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essentials of typography
Marketing 501,

The Essentials of Typography in Marketing

It’s no secret that we experience the world around us through letters and words. I mean, you’re reading and experiencing this blog post right now… through letters and words! Here at Look Listen, we like to think typography is just as important. What’s McDonald’s without its signature logo? So, let’s talk about the essentials of typography. We’ll cover a little history (talking to you, Gutenberg), along with the anatomy, personality, and future of typography as we know it.

A Brief History: Introduction to Typography

In the beginning (a.k.a in 1450), Johannes Gutenberg created the first movable type out of lead alloy that proved to be so effective, it’s still used to this day. For the first time in history, mass production of texts was possible thanks to the Gutenberg Press. This revolutionary invention launched the Printing Evolution.

Fun fact: the first book printed was the Bible. There are only 49 copies still in circulation, and they are subsequently known as the “Gutenberg Bibles.” 

Gutenberg bible stamp

Legibility Reigns 

If you’ve ever seen calligraphy from way back when, you’ll likely agree it’s unarguably beautiful. But, can you read any of it? If you’re like us, the answer is: not well. The first typefaces in Europe were modeled after the ornate style of writing used by scribes. At the time, most people (who could read) were used to reading this beautiful, complicated type. 

Example of ornate, European calligraphy typeface
Credit: Andrei Ermakov via Getty Images

This style of difficult-to-read-but-lovely-to-look-at-writing is now referred to as “Gothic.” A reaction to the Gothic typeface was the Garamond typeface, which was developed in the Renaissance period along with other Roman styles. These styles have thinner curves and serifs, resulting in a cleaner, more legible page. Eventually, these evolved into the serif typesets popular today in Western printings.

Examples of Garamond typeface

We have just one question: Are you a serif person or a sans-serif person?  

The Anatomy of Type: Terms, Classifications, and Properties

The only time you’ll hear us talking anatomy is when it comes to breaking down the body parts of letters. Believe it or not, all letterforms have specific terms used to describe their individual pieces that make up the whole.

From sans-serifs to serifs, they all have legs, arms, ears, shoulders, tails, spines, you name it!

Let’s break down the main pieces of typography you’ll most often hear referenced: 

A table containing examples of letter "body parts" including arm, bowl, ascender, stem, bar, shoulder, descender, and spine

While we’re at it, we’ve put together a cheat sheet of some of the most commonly used terms surrounding the anatomy of type. Check it out: 

X-Height: The x-height isn’t exactly a part, but rather a measurement. It measures the height of all lowercase letters that are part of the same typeface. It’s called x-height because the letter x of each typeface is what determines the measurement.

Cap Height: The cap height is a measurement of all capital letters in the same typeface. The most accurate measurement is found in flat-bottomed characters like the letter E.

Kerning: The space between individual letters. It’s used when you need to move only one letter because it is too far or too close to its companions.

Tracking: The proportional space between all the letters in a body of text. When you change the tracking, it helps fit more letters in a small space or spread out letters if they are too tight.

Example of tracking

Leading: The space between baselines. This means that when we manipulate the leading, we are changing the way a paragraph looks.

Example of leading

We Are Letters and Words: Type as Personality 

Words and letters are in practically everything around us. In our modern culture, people identify brands and products based on their carefully chosen typography. How typography is used and designed can evoke a mixed bag of feelings. It can be sleek and modern, dark and grungy, fun and playful, or old and classic! While a brand logo may not have any typography at all (think the unforgettable Nike swoosh), a wordmark is a text-based logo (think the stunning Coca-Cola red cursive letters).

What are some of your favorite brand wordmarks (other than the Look Listen wordmark, of course)?

Pretty much anyone in the world can recognize these iconic golden arches immediately!

The Future Of Type: Considering New Standards

As a marketing agency, Look Listen is no stranger to the ever-evolving, ever-changing landscape of our industry. We never want to stop learning, and we know standards and practices change in an instant. So, what are some current best practices for typography in relation to digital marketing? 

