School of Art, Media, and Technology

Typography, Twitter and Trump

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Brendan Griffiths, director of the MPS Communications Design program at Parsons School of Design in New York, is [an expert] — specifically in the context of designing for interactive platforms…” writes Philip Bump in a recent Washington Post article featured below:

At the end of the day, perhaps typography will be Trump’s downfall
By Philip Bump for Washington Post November 10, 2017

Consider the following blocks of text.

Each says the same thing, lifted from an article about the Alabama Senate race. One, we suspect, you found easier to read. Namely, the lower one.

Why? For some specific reasons. The first is what’s called leading, the space between the lines of text vertically. (Pronounced like “led,” the term is a reference to a time when lead was used to space out the lines of text in a printing press.) The second block also includes a paragraph break, making it easier to separate out the ideas it includes, as you might list a phone number as 555-3226 instead of 5553226 to make it easier to remember.

That block also uses a typeface with serifs, the little ticks at the ends of the letters, like on this K. Why are they there? Because the serifs create a visual sense of a consistent line across the page (or, in this case, screen). It’s like writing on a sheet of lined notebook paper; the serifs act like lines in the background keeping your eye moving along the line.

The Post’s designers found a balance of leading and type that they think makes it easier to read the text in our articles. This is the art of typography, and it’s an important design consideration. After all, if you were faced with a Post article that looked like the Block 1, the odds are good that you wouldn’t actually read the thing.

So let’s now talk about the president.

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