The Barnes & Noble Review
Typography has been the stepchild of web design for too long. In the early days, if you knew how to boldface text and change your font face, you were a web typography expert. Worse, if you did know more about type, all it would buy you was frustration. The early Web gave you virtually no control over the aspects of typography print designers care about most. So many experienced designers moving to the Web simply stopped worrying much about type. Many new web designers and developers never started worrying about it.
And that's a shame. Type is one of the most powerful communications tools you have -- even on the Web. What's more, technologies like Flash and Cascading Style Sheets now give you much (though not all) of the control you've been missing.
Wendy Peck's Great Web Typography is a complete web typography education in one oversize, full-color book. Peck brings together information previously scattered across dozens of books and sources (including her own excellent columns at WebReference). She covers the philosophy and the details, the forest and the trees.
Think typography is merely "about fonts"? No way. It's about structuring type, white space, and other design elements to maximize legibility, draw attention to what matters, deliver the right emotions...make your point more quickly and powerfully.
As she puts it: "When you present a balanced page, with relevant information that can be read in seconds, your visitors are compelled to delve deeper into your site. They stick around. They come back for more. They tell their friends.... Great text improves the appearance, download speed, search engine relevance, accessibility...the list goes on. And all it costs is a little learning time."
Peck begins by showing how to use type as a design element without sacrificing legibility. She reviews factors that affect legibility (including font choices, size, color, contrast, use of white space, and other issues); then explains why balance is important and how to tell whether you've got it.
Here, and throughout the book, there's great advice on the technology of web type and design. For example, while designers are moving away from strict use of the web-safe palette, Peck explains why they still need to be cautious about doing so (dithering is less of a problem than it once was, but color shifting still seems to be).
For web designers who care about type, CSS is the best thing since sliced bread. Peck covers CSS-based typography in detail, showing how to work with body text (and provide for white space); define text areas using CSS backgrounds and borders; create more visually effective headlines and subheadings (and space them appropriately); and when to break the rules.
She discusses image slicing and rollovers from the standpoint of typography, offering detailed directions using Photoshop/ImageReady and Macromedia Fireworks. You'll find practical techniques for wrapping text around images -- as well as two full chapters on creating type in Flash.
We're not talking stupid Flash type animations or laser-light shows or any of the tacky stuff folks do with Flash. We're talking about creating crisp, clear, elegant type you can use any way you want. You'll learn how to include fonts in a Flash movie; how to pull text dynamically from a separate text file; how to align your text to make it look better; when to use pixel fonts that don't rely on anti-aliasing, and a whole lot more.
Among Peck's many practical checklists and sidebars: a great discussion of planning for consistent typography on a site. The book is also spiced with interviews of web designers who've brought a special passion to their use of type: experts like "Type evangelist" Suzanne Stephens, proprietor of SharpenYourDesignSkills.com; and Christine Kilger of BellaDonna Design, a master of simplicity and mood in the use of type.
More effective typography can make all your sites look better -- in both subtle and powerful ways. And often, you won't have to spend one thin dime. All you need is one book: Great Web Typography. Bill Camarda
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.