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Basic Typographic Principles

The use of type can make or break a design. So having a strong understanding of the basic principles of typography enables you to create attractive and original type compositions.

To ensure that you get off to the best start using LiveMotion to set type and work with text objects, you'll learn about typography before working through the ways LiveMotion allows you to set and modify type.

The principles covered in this section include the following:

  • Categories of type—There are numerous categories of type, and within each category families of typefaces exist. This section provides an overview of the five type categories relevant to Web and multimedia design and looks at several families and faces within these categories.

  • Style, weight, direction, and alignment—There are various ways to modify type to increase its visual impact.

  • Type size, tracking, and leading—The sizing and relationship of individual letters, words, and sentences can be controlled using a range of techniques. This section covers the ones you'll need to effectively modify type in LiveMotion.

  • Combining type—A savvy designer often uses more than one typeface or style to create his or her message. But combining type takes a bit of skill. You'll learn how to successfully combine typefaces in a fashion appropriate for your audience and intent.

Essentially, you can consider this portion of your hour as time spent in design school. I promise it will be time well spent, and what's more, it's a subject I particularly enjoy. I'm confident you'll enjoy it too.

Type Categories

Type is defined first by category. A type category describes the general features of the type rather than its more specific elements. You'll also look at subcategories of type, including families and faces. Families share similar characteristics within a category, and faces can be thought of as the individual personalities within a given family.

Let's look first at the five common categories relevant to working with LiveMotion (see Figure 3.2):

  • Serif—This category includes all type families and faces whose letterforms have little strokes, referred to as serifs.

  • Sans serif—Type in this category tends to be more rounded, with clean lines and no flourish strokes.

  • Monospaced—Remember the typewriter? This ancient piece of machinery outputs type in which each letter and space was the same size. This means that the letter "I," which is slim, and the letter "W," which is wide, take up the same amount of space.

  • Script—Anything that resembles handwriting is referred to as script.

  • Decorative—Artistic type can really add spice to a page. Decorative type is any type that has been made interesting by the type designer's addition of shapes or designs to the individual letters.


Another kind of font you'll want to make note of is Dingbat. This category is filled with pictographic faces. Dingbats can be useful in creating borders, edges, and fun visuals.

Figure 3.2 Examples of type from each of the five categories mentioned.

Typically, serif and sans serif faces are used for body text, although some designers enjoy using monospaced type for a trendy look. Script and decorative type are reserved for headers and stylized areas of a design.

Although you can use serif and sans serif type successfully in headers, you will almost always want to avoid script or decorative type for use as body text.


The term font describes the letters, numbers, and symbols included with a given electronic typeface. Type families are found within categories and are named sets of typefaces and fonts with unique characteristics.

Now let's look at some individual families found within categories.

Exploring Serif Type

As mentioned, serif type is stroked type often used in body text. The thought is that the strokes help guide the eye along the lines of text. This is particularly true in the context of print, although there is some debate as to how best to use serif type on the Web.

Although serif typefaces are the default for many Web browsers, many Web designers feel that sans serif fonts are better for the screen. Whether you decide to use serif or sans serif faces for body text, you need to know a bit about the common families and faces within the serif category.

Common serif families include Times, Bookman, and Garamond (see Figure 3.3).

Figure 3.3 Common serif type.

Working with Sans Serif

Because the letterforms of sans serif type tend to be wider and rounded, their use within screen elements is popular. Serif type is difficult to accurately represent with monitor pixels and is therefore often clearer in print. Sans serif type also seems to have a more contemporary look than serif faces.

Common sans serif typefaces include Arial, Helvetica, Franklin Gothic, Gill Sans, Trebuchet, and Verdana (see Figure 3.4).

Figure 3.4 Popular sans serif type examples.


Trebuchet and Verdana are fonts that were created specifically by Microsoft. They are commonly used by Web designers geared toward the Windows platform. They'll look fine on the Mac too, as long as they are installed on the individual machine.

Along with body text, sans serif type is an excellent choice for headers because the type is clear and easy to read.


Sans serif faces tend to be clean and readable. Therefore, you can feel confident using them for almost any audience.

Monospaced Type

If you're going for a "grunge" look, you can use monospaced type as both header and body text. You can stick with traditional monospaced fonts including Courier and Courier New or use one of the newer fonts in this category (see Figure 3.5).

