TypeTalk: Ten Commandments of Type

What better time than January to make typographic resolutions? Adhering to the ten points below is a great start. And if you already have all of these rules down pat, give the list to someone else. Just change “I shall not” to “You shall not” and you have the Ten Commandments of Type!
One: I shall not fall in love with a typeface that doesn’t fit the project at hand.
Two: I shall always use “smart” (or typographer’s) quotes and apostrophes, and save the use of “dumb” (or typewriter) quotes for inch and foot marks. Ideally, I shall use primes for inch and foot marks.
Three: I shall not letterspace lowercase characters, set lengthy text in ALL CAPS, or set swash typefaces in all caps.
Four: I shall not take for granted that my type is properly aligned. I shall always check the horizontal alignment of any centered headlines, which might visually appear off-center due quotation marks, dashes, asterisks, or other punctuation at the beginning or end of a line. I shall also check the vertical alignment of heads and subheads, which can look unequal, especially when a line of all caps is mixed in with upper and lowercase text.
Five: I shall choose typographic treatments that honor my clients’ needs, desires, and wishes, and that support my clients’ design and marketing objectives, target audience, and readability requirements.
Six: I shall not murder type by applying over-the-top distortion, including scaling, extensive outlines, shadows, glows, or any computer effect that goes too far.
Seven: I shall look out for widows and orphans and eliminate them by whatever means available to me within the context of the work.
Eight: I shall not steal my neighbor’s fonts, denying the designer and/or foundry of their rightful royalty for their blood, sweat, and tears.
Nine: I shall not use typefaces just because they appeal to my personal taste. I shall conduct extensive font explorations, not limited to the fonts I have on my computer, until I find the right typeface(s) for the job.
Ten: I shall not commit typographic adultery by combining fonts poorly. When in doubt, I shall explore the use of type families, super families, or systems, such as the Scala, Stone, and Compatil families.

  • Anonymous says:

    Contrary to your second commandment, it should be noted that ambidextrous or “dumb” quotes are not the same as primes, and should not be used as such. They are separate characters, each with their own Unicode values.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks for all your great articles on type. I beg my clients all the time: “Please don’t letter space lowercase letters!” I just think it makes the type look weak and ineffectual. Nice to know someone else out there doesn’t care for it either!

  • Strizver says:

    You are absolutely right, and the link leads you to an explanation of the difference between “dumb”, typewriter quotes and primes. But only a small percentage of (OpenType) fonts contain them both, which is why “dumb” quotes are commonly used for inch and foot marks in the absence of true primes.

    Ilene Strizver

    .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

    T H E T Y P E S T U D I O
    Westport, CT
    203.227.5929
    http://www.thetypestudio.com/

  • Anonymous says:

    It will be a cold day in Hawai`i that I will ever delay reading one of Ilene Strizver’s great articles on typography and the huge world of subjects that can contain.

    Thank you Ms. Strizver for the wisdom of your great suggestions — or, as referred to in my shop — RULES. You make the world a better place. Mahalo.

  • Anonymous says:

    these are excellent. If only you could squeeze in “no ampersands,” and “know your hyphen from your dashes.”

  • Anonymous says:

    Good article – but do they teach these rules in College anymore? I loose count the number of Widows and Orphans, condensed typefaces, etc that I see, and from some highly regarded Design Agencies.

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  • Anonymous says:

    The true test of an expert type professional? Hanging indents. If numbered or bulleted items have a second line that is indented, that indent better have razor-sharp alignment with the first word of the first line. No excuse for it to be otherwise in my not-so-humble opinion.

  • Anonymous says:

    Two: I shall always use “smart” (or typographer’s) quotes and apostrophes, and never use “dumb” (or typewriter) quotes for anything except coding.

    The crap about inches and feet is a nonsequitur.

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