With Canva and other similar design and photo editing software being so freely available these days, there is A LOT of ‘DIY Design’ happening all around…
Many qualified designers are against it – technically it is a threat to our industry, I get it, but I also TOTALLY get how people (entrepreneurs, creatives in other industries etc) want to ‘give it a go’ and to do their own design work, whether this be to scratch their own creative itch or to save on costs etc, so be it – you do the best you can with what you have available, and I know not everyone can afford to hire a pro. I will say this though, having a professional to set you up at least and to design your basic visual branding WILL be worth every penny and will give you the building blocks you need for DIYing the rest! I have seen very few attempts at DIY branding that have actually been successful.
Anyway, this is not really the point of my post, I’m firmly rooted in the camp of SHARING. Sharing ideas. Sharing knowledge. Giving as freely as I can afford to (girl gotta pay bills!)
I thought it would be useful to start sharing more stuff with the DIYers out there – design tips, tricks, things I have learned – to help them improve what they are creating, and to hopefully help make the world a prettier place because, DAMN, some of the stuff I’m seeing is hurting my eyes and my little design heart 😉
Jokes aside though, I hope this first post is useful to those who are interested in typography and text formatting. There are tons of free fonts available online that may look exciting and enticing to the untrained eye, but I’d like to share some tips that will hopefully help you to make better font and formatting choices for what you are doing.
To start off with, if you are interested in learning the difference between a Typeface and a Font, read this – might as well start from the beginning. Note: I may use the terms interchangeably in this post, don’t read too much into it.
So, what makes a font ‘BAD’? Some will argue that there are no bad fonts, only the bad usage of fonts! For me – or more correctly, FOR YOU – if you don’t have the design software and skills needed to work with type, then you should just stick with using well-made fonts and formatting tricks that fall into the tried-and-tested category.
In my opinion, the following are to be AVOIDED where possible:
1. ANYTHING THAT IS HARD TO READ: newbies to the design world often get super excited about all the cool and creative fonts out there, and it’s regularly forgotten that the whole point of design is COMMUNICATION – make sure your fonts are legible, and easy to read. Be careful of script and brush lettered fonts which work really well with some letter combinations and less well with others.
2. FONTS WITH BAD KERNING (ie when the spacing between each letter is not good!) This is a great example I recently found and I think it explains exactly what ‘kerning’ is and how bad can kerning can make type look, well… bad! ALSO – it is a very rare occassion that hand-written/script/brush-lettered fonts need to be kerned so please be careful when widening the letter spacing on those, it often just looks plain weird!
Here’s another example of why kerning matters!
3. BAD SPACING BETWEEN WORDS – depending on what software you are using, this is something you may not be able to adjust yourself, but I still thought it worth a mention as something to keep a look out for when deciding on fonts to use – not only does the spacing between letters affect the appearance of text, but so does the spacing between actual words – a good example:
4. BAD LINE SPACING – as if I haven’t harped on enough about spacing, this one is really important and, to me, one of the very obvious signs of a DIY design – bad spacing between lines of text (the technical term for this is leading)
5. USING TO MANY FONTS: there are very few occasions where there is a legitimate need to use more than 2 or 3 fonts in one design…
6. FONTS THAT ARE TRENDY AND OVER USED – remember to stick to fonts that are in line with your brand and your message – just because it looks cool when others use it, or because its something different/new, doesn’t mean it’s right for YOU. Font all have personality traits and emotive qualities, and can affect how you communicate things – here’s a nifty little example that I think communicates this well:
7. BAD TEXT ALIGNMENT – here’s a hint, centered text is usually NOT the right choice! Alignment is another one of my pet peeves and I could go on about it for days, and it’s a tough one for a novice to ‘see’ and get right BUT in most cases, left alignment works well for legibility, and aligning separate blocks of text/titles etc with one another is recommended in general. Bullet points should never be centered. A good example of bad alignment:
8. BAD HIERARCHY – think about what you are trying to communicate and what is the most important bit of information you need to get across to your audience – THAT should be the most obvious thing on your page/graphic. The recent Oscars mistake is a GREAT example of why this matters – in 88 years of Oscars history the winner of a given award has never been announced wrongly – UNTIL NOW! Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were given the wrong card (for a different award) but had the design of the card been better, they would have IMMEDIATELY picked up that it wasn’t even applicable to the award they were supposed to be handing over – example below (read more about it in this post which explains it a better than I probably have!)
9. TOO MUCH OF EVERYTHING – last but not least, with many things in life, not just typography – less is often more! Dont try to squash too much into a graphic, dont make your text ginormous (unless there is a reason for this) and make sure you leave some ‘white space’ to give your text some breathing room and to actually help it stand out more! Make sure imagery/graphics placed near to the text aren’t disrupting/distracting from/obstructing it. Design is all about harmony and balance and creating a visual that communicates your message in the most optimal and effective way.
There is SO MUCH more to share about all of these points and other design principals that might help you along your way but I hope this has assisted somewhat – keep your eyes peeled for similar posts in the near future too 🙂
Please feel free to hit me up with any questions, post suggestions (what would YOU like to learn about!?) – leave a comment below or email me HERE
FURTHER READING FOR ANYONE WHO IS INTERESTED: