Effective Typography And Layout

SOUND typography and effective arrangement are the basis of the art or mechanics of advertising. Hence no craftsman or artist printer is more highly esteemed than he who can create a piece of work that is agreeable to the eye, easily read and followed, and conformation to the standards of good taste. Typography and layout are arts, and for this reason they are subject to no set of definite rules. A fine craftsman and a mere printer hack, if given the same copy, the same engravings, the same inks, the same presses, the same type faces, and the same paper and the same instructions, will turn out two entirely different classes of work. The difference will arise from the simple fact that one possesses that indefinable thing, part training and part instinct, that we call “good taste.” The man who lacks sense of proportion and fitness can hardly become a great printer.

Not long ago we asked the famous printer, Mr. Norman T. A. Munder, of Baltimore, to write for The Beckett Paper Company a series of short comments on various phases of advertising production. His first essay was on the subject of typography, and it is so excellent a general summary of the subject that we give it here the more permanent form and the wider reading it deserves.

“Typography (i. e., writing by types) is the general term for the art of printing movable (cast metal) types on paper, vellum, etc. Its application in this article is primarily to the art of type composition and arrangement, which seems to be the present-day use of the word.

“The real worth of a piece of printing is in proportion to the degree in which it accomplishes its purpose. While it must be attractive and pleasing to the eye in order to attain its highest effectiveness, still it is possible for two pieces of printing, set from the same copy, to be equally beautiful and yet to differ greatly in results accomplished. The one may be admired and even treasured for its beauty, but not read, while the other is equally admired—and read.

“The highest art in typography is to cause the greatest percentage of the recipients of a printed message to read it. To accomplish this the message must be so attractive and pleasing in appearance as to compel lingering attention, and the type and its arrangement must be an alluring invitation to read.

“The first step of the layout man in planning such printing is to decide the size of the page. This should be of pleasing proportions and convenient to handle for the purpose intended, taking care to see that it does not cut to extravagant waste.

“In fixing on the size and the number of pages provision should be made for margins that will not be skimpy (ample margins are always attractive), and for the use of type sufficiently large (in proportion to the size of the sheet) to invite easy, comfortable reading. Don’t ask the reader to strain his eyes over small or illegible type; he’ll probably not do it. For the same reason the use of grayish or freakish tones, which tend to make reading difficult, should also be avoided.

“Use type that combines beauty of form with legibility. Why use freakish or ugly type faces when it costs no more either to buy or to use such elegant and effective ones as Caslon Oldstyle No. 471, Oldstyle Antique or Bookman, Garamond, Kennerley, Forum, the Goudy and Cloister Oldstyle families, and the italics of these series?

“Ornamentation, used with discrimination and when the nature of the work permits, undeniably adds to the attractiveness of the printed page. When it can be thus employed to make the printing more appealing it is a real aid. The use of ornament to such extent or in such manner as to draw attention to itself alone is a mistake. Fine judgment and thought are required to see that ornamentation nicely fulfills, but does not overstep, its function of attracting and pleasing the eye and also inducing a reading of the message.

“The appeal of art is universal; for art is just truth and beauty, affecting both the man with only a dollar to spend and the millionaire. An essential element of art, whether in nature or in man’s handiwork, is form. Applied to typography, we call it “design”—the most important factor in printing; for no matter how good the presswork or paper or colors used, if the design is ugly the finished work can be only a disappointment.

“A great aid in approaching the work is a pencil layout indicating the size, shape, position and arrangement of the type on the page. This layout is still more helpful if the headings and display lines are indicated and also such running headings, initials or other forms of ornamentation as may be proposed.

“Such a layout will enable one to see how his ideas and calculations will work out in practice and in appearance, and to correct them before the type is set. It will also help the customer to visualize the finished work. Sometimes just a rough pencil sketch, made in his presence, will enable a customer and printer to agree on the design.

“The intelligent use of the layout often saves much expensive changing or resetting, and disappointment in the final cost and appearance of the work.

“The layout must be made carefully enough to serve not only all the purposes mentioned above, but to become as well an exact working guide or model for the composing room as to type and arrangement, and also for the pressroom, as to position, margins, color, etc., and similarly for the bindery. Indeed, the layout is to the builders of a piece of printed matter the same as the architect’s blue-print is to the builders of a house or a cathedral.