Figure 3.5 Courier and Courier New are two common examples of monospaced type.

For a while, many faces were created using monospaced style. These faces, which are part of the "Schmutz" family, can create a clever look (see Figure 3.6).

Figure 3.6 Monospaced type became popular, and several trendy spin-offs of the style have been created.


Think carefully about your product and audience before employing monospaced type. Although readability of these faces is okay, there are better choices. Be sure to avoid using a face just because it's "cool." Does it really work with your content? If you are certain that it does, go for it.

Using Script

Script faces are usually reserved for specific reasons (see Figure 3.7). The features of script faces tend to include slants, curls, and loops. Although these features can make for an attractive face, they can also make the script difficult to read.

Figure 3.7 The use of script in this design helps evoke a sense of refinement.


Because script faces can be difficult to read, they are best used for headers and decorative page elements.

Fun with Decorative Type

Decorative faces tend to be the most expressive and fun. These faces have purposely been designed to break out of the practical and help you as a designer create a mood.

Figure 3.8 shows several of my favorite decorative faces.

Figure 3.8 Decorative faces are fun and expressive.


Choose decorative faces for headers and other design elements. Avoid them for body text. Your main goal with a decorative face should be to use the type to help express your message via visual means to your audience.

Type Width, Weight, Posture, Direction, and Alignment

Type can be modified within its family in various ways, including the following:

  • Type width—Width refers to how much visual room a face takes up within a limited portion of space. Common widths include condensed and expanded (see Figure 3.9). Condensed means the individual letterforms are very close together and their strokes are compressed, whereas expanded forms tend to be wider in both stroke and spacing.

  • Type weight—Referring to how visually "heavy" a face appears, weight may be light or heavy, bold or normal (see Figure 3.9).

  • Type posture—Which way does your handwriting lean? Type posture is the angle at which a given typeface is set. Italic posture serves to emphasize text. Oblique posture is much like italic but is more rigid and is typically found in sans serif faces. It was created after the advent of electronic forms of typesetting became available (see Figure 3.9).

  • Type direction—The direction type flows can help create a feeling about the design. Horizontal type is straightforward and conservative, whereas vertical type can be used for impact (see Figure 3.10).

  • Type alignment—The alignment of type is also referred to as justification. Type can be aligned to the left, center, or right (see Figure 3.11). It can also be justified. Justified type has been modified to create clean lines on both the left and right margins (see Figure 3.12).

Figure 3.9 Width, weight, and posture.

Figure 3.10 Type direction.

Figure 3.11 Aligning type to the left, center, and right.

Figure 3.12 Justification smoothes out both the left and right margins of text.

Type Size, Tracking, and Leading

So many type features to study. It won't come as a surprise to you that certain designers focus their entire work and study on typography. It's one of the reasons type is so powerful—a lot of thought and care has gone into the creation and design of type.

Features of important note include the following:

  • Size and proportion—The size of a given portion of type is relevant to the message that size sends. Type that takes up much visual space is going to dominate the space, whereas small type is less noticeable. Furthermore, when you're using more than one type size in a design, the proportion—the relationship of one type size to another—has a lot to do with the balance of the overall design.

  • Tracking—This is the distribution of space between letters (see Figure 3.13).

  • Leading— Also referred to as line height, leading is the spacing between lines of text (see Figure 3.14).

Figure 3.13 Tracking allows you to control the distribution of space between letters.

Figure 3.14 Adjust leading for different looks.

Combining Type Styles and Faces

Effective design often involves the use of type combinations—whether they are as simple as choosing one type for a header and a different type for the body text or as involved as combining type styles and faces within a single word or phrase (see Figure 3.15).

Figure 3.15 Combining type can create a memorable look.

Type combining is used to lay out pages, create distinctive headers and logos, and, in the case of contemporary type artists, create entire visual designs.

Try your hand at setting different kinds of type in creative ways. But keep in mind that in most cases balance is everything. Too few typefaces can leave a design looking average and even bland (of course, this may be appropriate for your needs). Too many typefaces in a design may confuse your audience and distract them from the important content.


If you want to set combinations of type, type styles, and other type variations in LiveMotion, you have to set each individual style as a separate object. For example, in Figure 3.15, I set the first word and then the second word. They are two separate objects.

Effectively working with type takes study and practice. You'll get to do that in upcoming sections, using LiveMotion to create and modify text objects.

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