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Practical points for producing perfect publications
Part 3 - Typography

November 2018

Type styles

Designers have access to an extensive library of typefaces. As a starting point try to select two or three styles appropriate to your publication. One option could be to start with a contrasting serif and sans serif typeface.













For serif typefaces choose styles such as Caslon, Jenson, Chronicle, Miller, Palatino, Garamond and Goudy. Helvetica, Franklin, Univers, Gill Sans, Meta and Swiss are good sans serif styles. Experiment with different combinations to see what suits your magazine. For example, you might use Helvetica for your headings and Garamond for your body text.

  • Look for font families that have a range of weights and widths – light, regular, bold, black; extended, condensed etc.
  • Remember serif type is easier to read in longer feature articles.
  • Use sans serif styles for headings and pull quotes.
  • When using sans serif fonts increase the leading (space between lines) to make it easier to read.
  • Try laying out different typefaces in your page layout to see how they look.
  • Choose typefaces for their readability rather than style – poorly set text can be difficult and frustrating to read.
  • For body text choose a size between 9pt and 12pt. Although be aware that the x size (the size of the lower case x) can vary between typestyles. A larger x height will make your type look bigger and take up more space.
  • Remember your audience – an older reader may prefer larger text.







Columns and text alignment

When designing magazines your aim should be to make the experience enjoyable and easy for your reader.

  • For magazine body text use left alignment or justified type.
  • Avoid centred and aligned right copy which is very difficult to read.

Personally, I would also avoid justified text. If you decide to use it then make sure to adjust the letter spacing properly to avoid gaps in the text or too many hyphens. You can use the tracking and kerning options in your software to make adjustments.










Columns that are too narrow or too wide, or with closely packed text can make reading very frustrating. If your columns are too wide then it is hard for the reader to follow. Columns that are too narrow can cause the structure of the text to break up with lots of odd spaces and the need for hyphens.

Ideally a line of unjustified text should have around 9 to 12 words, and justified text should have up to 15 words. However, a better measurement is to allow a minimum of around 30 characters in any line where you have a layout of four columns or more. With a two column layout allow 38-45 characters per column line. Absolute maximum would be around 70 characters.

Leading (space between the lines) should be set around 120%. Increase this for wider columns and decrease it for narrower columns.

Design your grid to work with your optimal column layout.









Now for a bit of social responsibility: look after widows and orphans!

Try to avoid widows and orphans caused by poor typesetting…

An orphan is the term referred to a word which is left by itself at the bottom of a paragraph or column of text.

A widow is a line of text at the end of a column separated from the rest of the paragraph, meaning that the next line is either in the next column or on the next page.

Poor typesetting can affect the visual impact of the page and also cause disruption in the flow of reading. Paragraphs of text can be adjusted using tracking and kerning as before, or work with the editor to adjust the length of the text.


Resources – learn more…

So you want to publish a magazine – Angharad Lewis

Magazine Designs That Work, Stacey King

Making and breaking the grid, Timothy Samara


We’d love to help you with your magazine, in-house newsletter or publication.
Please get in touch to arrange a meeting with our knowledgeable designers.





Call us now on 01382 201171

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Practical points for producing perfect publications
Part 1 - Cover Stories

Part 2 - Page Furniture

Part 3 - Typography

Part 4 - Images and layouts

Part 5 - Colour and print set up

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