“While the first essential of effective printing is the design, the very best final results depend on the choice of paper, as well as of the colors of paper and ink. All of these elements and their relation to each other as a whole are considered by the layout department when planning the work.

“A press-proof in the inks and on the paper specified is helpful in arriving at the best results, especially when colored paper is to be used in the printing, and more especially when it is one of the darker shades. In the latter case the results are sometimes a real surprise. The press-proof, when approved by the layout department and O. K’d. by the customer, becomes a guide for the press-room for the colors and amount of ink to be used.

“The color, texture and finish of a really good paper make possible the finest results in typography. Some strikingly unusual and attractive effects are obtainable on the wide range of beautiful colors and finishes of Buckeye Cover and on Buckeye Antique Text papers. By the way, the printer who applies Buckeye Cover for other practical purposes than actual cover use is making a definite step in advance in producing printing that is out of the ordinary.”

Mr. Munder, it will be noted, has emphasized the possibilities of distinction that are open to resourceful printers and alert advertisers through the use of papers that are not commonplace in their appearance, though practical in their results. The texture of paper is a vital factor in printing effects which inexperienced producers are likely to underestimate. The thought of providing a distinguished and artistic but easily worked surface was uppermost in our minds when we conceived and brought out the Buckeye Text papers as a companion to the widely used Buckeye Cover.

Mr. Herbert N. Casson, the British typographic authority, advances the sensible but rather curious theory that, in advertising, the size of the type may be governed to a considerable degree by the probable interest of the reader. The less that interest, the larger the type should be, at least in the heading. To advertise an encyclopedia, he suggests, it is necessary to use large type headings, but to advertise a prize fight or baseball game agate will suffice. This is a rather striking and exaggerated way to illustrate what is probably a truth. Since the purpose of an advertisement is to make sales, the type should be simple, plain and easy to read. “No Old English, no monograms, no cubism and futurism, and no brain twisters,” is his way of putting it.

Harmony in the type series in any printed production is an obvious rule, but one that is often disregarded. Not long ago a friend who has charge of the house organ of a large and interesting business, wrote to me asking suggestions. He was using our Buck-eye Cover, but changing nothing from month to month and year to year except the color combinations and the printing. In going over the question with an intelligent printer we discovered what we regarded as a whole series of ineptitudes in design, layout and execution. The first defect was the use of seven different type faces on a single cover. The effect was indescribably clashing and incongruous. The design contained a picture of one of the coin-


pany’s plants, but the picture was cut straight in two with a narrow panel for lettering. In seeking mere novelty the artist had quite entirely destroyed the interest of the picture and had forced the title of the publication into an unnatural and disagreeable position. Our only possible suggestion was an entirely new design, which my friend at once caused to be made. He was badly advised by all who should have been his chief helpers—artist, engraver and printer.

A good layout for an advertisement is one that disposes type, pictures, border and white spaces so that they will attract most readers and produce most sales. Order and unity are two prime requisites of any layout that can hope to achieve good results. An unbalanced helter-skelter of boxes, pictures, indicators, paragraphs and headings can hardly fail to confuse and depress the reader. Of course the character of the audience to be reached must be considered, as must the nature of the goods offered. The late Mr. Dana once said that if one started out to publish a news-paper, the first thing he must decide was whether he intended to produce a newspaper for fools or for intelligent people. This is a harsh way of putting the case, but it applies measurably in advertising. I f one expects to sell to the uneducated and unthinking, it is hardly necessary to give much thought to artistic layout. It may appear too “high-brow” for the audience. A comparison of the windows or advertisements of two large department stores, the one catering to so-called “popular” demand and the other to persons of some culture and taste, will reveal the analogy. The fine establishment may show but two or three items in a great window, and it will mention comparatively few things in a single advertisement. The popular establishment, on the other hand, is likely to have a clutter in its windows and a jumble in its advertisements. Its audience is interested in price far more than in tasteful effects.

The well-planned layout carries the reader along through the text and pictures of the advertisement without conscious effort, and continuity is one of the first virtues in laying out advertisements. In days when the art was less developed, all manner of symbolic devices, such as arrows and pointing fingers were used to guide the eye of the reader to the essential features. Such crudities are now happily falling into disuse, and they are, of course, unnecessary if the layout is well conceived. A variation of the display should give relative emphasis to all parts of the design. The man with a penchant for novelty and bizarre effects is hardly a safe counselor in planning a layout. Don’t think too much of technique when making a layout. Remember always the result you are trying to attain and let common sense be your guide. Bear in mind that you are not trying to write a fancy advertisement, but to make friends and to make sales.

