James Felici has worked in the publishing industry—in both editorial and production—for more than 30 years. A veteran journalist and former managing editor of Publish magazine, he has set type by hand as well as on systems from IBM, Linotype, Compugraphic, CCI, and Magna. His books include The Complete Manual of Typography (Peachpit Press), The Desktop Style Guide (Bantam/ITC), How to Get Great Type Out of Your Computer (North Light), and contributions to The Macintosh Bible (Peachpit Press). He has written for numerous publications, including PC World, Macworld, and The Seybold Report, and has been a featured speaker at Seybold Seminars, Macworld Expo, and other events worldwide.
- Features: Written by James Felici on November 30, 2011I’ve railed against the use of automatic leading before, but in this article I want to point out how even when carefully set, consistent leading can look wrong. It’s another case of the numbers in a software program saying one thing but your eyes saying another.
- Features: Written by James Felici on November 2, 2011Display type is supposed to be attention-grabbing, and an easy means to that end is to puff up the spaces between characters, a technique known as letterspacing. At text sizes, loose character spacing can camouflage a variety of composition sins, such as alternately loose and tight lines, but at large type sizes, spacing problems become more dramatic and more obvious. So while letterspacing may be good for grabbing readers’ eyes, it’s no shortcut to pleasing them. Follow these basic rules to avoid the most common pitfalls.
- Features: Written by James Felici on September 29, 2011Monkeying with the outlines of typeset characters is usually a shortcut to an ugly mess, but there are some simple—even traditional—ways to manipulate outlines to good effect. In this column, I'll look at inlining and outlining as representative examples.
- Features: Written by James Felici on August 24, 2011My "Marrying Types" series looks at which typefaces blend well with which others and why. But in the mix-and-match debate, it's easy to overlook the innumerable collections of faces that were designed from the get-go to work together: typeface families. So let's consider a singularly successful single-family effort, Marjorie Spiegelman's original design for Macworld magazine (Figure 1).
- Features: Written by James Felici on July 27, 2011Typography evolves slowly, its progress held in check by the demands of readability. However, typeface aesthetics are more fluid. The 10th edition of Manual of Style, published by the University of Chicago Press in 1937, offers a window onto developments in both typography and type design. Now in its 16th edition and known as The Chicago Manual of Style, it's considered the copy editor's best friend. But 75 years ago it was simply a “volume of typographic practice.”
- Features: Written by James Felici on June 29, 2011I've just finished reviewing two rounds of printed page proofs from the second edition of my book The Complete Manual of Typography (Adobe Press/Peachpit Press), in the course of which I hand-kerned some 150 passages of display type as well as scores of instances in text and captions. I am in the perfect frame of mind to expound on kerning, going well beyond the "Kerning 101" basics I outlined 18 months ago in the article One Good Kern Deserves Another."
- Features: Written by James Felici on June 2, 2011It’s easy to have too much faith that our page-layout programs will do the right thing, especially when it comes to centering type. Although centering lines of type seems like a straightforward mechanical process, what your program says is centered doesn’t necessarily look centered. It’s up to your eyes to spot the problem and yours hands to make the fix.
- Features: Written by James Felici on May 4, 2011Logos consisting mainly of letters may not always read like text, but that doesn’t mean that their designers can stomp willy-nilly on the rules of good typography. In other words, a logo is more than just a graphic entity, and how it looks depends in large part on how well its characters are placed. I got to thinking about this after reading of a new European directive that requires herbal medicines to be tested for purity and efficacy in return for the right to bear the “seal of approval” shown on Figure 1. Even a quick glance at that logo set the alarm bells ringing.
- Features: Written by James Felici on April 5, 2011Typographic ornaments used to be a design staple back in the days of metal type, but they’re not part of the standard modern page-layout kit. While there are scads of pi fonts with all kinds of oddities (see “Easy as Pi”), buying a new font for a couple of characters may not be the best use of your money. So fake it! Here are some recipes for a handful of common—and not so common—typographic ornaments and decorative rules that you can adapt to all sorts of design situations.
- Features: Written by James Felici on March 21, 2011In every frame of text you set, it's vital that the alignment of your type gets off on the right foot, and that starts with the position of the first baseline. Most people just let their page-layout software do what it wants. By default, those programs position the first baseline according to the type's ascender height, so that ascending characters on that first line just scrape the top on the text frame. This begs the question of where, exactly, that baseline is. And the answer is, who knows?