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Type & Layout: Are You Communicating or Just Making Pretty Shapes.

Type & Layout: Are You Communicating or Just Making Pretty Shapes

Colin Wheildon, with additional material by Geoffrey Heard

The Worsley Press

FAP Books, Inc. (dist.)

P.O. Box 540, Gainesville, FL 32602

ISBN 1875750223 $36.95

Type & Layout by Colin Wheildon is an excellent introduction to typography and the readability of advertisements, brochures, and other written communication pieces. This book is valuable to anyone who creates advertising, direct mail, or graphic arts. It's also useful to authors and publishers who seek to enhance the readability of their material. And, it's extremely valuable to purchasers of advertising who wish to be sure their message to their readership is being maximized.

Based upon reader surveys, Type & Layout shows us how easy or how difficult it is to read various type. We learn the percentage of readers who cease reading due to poor design or poor type selection.

For example, when using a Roman font, switching to an italic type for emphasis has roughly the same readability as the base font. However, switching to a bold type tends to lose half the readership. We learn that long passages in bold are a definite no-no.

Surveying thousands of readers, it was found that 90 percent of the readers were happiest with 12-point type, set at 13-point leading (12/13). But, at 12/12, only 72 percent of the readers were as satisfied. More leading also created a drop in readability. When averaged over a large number of prospective readers, these drops in readability greatly affect the number of individuals who receive the full message. This has significant marketing implications.

Wheildon writes: "Let's set the scene by looking at figure 10a (p. 34), a very simple design. We'll assume it occupies a page in a mass circulation newspaper or magazine, and that its eye-catching illustration and thought-provoking headline have attracted the attention of a million readers. We've set the body matter in an elegant serif face, say, Garamond (see figure 6, p. 25). ... The conditions for comprehension are excellent. The chances are good that the message will be comprehended thoroughly by about 670,000 of those readers, two-thirds of them. ... Now let's suppose that we reset the type in a sans serif face, say Helvetica, reputedly one of the more legible sans serif faces. Figure 6 (opposite) shows how this looks. The chances now are that the message will be comprehended thoroughly by only 120,000 of our readers!"

Type & Layout teaches us the way the eye flows naturally across a page and downward and how interrupting this flow of eye gravity turns off readers. Surprisingly, we learn that justified type is actually more readable than ragged-right type. Ragged-left text has the worst readability of all. While 67% of the participants experienced good readability with justified text, a meager 10% found ragged-left text to have good readability.

We also learn how incorporating color in type or in the background affects readability. We learn how kerning and tracking affect readability.

After studying the lessons in Type & Layout, some of the professionally-created examples of poor readability design that are given in the book seem downright humorous, with the designs bending and twisting text and mixing colors like orange and yellow to make readability nearly impossible! It's argued that computers may give designers too much ability to do fancy things that distract from their ultimate message.

One great example shows how a scripted headline, tilted upward between a strong visual element and more readable text below, is almost never read in a hurry. Combining text which is barely readable with misuse of gravity, the headline is unintentionally buried better than the small print in a legal contract!

I highly recommend Type & Layout to everyone who works in advertising, publishing, or graphic design and who wants to maximize the impact of their materials.
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Author:Hupalo, Peter
Publication:Reviewer's Bookwatch
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 2005
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