Mr. R. T. Sanford emphasizes simplicity and the use of plenty of white space as vital requirements in good layout, and he makes many interesting comments in an article printed in the magazine Class. “Simplicity,” he says, “means keeping the design formed by the type mass or masses, and the illustrations and border as clean-cut as possible. Probably the worst foe of simplicity is the desire to get too much about the product or the firm into the advertisement. Afterthoughts are another danger that the advertising writer and the layout man must shun. When a complete and coherent message has been prepared and laid out, much more is likely to be lost than gained by crowding in something else that has come into the writer’s mind at the last minute. The careless insertion of trade-marks, decorations, coupons and the like may interrupt the sequence of an advertisement and divert the attention of the reader. All of these things may be essential (except, of course, excess of decoration), but they should be placed appropriately and in accordance with the entire plan.”

The gentleman just quoted, as well as other authorities, takes occasion to criticize many of the trade-marks in common use, holding that they date from the early days of an enterprise and are offensive crudities no longer symbolic of the enterprise. To this view we cannot subscribe. A trade-mark a century old gives dignity to any advertisement and is a true token of the worth of the establishment; for no business and no trade-mark representing it can endure for an hundred years unless that business has been founded on right principles and honorably conducted. The unicorn and the lion rampant are obsolete devices, but nobody will say that they detract from the prestige of the great families whose crests they adorn. The age of a business is one of the soundest proofs of the merit of its goods.

Lastly, we would say again, don’t be afraid to leave plenty of white paper in your advertisement. Proper margins enhance the effect, cause what you have to say to stand out conspicuously, and relieve your readers of the impression that you are a niggardly advertiser, trying to utilize to the last inch the space you have purchased or the paper you have bought. How relatively small is the amount of text in most of the finer advertisements!

As standards of taste and craftsmanship improve there is noted everywhere a strong tendency toward a renewed appreciation of typography, and this in turn has developed a greatly increased demand for antique text papers whose surfaces have an interesting tone and texture. In the last exhibition of the best fifty books of the year it was noted that forty-two of them were printed on antique papers. There could be no clearer evidence of tendency than this practice of the best book printers and the judgment of the jury. Mr. Henry Lewis Johnson attributes this to a revolt against the excessive use of the halftone in the years following its development, thus forcing the use of highly finished papers for work for which the rougher antiques were better adapted. His judgment is that no book or advertisement that is mainly text should be printed on smooth or highly finished papers. Continuing, this well-known authority says:

“With the nation-wide interest in black-and-white effects in design, based on the Renaissance period and the use of standard and classic types, such as Caslon, Goudy, and Garamond, it is not possible to produce much really good work in which typography predominates without the use of a suitable antique text paper. The solidity and virility of early printing, due to the combination of heavy-face types and antique text papers, are now being studied for their proportions and mass effects. The crudities of early presswork, with heavy impressions on dampened sheets, have a character that is lacking in the emaciated typography of recent years. To have its maximum legibility and color value type must be pressed into the paper so as to cast an almost infinitesimal shadow. This emphasizes hair lines and increases the color value of the type over that of a light impression. There is clearly a growing demand for commercial and general printing in which fine covers and antique printing papers have a great part in both practical and aesthetic results.”

There are some general characteristics of type faces that render them especially adaptable to particular uses. For example, if the measure be narrow a contracted and close-set letter may be used to advantage, but it will be a difficult line for the eye to follow any great distance. By the same token the “fat” oldstyle types are far better for long lines. If used in short measure they will probably cause bad spacing and frequent breaks in the words. The Gothic types are not very popular now, as they have no advantage but legibility. Their almost primitive formation makes it very hard to use them in any work of artistic merit. Types having great variation in the thickness of their face lines, as in heavily shaded penmanship, will be found hard to read continuously. Similar designs without the sharp contrasts will be followed much more readily and with less eye strain. In a composition of any length, lower-case type will be read much more easily than capitals, which were, of course, designed for brief inscriptions. A curious feature of these two general styles is that wider spacing makes capitals more legible, but has quite the opposite effect on lower-case type. Mr. E. T. Gress, the editor of The American Printer, and a well-known typo-graphical authority, makes this useful suggestion: “Wide spacing between words and the shortened descending strokes of letters tend toward illegibility when the type lines are set solid, as is unfortunately too frequently done by hand and by machine. These defects are to be found in much composition of the present day. Narrow spacing and long descending strokes of letters that pre-serve space between lines are aids to legibility, as the eyes move easily along the lines and read the words by groups. The page tone set of this letter make it suitable for face is suited for wider measures, as narrow columns narrow measures such as this. would likely result in awkward spacing.

