Typography aims to present texts in a readable and understandable way (orthographic) as well as visually appealing (calligraphic). This article is the third article in this series (the second being the article on Planning) thus stands for the transition between the substantive work and the design decisions.
Typography for electronically stored texts initially adopts all the usual rules of classic “paper typography”. However, deviating technical conditions of the presentation media make adjustments necessary, and the circle of creative persons has expanded considerably. This article discusses the design of a digital text using word processing software or markup languages.
Differences with paper typography
- Texts are changed frequently during creation and later or could at least be changed in the future. However, the entire break should not have to be carried out manually every time the document is changed. Therefore: Provide and support automatic wrapping for lines and pages.
- Hypertexts, interactive functions, and dynamics become possible; Multimedia elements can be integrated (animation, audio, video). Such texts can be transmitted, for example, as PDF files; these allow a fixed layout like a paper document, but bookmarks and references via hyperlinks as usual from the Internet.
- The technical conditions for the optical representation (resolution on the screen, on the printer; Color rendering; Use of different end devices, each with different properties) differ from a unique and uniformly produced product in printing technology.
Commonality with paper typography
- At the moment of publication, the designers have full control over the technical conditions and the design that has taken place.
- When printing on paper or creating a PDF file (in layout-faithful normal representation), this state is frozen.
- Greater distribution of the medium
In the past, text design required a training professional (typesetter), and it was only carried out professionally by a small number of professionals. With the PC and software, the technical possibilities have become accessible to hundreds of millions of laymen. Typographic knowledge, on the other hand, has not been spread in the same way. The vast majority of users are most likely to follow the example of a mechanical typewriter.
Rules and their application
Also in classical typography, the application of the rules is adapted to the medium: Novels, posters, daily newspapers, poetry books, menus, etc. are each subject to their necessities.
Likewise, in the case of digital texts, the technical framework conditions, the type of text, the target group, and the possible effort must be brought into an appropriate proportion. Legal pleadings and scientific works follow their laws; principles valid for a continuous text are different from those for a table or poem.
In the early years of the WWW, the stock of available characters was very limited. This led many people to limit themselves to the characters that are easy to reach on the keyboard. If this behaviour made sense in the days of mechanical typewriters since the widespread use of Unicode there is no longer any reason to avoid at least the most common errors.