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Quick Fixes: 5 Tricks to Elevate Your Typography Work in Minutes

TypeJuice June 29, 2021 · 6 min read

These are some of my favorite quick tricks to really help your typography pop and give it that extra polish. Not everyone is an experienced typographer or has the time to design a custom typeface, but these tips can help speed up workflow and give your type a unique touch. Software and design tools are constantly evolving, so these tricks will focus more on techniques that can be applied across any software.

1. Contrast

One of the quickest ways to elevate a layout that’s looking a little flat and really make it pop is to use contrasting elements. Contrast doesn’t just refer to the varying difference in color or value like black type on a white background. It can also be used in scale, weight, and even in the style of typefaces or fonts you choose to use in a design.

Contrasting Fonts

Try using two contrasting typefaces in your design to create a more engaging experience. This refers to two very different typeface styles and could be as easy as pairing a geometric sans serif with a flowy script font or a strong serif font with a minimal sans serif. Possibilities are almost endless, and the fun is in experimenting with different combinations.

There are also online resources that will help you find complementing font pairs if you’re in a hurry or stuck for ideas.

https://fontjoy.com/

Contrasting Weight And Scale

Use contrasting font weights and sizes to build visual hierarchy and more engaging designs. The simplest form of this would be using a large bold font for a title or headline and then a smaller, lighter font for a body of text. Try taking this a step further and experiment with different ways to creatively incorporate scale and weight into your typography.

Alternatively, to really speed up this process, there are several online resources that generate complementary font sizes and weights based on mathematical ratios.

https://type-scale.com/

2. Custom Kerning

Most people working with type are familiar with letter spacing or tracking, both referring to the distance between glyphs in a word or body of text. This a fairly standard setting in design software, allowing you to add or remove spacing uniformly between all glyphs. These settings are commonly confused with kerning, which is the individual spacing between two glyphs. For example, an “A” sitting next to a “V” will have different kerning than an “O” next to a “C” even if they are all in the same word. Kerning is a way to balance negative space between glyphs making words more legible and pleasant to read.

Customizing kerning in logos, wordmarks, titles, etc., is one of the quickest and easiest ways to personalize short-form type. A little extra attention to the negative space between glyphs will give your type a unique polish standing out from type that is simply typed on with default settings.

Quick Kerning!

There are many ways to adjust kerning depending on the software you use. Adobe software like Photoshop and Illustrator has some of the quickest and easiest. Simply place your cursor between the two glyphs you wish to adjust, then hold Alt and use the left and right arrow keys to add or remove space until you have the desired spacing.

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3. Custom Glyphs

Another quick and easy way to elevate your type and make it stand out is by customizing glyphs. When working on logos, wordmarks, titles, and other short-form typography, adding a unique glyph or glyphs to a word or phrase is a quick way to personalize your type. For example, this can be as quick as extending a letter, adding a unique serif, or removing part of a glyph.

To speed up workflow even further, you can use a font with built-in alternates or custom glyphs. This allows you to experiment and customize type without having to use image editing software such as Photoshop and Illustrator to create unique glyphs.

4. Grids

Understanding and using grids in your typography is a fast way to take some of the guesswork out of where elements should go and how they line up in a layout. This will help create implied lines and harmonies in your design.

What Exactly Is A Grid System?

In its simplest form, a grid is a series of columns and rows. A common example of this is the way newspapers are traditionally laid out. Grid systems will generally also include margins; this is the space around the edge of your artboard and gutters the space between columns.

Create Your Own Grid Presets

Creating your own grid presets or overlays that can quickly be applied to your design are a great way to save time. I like to have a set of my favorite grid layouts like a basic 6 column grid drawn out on a transparent .png in the formats I use most, like letter, tabloid, and 16×9. I can then drop the grids on separate layers and quickly jump straight into design.

Pre-made Grids

Speeding things up even further, you can purchase a variety of pre-made grid templates online.

5. Less is more

Everyone has heard this before but implementing it into your typography can be more difficult than just keeping it at the back of your mind. Probably the quickest way to polish a piece of typography is taking a step back, looking over your work, and making sure all the elements you’ve used serve a purpose. Here are a couple of quick points to check over.

Avoid Using Too Many Fonts
A general rule of thumb is to use only as many fonts as needed in a single design.

Make Use Of White Space
White space gives your type room to breathe and helps with legibility.

For The Love Of Type

There are plenty more tricks out there to speed up design workflows and elevate your type, but these 5 are the ones I use most in my day-to-day work. Please share any of your tips and tricks in the comments for others to take advantage of.


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