Typography refers to the physical style of writing as opposed to narrative or grammatical style. It is the font used as well as the layout of words, pictures, and other images onto a page. While it is not as important as the written words themselves, it is still incredibly useful for providing readers with a first impression of a work. It can be called the ‘face’ of a paper. What is first seen and what will be judged before any other element. Typography, along with the layout, is essential for drawing in an audience and convincing them to give the paper a look.
Font can often be one of the first things that is looked at when browsing a work. It is the style and spacing between letters and often divided into two sets of two categories: serif or non-serif and variable width or fixed width. As David L. Simpson of Depaul university describes it, “Serifs are the distinctive finishing stokes (both horizontal and vertical) that can be applied to letters to produce a chiseled, lapidary look. Variable width fonts use proportional spacing between letters, bunching them together in certain cases (note, for example, the compressed “tt” in the word “letter”) while widening them out in others. In contrast, fixed width fonts use the same spacing between letters regardless of their size or shape.” While this is mostly an aesthetic choice, it is important to know the connotations behind certain fonts. Certain fonts have histories or meanings. Comic Sans MS developed a reputation for silliness and gradually became resented due to overuse.
Beyond font, style attributes such as italics, bold lettering, or underlined words are also rather common and are often used either in official documentation such as source citation or to denote certain lines of text to have different meanings, such as italics in novels often single out a character’s personal thoughts from regular text or audible speech.
Just as important as typography is the page layout. Both where and how certain elements and styles are used and how they relate to each other on the page. Many small things come together to make an attractive layout. The positioning of the title or chapter number, the indentation of a paragraph, what colors are used as a background, where any photos or infographs are placed in relation to the text, and where the names of the author and contributors are placed. Perhaps the greatest example to look toward in regards to layout is the front pages of newspapers. The front page is much like the cover of a book, it must attract an audience through looks alone and with very little information offered. Good page design, as well as a strong headline or title, can be a crucial asset when it comes to turning a profit.
People judge books by their covers. It may only be until they open up the work to take a more detailed look, but until they do, the typography and design is the only foot a written piece has going forward. A professional or eye-catching look can go a long way towards making a connection with people, even if it is just a passing glance.