Please never, never promise me right now. You will never, never do that. Please promise me. Another thing that is more so is like a copy lesson, but it ties into typography because typography is copyright. You want to cut your copy down by half and then cut it down by half again. You just want the least amount of copy you can have on a page. You want it to get straight to the point, sell whatever you’re selling, and sell the feeling you’re trying to emulate in the copy, but you don’t need your copy to be long AF. I hate when I go to somebody’s site, I am not somebody who wants to read that. Like, give me the opportunity. And I think there are a lot of different types of people, of ways to sell. There are different buyers.

I’m the buyer who’s like, I know what I want. When I hit your website, you better show me where I can buy this because I’m ready to buy it already. I’m ready. I already know that I want to buy from you. I don’t need to read this. Like I need you to have a proper type hierarchy so I can just read the titles as I’m going down the page. Maybe the subheads probably won’t read through your body copy because I don’t have time for that slash don’t care because I already know I want to buy. So that’s me. But there are other people out there, other buyers who do like to read a lot. You will want more, so when it comes to the copy, you still need to have your body copy font. You don’t want nothing on the page, but cut out all the bullshit.

Get straight to the point. If you have body copy, you need to separate it by title, subhead, body title, and subhead body. There are people like me who can skim the page, but then those other buyers want to read a lot. They can still read a lot if they want to. And by a lot, I don’t mean like pages and pages and pages. I mean, like a little paragraph a lot. So that’s just a little quick tip regarding topography. It’ll make your designs look better. Especially when your guys are posting graphics on social media and Instagram, like WTF is this thing where people need to put every single word that they’re feeling in their brain that day into a graphic. No, don’t do that more. If you have more to say, create a carousel where you have multiple graphics, but keep the least amount of copy on each graphic, it will look better.

Tip #4: Avoid widows and orphans

I notice this in a lot of graphics from people who aren’t designers, and what a widow am going to try and explain this in audio right now. But if you have, if you just can’t utilize it, feel free to Google.

It’s like you have this paragraph of text, and then you’ll have one word on one line at the end, and then you’ll have your period, or you have one word at the top of the paragraph. And then your paragraph starts that’s a widow and an orphan. You have a giant paragraph, and then you have one word. You never want one word on a line, unless that, unless you’re doing a graphic like that, but that’s not the point.

The point is like, don’t have one word on the line, extend your text box make it skinnier or wider so that you can fit more words on a line so that there’s not that widower orphan.

Quick Tips:

The next one is never letter space lowercase. I see many people they’ll have their lowercase, either body copy or whatever, and they’ll throw some letter spacing in between it. The space between the letters doesn’t do that. You shouldn’t be doing that lower case. Body copy stuff is meant to be read it’s for readability. It’s meant to be read. And when you have letters, spacing in there, it makes it less legible. Don’t do that. But on the flip side, this is another tip. Do letter space, upper case letters.

let’s talk all caps for a second here. My final tip is about all caps too. When you add, you don’t have to add a lot of letter spacing. It was really popular a year, two years ago, to have quite a bit of letter spacing. That’s a trend that ebbs and flows in the design world. Sometimes you’ll have negative spacing. Sometimes you’ll just have regular spacing. Sometimes there’ll be popular to have a lot of spacing in between your letters. Typically, though, with uppercase all caps stuff, especially I would say not Sarah, not Sarah, as much as San Sarah, this is more so for San Sarah, you want to add a little bit of spacing between them just because it’s easier to read. And another thing that I noticed with one-liner is, and again, you can break these rules if you know why you’re breaking them,

But one thing with all caps is you don’t want to use that for paragraphs. You don’t want to use it for long sentences. You want them to be a one-liner or just like a short phrase because they’re harder to read. When people are posting on their Instagram stories and using the new Instagram typography, the all-caps one that like sand Saraf, all caps when a lot of people will use that. And it’s harder to read, and it can be aesthetic and all of that stuff. But I don’t suggest using that for longer paragraphs. It’s not that big of a deal, it’s just Instagram stories, but these are all tips for your brand and your business to build an aesthetic type suite. And these little tips that I’m giving you make such a difference when you pay attention and put them into practice in your brand; it makes your stuff instantly look better.

And you’ll be able to look at it before you probably didn’t know these rules. You could look at something and be like, there’s, there’s just something about this that feels off, but you couldn’t quite put your finger on it. Now you have these tips and tricks. You’ll be able to look at your graphics, and you’ll be able to reference this podcast episode, which by the way, we always put a little transcription of it on our website, in the blog. If you don’t want to come back and listen, you can always go quickly; look at the transcription in our blog. But basically, you’re going to be able to look at your stuff and be like, wow, this looks better. Oh my gosh, I had no idea how much typography meant to my business.

Click here to listen to the full show on Apple Podcasts