Narrow spacing between words and long descending strokes of letters that preserve space between lines are aids to legibility, as the eyes easily move along the lines and read the words by groups. The page tone is also maintained. In fact the space used between the lines could, according to scientific investigation, be a trifle more than that provided by the long descenders.

Mr. Gress, in his American Printer Scrap Book series, gives the following “Fourteen Points in Good Typography:”

1. Space closely between words, and set matter leaded rather than solid. Use an en quad or less between sentences.

2. In all cases the foot margin should measure more than the head and side margins; on pairs of pages the inner side margins should be smallest; on single pages both side margins could be alike. Margins in books and pamphlets should decrease in this order: foot, outer side, head, inner side.

3. Do not use type smaller than ten point for circulars or books, if they are to be read.

4. In the selection of type faces, when in doubt, choose those modeled on the Roman letters of Jenson and Garamond and on the Italic of Aldus and Grandjon, and on the Roman and Italic letters of Caslon and Baskerville.

5. Avoid many groups or many sizes of type on the same page. Assemble the type groups around one or two points; do not scatter them over a great area.

6. As a general rule use but one design of type face on a job of printing. For variety small capitals and italics of the same design may be introduced at suitable places.

7. Decoration should not be made a part of the average job of printing unless it will add a necessary feature, and even then it should be used only in a minor way. A very small leaf ornament usually suffices.

8. There should not be an excessive amount of space under initial letters. The space at the right side of the initial should be the same as at the foot. A three-line initial, as an instance, should reach from the top of the face of the first line to the bottom of the face of the third line. Initial letters a size or two larger than the type used for the reading matter itself look well extending above the first line instead of descending.

9. Do not use color unless color harmony is understood. A touch of burnt orange or vermilion on a type page printed in black ink on antique stock is always good. Do not use gaudy combinations like a bright green with a bright red.

10. Be liberal with white space, but do not waste it; apportion it so that it will count in the general effect.

11. The type face and the style of arrangement used on folders and booklets should be uniform throughout. Cover, title page and text pages should be related in treatment.

12. Extended and condensed type faces should seldom be used. The normal standard types will be found usable in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred.

13. Avoid many rules and panels, which make presswork difficult and seldom look well; give the type a chance.

14. Lower-case letters, being more legible, should be used in preference to capitals for most display lines. Lines in capitals (especially oldstyle) are made more legible by slight letter-spacing; lower-case should not be letter-spaced in body matter or in display lines.

The typography of the Roycrofters has long been admired. Mr. Axel Edwin Sahlin, their typographical director, makes this comment: “The Roycroft style is quaint rather than ornate, effects being secured by the use of oldstyle letters and rough-surfaced papers. The display is always clear and striking, the matter is ever distinctive, and the red-and-black title pages mark the work of the artist workman who strives ever to get away from the usual without sacrificing artistic excellence. Originality in printing nowadays is one of the most difficult qualities to attain. You must use the types and blocks and papers and colors that have been used for ages; hence it is extremely unlikely that a rearrangement of all these things in a manner admittedly satisfactory and at the same time original can be achieved every time. We are, therefore, con-tented to allow the use of conventional type, paper and other materials, giving the man the laurels of originality if he simply achieves a subtle difference in the placing or arrangement of the matter or even in the juxtaposition of color; that is, originality on even a tiny detail may earn for the workman the envied title of originality.”

