Intro to graphic design styles part 5: typography

Intro to graphic design styles part 5: Typography

Typography is the art of styling words and fonts by using techniques to adjust stylistic variations in a layout. What’s changed by these stylistic variations is a font’s appeal, or how appealing is it to look at, and it’s legibility, from somewhat illegible (think graffiti) to easily read (think of the font in a book).

Typography has a deep anatomy. Each letter consists of many structures, which include its spacing, weight and layout within the paragraph.

structure of typography

As you can see above, there are many elements that make up the structure of a letter and how each letter interacts with one another to create words.

The structure of each font is made up of varying elements that require consistency across the each letter. Each font has a set of guidelines, e.g., the baseline and cap height set the overall size of the font. By varying the x-height, ascender height and descender line, you can dramatically change the overall style of the font. So, too, do the structural elements, such as the stem thickness and each intersection, adjust the fonts style.

font weight - typography

The weight of the font adjust the thickness different fonts have. When you use a thin or ultra thin font, you can imply subtlety, luxury and a sort of femininity. Whereas a bold or ultra bold font is often associated with the impactive, loud and the masculine.

serif vs san serif-typography

A serif is the small line or accent end cap that is added to the top and bottom of each letter. Serifs are not applied to oval letters such as “O and C” and are not applied to the curved portion of letters, such as “R and P”. Serif fonts are typically associated with luxury, and decorative and ornate.

A sans serif font excludes the accent end cap found in serif fonts. Sans Serif fonts are often associated with being light, simple, clean and uncomplicated. Sans serif fonts are particularity popular as a default paragraph web font because it’s easy to read on a computer screen.

kerning vs tracking-typography

Kerning is the modification to the amount space between two individual letters / characters that step across each characters line. When kerning is done right it produces a pleasant, visual balance.

Tracking is similar to kerning, however, instead of adjusting the spacing between individual letters, tracking globally adjusts the spacing across all letters inside a text block. Increasing the tracking substantially affects legibility. 



1) Centre alignment: all of the text is aligned to the centre of the area. Centre aligned text is great for headlines, quotes or a short amount of information.

2) Right alignment: all of the text is aligned to the right of the area. Right aligned text is the universal standard for paragraph text. This is largely due to the English language reading from right to left.

3) Left alignment: all of the text is aligned to the left of the area. Left aligned text works well to display a short amount of information, such as notations or quick points.

Intro to graphic design styles part 4: art deco

Intro to graphic design styles part 4: Art Deco

Art Deco: a style that screams glamour, luxury, exuberance, modernity.

Art Deco is a movement that arose during the 1920s. The performance of infusing everyday objects into art made this style a symbol of modern luxury. It’s incredible popularity, as with any popular movement, influenced many disciplines, including graphic design, architecture, furniture and fashion. 

Art deco has a prominent feature that is recognizable in any medium: its use of bold, clean lines combined with a streamlined appearance that’s adorned with an ornamental or geometric pattern. In addition, these designs are often paired with strong, contrasting colours.

If you’re looking for a way to create a design that stands out in a bold way within our modern version of advertising, Art deco may be for you.

How to incorporate art deco into your designs: Use bold, clean lines to guide the viewer’s eyes towards a specific direction.

Redesign curves so that they become angular shapes.

Have your shapes represent organic objects.

Use ornamental and geometric patterns to create visually stimulating designs and patterns as a main feature or subtle background.

Use strong, high-contrast colouring not normally found in nature.

For your typography, use tall, thin and uppercase letters with angles; remove the curves.

Intro to graphic design styles part 3: minimalist graphic design

Intro to graphic design styles part 3: Minimalist graphic design
Minimalist graphic design and your business.

A minimalist graphic design is defined as a design piece that only utilizes the essential, expressive elements. Less is truly more. If you maintain a simple, clean and open layout, you allow the person viewing it to take in the entire design in one glance.

Business owners tend to ask their designer to include every element of their business, i.e., it’s products, services, phone number and area(s) served, into whatever graphic they’re designing. It’s often the same for web sites: web designers are asked to stuff many elements into the home page, elements that are better split into multiple pages.

