Technical Editing & Production





Typography reading

Discussion Questions

Week 1


You need to come up with two distinctly different design schemes. Have fun.

You are designing a book that talks about fossil plants and arranges them according to their taxonomic classification. Your job is to figure out two different ways to display the hierarchy of headings in the book without size, bold, italics, or underscore fonts. Assume for unknown reasons, the entire book will be printed in 12 point Garamond. You cannot rearrange any of the text.

Heading levels: Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus

You can't just draw a tree structure. These are headings in a book and there are long text discussion and graphics under each heading. Any single page may only have one or two headings. You must ensure the reader can visually tell which level the headings corresponds to.

An example using size and bold could be (neither of which you can use):

Phylum = 24 bold
Class = 20 bold italics
Order = 18 bold
Family = 14 bold italics
Genus = 12 bold

Yes, this definitely an exercise in thinking outside the box.


Week 2


In Brumberger’s The Rhetoric of Typography, she references the issue of typography being transparent.  She quotes Beatrice Ward (1956a) who believed that type should be invisible, “a ‘crystal goblet’ for verbal text”.  Yet, she goes on to state that recent arguments dispel that notion, “providing yet another important parallel to verbal language”.  She asserts that typography “serves not as a clear window into the verbal text, but rather as a prism that refracts the verbal message of a document”.  From our assigned readings, do you see typography as a crystal goblet – or as a prism that refracts?  Why?

Flowers through wavy glass. Nice abstract art, but what if you needed to indentify flower parts for a botany study.


weak answer I think that a well-chosen type should not be consciously recognized by readers because it should meet readers’ expectations. I believe that more times than not a reader will notice a type that is not fitting, instead of noticing a type that is very fitting. I’ve experienced times when a reader has complained that a type is not readable, but I’ve rarely heard anyone comment that a font and typeface was great and really increased the documents readability.



Thoughts to ponder


"Typographic Dimensions" starts out by saying:

Two sources can help us make these decisions: published guidelines about typography and trained visual judgment. It takes time and effort to train visual judgment, so it is easier to consult and follow guidelines for the specification of typographic dimensions. Adhering to these guidelines should, according to their authors, lead to legible and attractive documents. However, many document developers who have to make decisions about type specifications struggle to apply these seemingly simple guidelines. And what is worse, following these guidelines may lead to results that are disappointing both functionally and aesthetically.

A major part of this course is to help you move from having to either just follow guidelines or "looks good to me" design, and being able to make informed decisions about how to communicate information.


At first glance, is this "Cleepy Creek" or "Sleepy Creek"?

Would it be a bigger problem is "Cleepy" was a valid English word?

cleepy or sleepy


"With the mono-spaced fonts that were common on early computer displays (e.g., Courier), the addition of extra spaces between words to create an even right margin (full justification) generally slows reading (Campbell, Marchetti, & Mewhort, 1981; Gregory & Poulton, 1970; Trollip & Sales, 1986). With the proportionally spaced fonts more commonly used today on web pages (e.g., Arial, Times New Roman, Verdana), the effects of full justification are not quite as clear. Fabrizio, Kaplan, and Teal (1967) found no effect of justification on reading speed or comprehension, while Muncer, Gorman, Gorman, and Bibel (1986) found that justification slowed reading performance. More recently, Baker (2005) found an interaction between justification and the width of the columns of text: justification slowed reading speed for narrow (30 characters) and wide (90 characters) columns, but improved reading speed for medium-width columns (45 characters)." And here are those references:

Baker, J. R. (2005). Is Multiple-Column Online Text Better? It Depends! Usability News, 7(2). http://www.surl.org/usabilitynews/72/columns.asp

Campbell, A. J., Marchetti, F. M., & Mewhort, D. J. K. (1981). Reading speed and test production: A note on right-justification techniques. Ergonomics(24), 127-136. Fabrizio, R., Kaplan, I., & Teal, G. (1967). Readability as a function of the straightness of right-hand margins. Journal of Typographic Research, 1(1).

Gregory, M., & Poulton, E. C. (1970). Even versus uneven right-hand margins and the rate of comprehension in reading. Ergonomics, 13, 427-434.

Muncer, S. J., Gorman, B. S., Gorman, S., & Bibel, D. (1986). Right is Wrong: an examination of the effect of right justification on reading. British Journal of Educational Technology, 17(1), 5-10.

Trollip, S. R., & Sales, G. (1986). Readability of computer-generated fill-justified text. Human Factors, 28, 159-163.

I think the study by Ryan Baker (part of his doctoral dissertation at Wichita State Univ, I believe) is particularly interesting because it showed an interaction between text justification and the number of columns of text.


"Typography, layout, and graphic design" specifically mentions that small print in many documents is designed to prevent you from reading it. Brumgberger makes many arguments which supports the idea that you can hide information in plain sight by your design choices. Besides legal documents, it's common in many manuals with the warnings, limitations, etc. Even the use of long paragraphs, rather than lists or several short paragraphs could be work toward this hiding effect.What are the ethical considerations of doing so?

Many managers wan to use techniques such as these to hide or highlight information which shows their work in a more favorable light than if all of the information received the same formatting.


Rules for labeling patient drug information

Yes, I was surprised as well that it had been 25 years since the last revision.

There are a few FDA specific requirements in the following presentation - http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Training/ForHealthProfessionals/UCM090796.pdf.

I did find some specific design specifications from the Institute for Safe Medication Practices at this link: http://www.ismp.org/tools/guidelines/labelFormats/comments/default.asp.


from a former student: From my experience in newspapers, we are very careful about what kind of font for headlines goes with what story. Big, bold type is for hard news, mostly stories of extreme interest. Then we have a standard font that's at a certain thickness for ease of scanning and to keep the paper mostly serious in tone. Thinner fonts are for more lifestyle or in-depth reading. I'll admit, the weight and style gets heavier and bigger to highlight what we want most highlighted, and I think these bold fonts tend to instill a sense of the story's importance in the reader.


Fonts as invisible servants

I watched a period movie set in the Gilded Age in a British lord’s house. It was interesting how his servants had become essentially invisible to him. He sat down to eat and food simply appeared before him. He walked toward a door and it opened. The people serving the food or opening the door didn’t exist as far as he was concerned. The only time he noticed them was when something happened which drew his attention, such as the clang of a dropped plate. Likewise, fonts should be invisible to the reader. They carry the text to people’s eyes and evoke the proper emotional response for the text. The only time they get noticed are when they are inappropriate (wrong font choice, too small/too large). If a font is noticed, then a design team needs to reconsider the font choice.




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