In a curious and rather fanciful study of “Expressive Personality of Type Faces,” published in Printed Salesmanship, Mr. A. Raymond Hopper summarizes the suggestive character of many of the more used type faces as follows: “Scotch Roman, very masculine, sensible and businesslike; Bookman Oldstyle, masculine, effective, but not so efficient as Scotch Roman, friendly, suggestive of good fellowship; Caslon Bold, businesslike, virile, weighty, but not ponderous; Century Oldstyle, masculine, young, reserved, cold; New Caslon, finely masculine, vigorous, but not so dominating as Caslon Bold and less refined than Caslon Oldstyle; Della Robbia, feminine and, in small sizes, almost spiritual, and suitable for children; French Oldstyle, feminine, graceful and delicate; Cheltenham Oldstyle, positively Irish, lacking the refinement of Scotch Roman; Bodoni, of Latin suggestion, vivacious, colorful, tempera-mental, refined; Caslon Oldstyle, feminine, graceful, refined, dependable, but not strong; Cloister Oldstyle, a hand worker in the skilled crafts, somewhat crude and angular, thrifty, accomplishing much in a little space; Cloister Bold, sturdy craftsman, integrity, dignity, quality; Goudy Oldstyle, gloriously feminine, free and graceful, the modern athletic girl; Goudy Bold, sturdy, handsome, almost regal, tasteful.”

The decoration of printed pages by the use of ornaments, borders and artistic initial letters is an important phase of typography, in which the good taste of the printer must always play a leading part. There is no doubt of the effectiveness of well-chosen ornament; but, as in the use of personal adornment, the thing must not be overdone. Too many decorations on a printed page give the unpleasant effect of jewelry on a man, and they should never be permitted to become a major part of the result. The ornament is supplementary and should give a final touch of finish and elegance to the whole—nothing more. Its use goes back very far. Mr. Douglas C. MacMurtrie reproduces, in The American Printer, a page from Capranica’s “Arte di ben Morire,” printed in Verona in 1478, as the earliest known example of type ornament.

Most ornamental borders or type ornaments have an historic, symbolic or periodic background. Every era that has left behind it a characteristic art or architecture has been the mother of whole families of printers’ decorations. By reason of their authoritative source many of them are of real artistic merit.

The large manufacturers of hand and mechanical types now produce an extraordinary variety of artistic borders and ornaments, so that even the humblest printer need not be without an adequate selection. The prices asked are astonishingly low as compared with original designs. A little ingenuity will enable a good printer to produce pleasing border effects by the use of rules alone. Quite a variety of such effects are shown in the Buckeye Cover Specimen Boxes.

The decorative initial letter is an attractive feature of much of our best typography, and it is often the only device employed in announcements and similar forms of direct advertising. Frequently it is used to put a touch of color into the work, and if there be a pleasant contrast the result is always good. Large letters without decorative embellishment are also frequently used. When fancy initials are employed the first consideration is to see that they are not so fancy as to be illegible. The style of the letter must be harmonious with the general text. It would be unwise to use a very heavy initial with light type faces, or a very light initial with a heavy text. The safest rule, probably, is to use a letter of the same type series as the text. The type founders can provide anything that may be required.

If the fancy letter is enclosed in an ornamental block the bottom of the letter design should line up exactly with the type. Failure to so place elaborate initials is an indication of poor typo-graphical taste and is unpleasant to even the inexperienced eye. In the use of undecorated initials a common mistake is to leave too much blank space under the initial or at its side. The type should come neatly around the large letter. Usually the top of the initial should be in line with the top line of the text. Now and then fairly good work will be seen in which the initial is lined up at the bottom with the text, projecting above it. This is a questionable practice, at least in so far as the average printer is concerned, and may result badly.

Hand lettering is much used in finer advertising where special distinction is desired or special conditions are to be met. It is entirely free from the limitations of hand- or machine-set type, and is, as its name implies, a lettering made by an artist with pen and ink and transferred to printing plates. It may be elaborated to any degree desired, and parts of one letter may be run past or overlap another letter, which, of course, is impossible with type. Suggestive or characteristic features may be put into hand letters that can be found in no standard foundry type. As a rather crude illustration we will mention a reproduction of a Japanese photo-graph we once used to advertise Buckeye Cover. The whole effect was enhanced by using a hand border of bamboo design and a hand lettering to match. The atmosphere of Japan was thus given to the entire production.

A great variety of name designs or logotypes are hand lettered, thus securing an individuality that in time comes to be associated with the name of the establishment. How often have you been able to identify an advertisement by the mere characteristic appearance of the signature, without so much as reading it?