Typography Rules To Live By

orange county typography guidelines

Typography Rules To Live By

Typography Rules To Live By 800 400 Urban Geko Design

We at Urban Geko deal with all aspects of graphic and web design; everything from ease of usability to SEO website design to visual hierarchy. One subject that our team of design professionals is especially skilled at is typography; something that can often be misused in everyday advertisements. Not sure what typography is? Watch this short video introduction by the Vancouver Film School:

As you can see several elements are utilized in the creation and use of typography: kearning, leading, serifs, san-serifs etc. (A good way to remember the difference between serif and san-serif is to know that “sans” means without.) To expand your typographic knowledge here are few rules to live by when you sit down to design:

Don’t leave widows and orphans bereft on a page

Widow: When a paragraph leaves fewer than seven characters on the last line.

Orphan: When the last line of a paragraph won’t fit at the bottom of a column and must end itself at the top of the next column.

-These elements are not only visually unappealing, but it also makes it more difficult in the readers’ mind to process. Like this.

Make only one space between sentences

Use only one space after periods, colons, exclamation points, question marks etc. Forget what they taught you about double spacing in school.


Don’t substitute a hyphen for a dash. Hyphens are fine for word continuation (which should be avoided if possible as well), dashes should denote a break in the sentence – just like that.
Hypen: –
Dash: –

Avoid Underlining

Use italics instead of underlining, it appears more professional for noting the names books, movies, magazines and newspapers. It’s also best to italicize the space before an italicized word.


Adjust the spacing between letters according to your visual perception– optical kerning. A great trick for perfect kerning: turn the letters upside down so that your brain is not distracted by your ability to read the word. By turning the letters upside down you will be able to identify the negative space between each letter to make sure it is perfectly kerned.

Tabs and Indents

Use tabs and first-line indents properly. The space bar should never be used to align text.

Paragraph Distinction

If you chose to indent the first line of a paragraph don’t add a space between paragraphs too. It needs to be one or the other.


Keep your linespacing consistent. It’s best to tighten up the leading for text that has all caps or few ascenders and descenders.

Serif & Sans Serif

Serif type is more readable for body text while sans–serif type is more legible and is best used for headlines.

Now that you know the basics of typography we encourage you to further your knowledge. Ellen Lupton’s Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers is an excellent start. Enjoy!