Posts filed under 'typography'

Type Size and Leading, White Space and Page Color

4 comments February 24th, 2013

The size of type, of an individual letterform in a particular typeface, is measured from the top of the highest ascender to the bottom of the lowest descender. (Note: I originally had some kind of brain freeze and defined this incorrectly. But Michael Brady was kind enough to point this out to me in a LinkedIn group discussion.) But that doesn’t mean different typefaces fall the same way on a page. Some typefaces have larger x-heights (measured from baseline to the top of, say, a lowercase x. Others have longer or shorter ascenders and/or descenders. So there are definite differences in how much space characters in any particular type occupy in comparison to those same characters set in another typeface.

type_sizeLeading, as indicated by the dotted horizontal lines in the example above, is measured from baseline to baseline. After type size, leading is perhaps the simplest way to exert control over the color of the page—i.e., how dense (light or dark) the page looks.

Rule of thumb says 120% of the type size is a usual leading. So if the type size is 10 point, rule of thumb calls for 12 point leading.


Too little leading—the term originates from strips of lead placed between lines of type when type was set by hand, in metal, during the pre-digital age—and the page will be crowded with type and have a dark look.


Notice how the above example appears blacker than the one above it, which looks grayish in comparison.

Too much leading, on the other hand, distracts the reader’s eye. Such text looks disjointed, and the lines no longer appear to be joined into paragraphs. The page looks lighter still than the previous lighter page.


My sense over the last few years has been to use more and more leading, pulling up way short from too much, but definitely stretching beyond 120% of type size. With the ITC New Baskerville type I’ve used for all my examples, I was able to stretch the leading to 16 point, over 131%. And yet I think it clearly is not too much.


Stretching limits, but not rupturing them, I believe, is a good way to create page designs that are attractive and original, but do not distract readers from the books they read.

Large Type Might Not Be Only for Well-Known Author’s Bylines

2 comments September 8th, 2012

One of the problems for me with many of the forums that self-publishers frequent is that many threads end up discussing rates—that is, how to get one’s book edited, designed, typeset, and marketed for the cheapest possible outlay of cash. Recently, though, a really interesting conversation took place about book covers. Specifically, the issue arose whether an author’s name should be large, larger than the book’s title, and under what circumstances.

The consensus, with which I instinctively agree, is that it is appropriate to sell a book by pumping up the author’s name on the cover when that author is a “name,” a big-time author with a following. Stephen King’s legions of fans only need to see his name to buy without thinking.

I am not faulting readers for their faith in Mr. King. Nor am I suggesting that publishers or designers misplay their cover strategy by not going the same rate for books by authors not nearly as well known or, indeed, unknowns. But I got to wondering whether featuring an unknown’s name large on the cover might not send a message like: You may not have heard of this author, but he or she is not to be missed.

What do you think?

A Surprising Slant on Type

4 comments December 11th, 2011

Working lately on two books by self-publishers, both autobiographies, I reached the point where one was ready to upload to my client’s printer. In this particular case, that meant CreateSpace, the wing of Amazon that provides services, including printing, to self-publishers.

Interestingly, when I uploaded the printer-ready PDFs I had prepared from InDesign files of the interior pages and the back cover/spine/front cover document, CreateSpace’s Reviewer utility sent me error messages—the interior pages file needed fixing. The first, I must admit, was helpful. The Reviewer found two or three of the dozens of artfiles were in the RGB color space, instead of CMYK. In jockeying some art around at the last minute, I overlooked the need to convert them to CMYK, which CreateSpace requires.

Good enough. That was certainly better than having the whole file or just rejection notices emailed back to the client.

But there were still a handful of problems, all the same. Text, the Reviewer noted, was running into the inside and outside margins. Repeatedly. This problem text turned out to be italic, lowercase “effs” at the beginning and end of lines. Take a look at one:


Even given that this blog does not display in the typefaces I used for the book, you can see the source of CreateSpace’s problem, although—admittedly—if you’re displaying this in sans serif type the problem may appear faint at best.

The first ones I spotted when looking at the pages the Reviewer utility had singled out were at the ends of lines. See the top of the “f”? It slants rightward, as italic type should. But as the last letter on a full line, principally as part of the word “of,” it did, technically break into the margin.

On the inside part of pages, it happened with words beginning with the letter “f.” Notice how the bottom of is to the left. That was, again technically, into the margin. Of course, we are only talking a matter of a point or two. I mean, if this were the National Football League, and the “f” were a ball carrier, and the margins were the goal line … well, touchdown. But it really is crazy splitting of hairs in typography.

This book has two versions: one where my client-author’s art—mostly photos of his paintings—is in black-and-white, and a second version where the art displays in full color. I actually went back and did some type manipulation to eliminate the offenders.

And still, the Reviewer pointed out, more remained.

Except the “more” turned out to be the roman variety:


Do you see it? The crossbar on the left side is what ticked off CreateSpace’s Reviewer.

On this second, the color version, I had had enough. I clicked the “Ignore Reviewer” option and crossed my fingers. As far as I know, there have been no dire mishaps.


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