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Jason Santa Maria on Web Typography

Jason Santa Maria, designer and Creative Director for Typekit, gave an awesome talk on web typography for the Build Conference this year.

It’s a bit long at 42 minutes, but worth watching. My thoughts after the video.

My Takeaways

No typeface is evil.

Yes, that includes Comic Sans. It’s not the typeface that’s the problem - it’s how you use it.

Comic Sans is actually a great choice for comic books (which is what it was actually modeled after). Financial communications? Not so much.

Type is a beautiful group of letters, not a group of beautiful letters.

Typography isn’t just about choosing a pretty font. It’s about the relationship of the letters with each other to form words, sentences and paragraphs.

Most information is in the top half of a letter.

There’s one part in the video where Jason covers up the bottom half of a sentence, and you can still read the sentence easily. Then he covers up the top half, and it becomes completely unreadable.

Most of the information a letter conveys occurs in the top half. Who knew?

Some basic principles...

  1. Achieve hierarchy through contrast. Big vs. small. Bold and italic vs. regular.
  2. It's better to set type too big than too small. Unfortunately, far too many websites are set too small for today's high resolution screens. In most cases, use 16 pixels as a minimum.
  3. Longer line length requires more line spacing. That is all.

What are my working typefaces?

Near the end of his talk, Jason mentions that some of the best designers have built their careers using just a small collection of working types.

(Working types are typefaces that work well in a range of sizes and applications.)

Jason argues that there’s a real value spending time getting to know a typeface really well - in learning it’s quirks and understanding it’s strengths and weaknesses. It got me wondering: what are my working typefaces?

If I had to pick right now, I’d say Georgia, Helvetica Neue, Museo Slab and Museo Sans. I’m also really excited about Source Sans Pro, and am looking forward to incorporating that into my designs. I hope Adobe releases a complementing serif at some point in the future, too.

What are your takeaways from the talk?