Type Tips for Laity

Designers rely on words, words that are presented to be noticed, read, understood, and acted upon. Typography is the craft of presenting words that will most effectively inform, teach, entertain, and move people to action—to change behavior. Today we're sharing a few guiding principles that we use when we're working with type (and so should you). 

  • avoid using more than 2 or 3 typefaces in a piece
  • contrast is key: don’t mix serifs or san serifs unless one is decorative
  • use only 1 space after a period
  • don’t double space between paragraphs
  • don’t indent below a subhead (it’s redundant)
  • keep subheads closer to the text below them than above (You want the subhead to be hierarchically associated with the text below.)
  • use real en-dashes (ranges) and em-dashes (grammar)
  • use a typographic grid for structure and organization

To learn more about type and the terms designers use to talk about it, take a look at Brad's pocket guide to typography.

Tried and True Typefaces

If you’re having trouble selecting a typeface, here’s a list of classics. Our favorite type foundries are noted in parenthesis (yeah, we’re kind of nerdy that way).

Classic Serifs

  • Garamond (Adobe)
  • Baskerville
  • Caslon
  • Century (ITC)
  • Mrs Eaves
  • Dido
  • Bodoni

Classic Sans Serifs

  • Univers
  • Helvetia
  • Futura
  • Avenir
  • Proxima Nova


  • Filosofia Unicase

Never Use

  • Papyrus
  • Comic Sans
  • Times Roman

So next time you open a Word document, there’s no need to passively accept 12pt Times New Roman type or 1” margins. The ultimate goal of typography is legibility, and sometimes (most of the time) the default just isn’t the most effective option.

Related: Brought to you by the letter "g"