Big type, small type

Uploaded by bamagazine on 21.02.2011

Here's a tip for when you've set your type in one size, but you're going to use it at
a larger or smaller size, you need to make some adjustments. Have a look at this.
I have the first paragraph of our Declaration of Independence set in Adobe Caslon.
And by the way, Caslon was in use at the time of the Declaration, and was Ben Franklin's
favorite typeface.
This is set in its default settings, which look great at normal size, but when we reduce
it begins to get somewhat congested. The solution here is first to add
letter- and word-spacing -- in this case about
40% --
and then to add line spacing, or line leading, to this. And what we're doing is putting white
space back into this paragraph by
separating all the characters, airing it out, relaxing it a bit,
and it makes it more readable at small sizes.
To see this really small, look again at the original setting
reduced to 50%
and set next to it the more-relaxed version. Setting it this way takes slightly more
space than the original. To me, this is a trivial tradeoff for the increased readability,
but if you
must fit an exact space, the solution is to
reduce the new, relaxed paragraph, keeping its proportions the same, and fit it in that
space. The converse of this is also true --
if you've set your type at its defaults, and you want to use it very large,
like you might with a poster, you want to do the opposite.
In this case, when we enlarge the word, it's very readable, but there's an unnecessarily
large amount of space between the letters.
The solution is just to remove that space. This can be done with kerning, letter by letter,
or by tracking the word overall, and the result will be a more attractive word for viewing
in large sizes at close distances.
You see this technique every day along our highways. Our highway signs are marvels of
legibility. You can see them at tiny sizes a long distance away, at speed, in the dark,
in the rain, in the wind, and they do it the same way:
Here's Peachtree Lane set as it would appear on paper.
Relax the letterspacing.
Relax the line spacing.
And there you go.
So, to review --
smaller type,
bigger spaces.
Bigger type,
smaller spaces.
And that's your design for today. Those of you who have our Master Collection DVD
will find this original article in issue 23 on pages 2 and 3.
Those of you who don't have it might want to check it out.
I'm John McWade.