Best practices around web text often differ from printed text, and there’s a lot more to account for when it comes to rules around the web. Digital typography needs to…

  • Capture shorter attention spans
  • Remain readable
  • Adhere to accessibility standards
  • Stay compatible across multiple digital devices (from your big ole computer monitor to your small phone) 

Let’s talk typography hierarchy (say that five times fast) for web pages. Most web pages, especially text-heavy ones, break content into sections by topic. These sections are signified and labeled by headings. The order of text, from most prominent to least prominent, comprises the hierarchy of the page. Hierarchy is crucial for making pages easily navigable and digestible. Readers should be able to jump to whichever section is relevant to them by looking at headings alone. You can see this example that we broke down on the New York Times home page. 

How do you standardize text fonts? With so much information out there, is there a way to know? A common practice is to set all website text to a minimum and maximum size. You can (and should) increase and vary the size of your text to further assist readers and establish hierarchy, but don’t go overboard with massive fonts either!

Want to know our recommended font sizes for body copy? We’ve got you: 

Mobile font size: 12-16
Tablet font size: 15-19
Desktop font size: 16-20

Final Tip: If you are a brand or a company, find a font you will use across all integrated marketing. Along with your company font, design a logo that will resonate with your audience and leave a lasting impact. Typography is powerful!

We’re Here to Help

To ensure you’re using typography efficiently to propel your brand, contact us to get the conversation started.

Resources & Further Reading:

Thinking with Type – Ellen Lupton 

The Visual History of Type – Paul McNeil

The Anatomy of Type – Stephen Coles

On Web Typography – Jason Santa Maria

The Responsive Website Font Size Guidelines

Designing for Readability – A Guide to Web Typography

The Beginner’s Guide to Typography in Web Design

The Ultimate List of Web-Safe HTML and CSS Fonts

Marketing 501,

Meet: Zack Fifer

To get to know the people behind Look Listen, we’re breaking down our name to see what inspires and captivates our staff members in their free time.

Name: Zack Fifer
Title: Visual Designer
Time with LL: A month and a half
Pronouns: He/Him/His

What are you looking at?

Currently I am looking at a TV show and a book. (Not at the same time though; that’d be crazy). The TV show is the legendary anime series One Piece. The show is amazing and I highly recommend it, but it is a whopping 1000+ episodes. I am only on episode 150, so wish me luck!

The book I am reading right now is Dune. I am one of the people who after watching the recent movie adaptation decided to read the book. This is another legendary series that paved the way for a lot of sci-fi concepts we see today, so I guess you could say I am on that legendary content ride right now 😉

What are you listening to?

Spotify is my vehicle for all music and podcasts and I love making playlists. I tend to listen to one playlist on repeat but some of my favorite genres are hip-hop and indie rock. The most notable artists I am listening to right now are MF DOOM, Tame Impala, Glass Animals, Beastie Boys and Phantogram.

Look Listen Logo
Marketing 501,

A Visit to LogoLand: Behind the Scenes of a Brand Mark Refresh

As creatives, we’re constantly scrutinizing our own work for opportunities to improve upon it, especially when there’s some daylight between then and now. Recently, we took a good hard look at our logo and decided — though it has served us well — the time was right for an upgrade. We wanted the new mark to hold on to the brand equity of the original while encapsulating the refinement and sophistication that’s been the result of our company’s growth. Our design team went deep into the data, and we’re incredibly proud of the result. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at the work.

Neon sign that reads: Click & Collect
Marketing 501,

Get the Clicks: Do’s & Don’ts of Effective CTAs

Americans, on average, are exposed to roughly 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements per day. Yes, you read that right. In the age of information overload, good content marketing is rendered ineffective without a strong call to action (CTA). It’s important to capture your audience’s attention from the moment they lay eyes on your advertisement or email — but it’s even more important to inspire them to take action.

White chair in a black room
Marketing 501,

Do This, Not That: Stakeholder Interviews

There’s a lot that goes into the successful kickoff of a new project. Before the planning, however, comes the research. And while auditing documents and reviewing assets are crucial components of good research, stakeholder interviews are the gel that brings everything together. Below, some do’s and don’ts to guide your stakeholder interviews, research, planning and eventual project success.