An Introduction To Graphic Design: Typography Measurements & Guidelines

Part 4: Typography Measurements & Guidelines

Typography is a topic of passion for most graphic designers. This passion has led to hours and hours of lectures and discussions about serifs versus sans serifs; topics which would seem very trivial to inexperienced designers. In addition to serifs and sans serifs, there are many more seemingly trivial topics discussed in the design community. These topics of discussion are definitely not trivial, and they make the task of mastering typography all the more difficult. The previous lesson outlined the basics of typography, and introduced terms describing the structure of type. This lesson will be a continuation of the previous lesson. If you haven’t read the previous lesson, An Introduction To Graphic Design: Part 3, it can be found here on the Freepik blog. You’ll also find it helpful to read An Introduction To Graphic Design Part 1 and Part 2, both of which are located on the Freepik blog. Keeping in cadence with the previous lesson, we’ll start with some important terminology.





Measuring type is important for scale and conversion. Type is measured in pica and points. A pica is a unit used for measuring type. There are 6 pica in 1 inch. Pica are most commonly used for measuring lines of type. Originally, pica measured lines of type based on typewriters. Pica was a typewriter type providing 10 characters to the linear inch and six lines to the vertical inch. To further measure type, there are points. A point is also a unit used to measure type. There are 72 points in 1 inch and 12 points in 1 pica. Measuring type in this way is helpful when designing digital documents that will be printed. Knowing those units of measurement and their conversions will save a lot of time and resources. It can be very costly reprinting and resigning the same project numerous times due to inaccurate scaling.

Type can also be measured with distance and spacing. Leading is the space between each line of type. In a text editing program such as Microsoft Word, the leading could be recognized as line spacing. For example, selecting double spaced or single spaced documents. The tracking is the space between characters in a word. Tracking refers specifically to the spacing of the characters in a whole word. The kerning is the spacing between individual characters within a word. For example, tracking refers to spacing of each character in the word “happy”. Each character is evenly spaced. The kerning would refer to the space between the “h” and the “a” only, the “a” and the “p” only, the “p” and the “p” only, or the “p” and the “y” only. The term kerning can only be applied when dealing with individual spacing between characters within a word. Although not units of measurement, glyphs are very important. A glyph is an alternate version of a character. Many typefaces provide several versions of the same character. These versions are often stylized, or dramatized alternatives to the original character. In applications such as Adobe’s Illustrator and Adobe’s InDesign, a menu containing glyphs is provided. Within this menu, alternatives to all the characters in the selected font are listed. This can be helpful for providing a visual description of the glyphs available.

Guidelines & Best Practices

Before diving into pairing and combining typography, it’s important to review some rules and best practices for working with type. As mentioned in the previous lesson, type serves to provided clarity and improve communication. Typography should be esthetically pleasing and complement the overall design, but clarity really is most important in the majority of designs. A well designed poster is useless if the desired audience can’t understand the message. So, with that in mind, here are some suggestions for working with typography.

  1. Always choose typefaces and fonts that are clear and legible.
  2. Maintain the scaling and integrity of typefaces. Skewing, warping, or morphing type is unprofessional and unnecessary. Choose a font that meets the needs of your design. Do not stretch or squish a font to fit a certain space or design style.
  3. Use consistency throughout your design, and limit the number of typefaces. Having too many different typefaces, fonts, sizes, colors and alignments can confuse viewers. It’s best to pick a single style and limit distractions.
  4. Work with traditional typefaces. Anyone can create a font, but it doesn’t mean all the fonts available are high quality, reliable fonts. Using traditional fonts such as Gotham, Helvetica, and Ariel are safe choices for almost any project. Experimenting with new styles can add uniqueness to a design, but for important text that needs to be legible, its best to work with what has already been tested and proven effective.

There are hundreds of rules and tips for incorporating effective typography. The above guidelines are a starting point on your journey of mastering typography. The following image is a great example of implementing traditional type in conjunction with stylized type. The design uses effective typography to convey the idea of wilderness and nature. The design is conservative yet esthetically pleasing.




Typography best practices will serve you well in the upcoming lesson which focuses on pairing typefaces. Choosing the best combination of typefaces will determine the overall quality of your design work. Typography sets the mood of a design, and draws the viewer into an experience. Soon, you’ll be able to provide immersive experiences through typography for viewers of your designs. The images below are examples of using typography to create a certain mood and atmosphere. Any designer can create a similar effect with typeface pairing, discussed in the next lesson.