by Ilene Strizver
In today’s digital world, most graphic designers find themselves doing their own typesetting. In pre-digital times, typesetting was a totally separate, highly specialized craft worthy of apprenticeship and years of practice in the pursuit of mastery. Modern technology offers robust design software with myriad typesetting features. These enable previously unimaginable ease, flexibility and creativity – but are not in themselves a guarantee of typographic proficiency. Along with the opportunities come complexities, nuances, and, occasionally, frustrations. A typographic checklist is a surprisingly simple and valuable way to ensure that your typesetting is both professional and appealing.
I always recommend that designers and students make a typographic checklist to help avoid committing type crimes, as well as to aid in finessing their typography. I’ve decided to create a checklist that covers issues I’m most frequently asked about in my workshops. You can download the PDF and print it out. You can also click on the links to learn more, as I’ve previously published columns dedicated to most of these topics. You may find it useful to customize your own checklist from the topics below for a specific client or project.
Steer clear of these common type crimes:
☐ Eliminate double word spaces between sentences
☐ Replace dumb quotes (including apostrophes)
☐ Check inch and foot marks (primes)
☐ Use hyphens, en- and em-dashes properly
☐ Avoid fake scaling, embolding and slanting
☐ Avoid computer-generated (fake) small caps
☐ Use all cap text sparingly
☐ Beware of all cap swash settings
☐ Size type appropriately (both text and display)
Spacing and alignment
Good visual balance and alignment contribute greatly to professionally set typography.
☐ Avoid poor justification
☐ Avoid tracked out lowercase
☐ Make sure kerning is even and tasteful
☐ Apply hung punctuation / optical margin alignment
☐ Check for proper vertical and horizontal alignment
☐ Use tracking appropriately, as necessary
☐ Check for appropriate word spacing and adjust as necessary
☐ Align initial letters properly
The devil is in the details, so use these points as a guide to first-rate typography:
☐ Adjust bad rags
☐ Avoid too many hyphens in a row
☐ Avoid widows and orphans
☐ Use appropriate figure style and spacing
☐ Use diagonal fractions if possible, especially in OpenType
☐ Fine-tune size, position and spacing of bullets
☐ Fine-tune position and spacing of ®, ™ and © symbols
☐ Adjust glyph positioning as necessary
- Editor’s Note: Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a typographic consultant, designer and writer specializing in all aspects of typographic communication. She conducts Gourmet Typography workshops internationally. Read more about typography in her latest literary effort, Type Rules! The designer's guide to professional typography, 3rd edition, published by Wiley & Sons, Inc. This article was commissioned and approved by Monotype Imaging Inc.