People expect this for different reasons. The two most common are that

1) they’re hoping to hit every audience at the same time.

2) they want to make sure whomever sees it sees everything.

In reality, audiences rarely need every service you offer and audiences aren’t that wide. Simply stated, people don’t care about every service you offer. They only care about the one they need right now. This is why minimalist designs that focus on one service or product often produce the best results.

How to incorporate minimalist graphic design into your business' designs

Essential Elements: Limit the amount of visual information a viewer will need to process. One relevant photo and simple headline should be all it takes.

Limit your headlines: Make a strong statement and keep that statement narrow. They can learn more by reading more.

Strong Imagery: Capture attention with a powerful image with the highest quality.

White / Negative space: Leave breathing room around each object or text block allowing each part of the design to be viewed separately.

Remember, focus on what is the most important elements of your design and remove everything else.

Graphic Design Styles Part 2, Vintage and Retro

Intro to graphic design styles part 2: Vintage & Retro
Borrowing from the past with vintage and retro graphic style

Vintage and Retro graphic design styles are loosely defined as any style that borrows from the past. However, the past is relative. Most of the clients I work with associate vintage and retro with the 50s & 60s. I associate it with the 90’s.

Frankly, I love this style. Vintage / retro looks used within brand identities naturally imply a vibe of longevity, which implies your business has been around a long time.

Here are my top choices on how to design with that “Vintage Feel”

Aging and distressing your design: An aged or weathered look can really make a design feel like it belongs in a different era. Features like scratches, sun fades, un-polished or worn-in flair makes any design to appear older than it is. Items may need some tacks, pin-hole or ripped corners; or maybe faded, peeling tape marks. All of this is a subtle add-on which makes a design looked aged or distressed. If you think you can get away with it, add some hand-written notes or doodles on the piece. Have fun with it.

Media types: Replicating older photography, such as, Polaroid pictures, aged newspapers prints, vintage poster boards or even metal signs, easily create a vintage or retro graphic design. You can replicate the look of aged paper, wood and metal by including scratches, chips or fades. Metal can also be designed so it looks bent or rusty.

Colours: Colour is bound by fads. Try to work with the design colours that were trending in the decade you’re trying to capture.

Typography: Fonts are bound to fads as well Try to work with the fonts of the era your design is set in.

Imagery & icons: The best thing to do is here is to work with the iconic technology of the era. Images of a rotary phone, record player or cool cars from the day work wonders.

Of course, rules are meant to be broken. Using technology that wasn’t a part of an era or a mash-up of styles and effects works beautifully.

This is how new styles are born. Just remember, you’re always walking a fine-line. Be careful with going overboard.

Intro to graphic design styles

Intro to graphic design 

I will be creating a series of blog posts over the next few weeks that will help you understand how graphic design will serve your business' needs. This series will begin with an outline of graphic design.

The term graphic design is defined as, "stylization and presentation of text with or without the use of imagery to aid as a communication tool." The idea that graphics is a communication tool is embedded in our language, e.g., "a picture's worth a thousand words." And this exactly why graphics are used so widely in business and our everyday lives, e.g., street signs, instruction manuals, logo designs, and websites.

They say that the average person is exposed to around 5000 advertisements a day. That number might seem staggeringly high, but take a walk down the road and you'll notice that every person is walking down the street wearing some type of branded clothing, every store has their logo over their door, and every product in the store is its own brand. It's no wonder that many of us have become accustomed to a certain level of design.

All this effort is put into graphic design because brands often have a clear, specific audience in mind that they want to target. Which means designers must spend a lot of time deciding what style of graphics best targets the brand's audience. What this means is that you need to be careful in what colours, fonts, and overall imagery your design portrays.

This will often be the difference between having an acceptable outcome or an amazing tool that can lead to an increase in sales. Choosing the right graphic designer for your business will be very lucrative for your business goals. The opposite is also true. Hire the wrong designer or one that doesn’t fully understand your audience and you will often waste a lot of time and money.