V2 Marketing Communications Blog

Our Top 6 Most Common Typesetting Mistakes

Written by Deb Strout on Mon, Feb 11, 2013

typesetting mistakesType is one of the legs of the three-legged stool that is good graphic design. It’s considered as important as the message and graphics and is the first thing that sets the tone—providing a visual voice that needs to be in harmony with the message and the brand.

Most creatives believe in their gut that typeface selection has the power to make or break a project. That’s why you should pay attention to what underlying message you’re sending by choosing the right or wrong type. Is it a formal, corporate brochure or an informal invitation?
Look at your logo, your website, your company brochure. Do they communicate in more ways than just words and pictures?

Here’s my list of Top Six mistakes you can make with type

Type Mistake Number 6:

Type too small or too large.

Who are setting the copy for? Sheldon Cooper’s new roommate agreement? Or Abe Vigoda as the spokesman to promote your elder-care services?

Think about who your audience is (young, old, myopic), and how your information is being delivered: Flyer, Poster, Billboard, iPhone.

If in doubt, print it out. If the piece is too big to print out, set to view at 100% size on your desktop and get up out of your chair and back up. Can you read it going 65 mph on a moonless rainy night in Georgia?

Type Mistake Number 5

type stretched or squished

C’mon…really? Are you trying to fill space (like writing really, really big to fill up that exam blue book) or have you run out of room (the postcard you send with a vacation tome dribbling off the side?)

Unless you’re making a point, literally, please be nice to the font and keep your squishing and stretching to a minimum.

Rule of thumb, 94% of size up to 104% will get you by. More than that, you need to revisit your layout or your text. And, what’s wrong with white space, I ask?

Type Mistake Number 4

improper use of serif vs sans serif

Imagine reading Homer’s Odyssey set in 9/10 Helvetica (or, Helios, for you Greek lovers!).

Imagine the IKEA logo set in Times Roman Bold (shudder!)

Try to choose the appropriate version of type, first. That narrows the field. If it’s screams mid-century modern, go with a sanserif.  Keep things simple and appropriate. In general, use serif for body copy and sans serif for heads, captions and callouts.

Type Mistake Number 3

When to use italic.

I know some people think that italics is a nice variation to the font they’re using, but using it properly (like a magazine, book or movie title) and minimally (emphasizing special points) is more appropriate. Please, please, please do not set large sections of copy in italic. Less is best. And try not to use a lot of italic bold unless someone is holding your pet hostage.

Bold face italic is for making a point. So there! Oh, and while we’re at it, try to not underline. Are you composing a contract?

Type Mistake Number 2



Keep the uppercase to short copy or “important” copy.

Type Mistake Number 1

Using the wrong or improper or (for heaven’s sake) some trendy font from the 1980s.

Wow. Where to begin.

Okay, so you have an ad you’re putting together for a tattoo shop. Using steelfish or kravitz might make it look edgy and trendy. Not so for the promo you’re creating for the physician’s clinic. Think about what is appropriate for the subject and go with it. Walk before you run. Better to be simple, safe and readable.

And, most importantly, keep your accent type to a minimum. Nothing worse than reading body copy in a zapfino or papyrus, for Zeus’ sake.

As a final word, a recent survey conducted by Graphic Arts USA of artists and art directors listed their…

Least Favorite / Most Abused Typefaces:

describe the image

Okay, be honest. Have you used any of these lately (in a non-cynical way?) Just sayin’.

Let’s be Type-Safe out there. Happy designing!

Image courtesy of Vlado / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Topics: graphic design, Advertising, typesetting

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