Facing a design that requires you to lay out text? Before you start binge browsing for the perfect font, take a minute to make sure your layout has a strong foundation. Read each simple text layout tip below and ensure that your design is not only beautiful, but it makes sense.
Then you can binge browse fonts. Please tell me I’m not the only one who does that!
Text Layout Tip 1: Use formatting standards to your advantage.
I know that getting artistic is half the fun of designing something, but trust me here. Standard formats are your best friend, especially for a first draft.
Why? Because Formatting standards are social shorthand that allow us to quickly understand what we see. Click To TweetCheck out the following examples:
The first image is immediately recognizable as a quote, without us even having to think about it. This is because 95% of the time, the quote is presented first, followed by the name of the author. Since the text layout matches our idea of what a quote “looks like” in our head, we can focus on what’s actually being said.
The second image is confusing because it goes against the “quote” format we have in our heads. It takes us longer to figure out what’s going on, which distracts us from the message. Remember, design is about function first.
Text Layout Tip 2: Give your text some breathing room.
You know how you like to keep a small bubble of personal space around yourself in public? Text is like that too. If your text is crammed in all the way to the edges of your design, it’s going to feel uncomfortable. It’s also going to be a strain on the eyes to read.
Already feeling cramped? Try reducing the amount of information in your design, if possible. Or try resizing the text so there’s more room between lines and around the outside of the textbox. If you use a background image, choose one that gives you plenty of open space for your text.
Text Layout Tip 3: Emphasize the most important info.
What’s the most important information that people need to see? In the example from the first tip, it was the text in a quote. On a poster or book cover, it might be a band name or a book title. Whatever it is, make sure it stands out.
Make it larger. Bolder. Give it higher contrast to the background. Center it on the page, or set it in an eye-catching font. Look again at the first quote in the first set of images. It uses all of these tricks to grab your attention!
Often your designs will also need to include some supporting information. Don’t panic! So it doesn’t steal attention away from your most important info, make this text smaller. Or lower contrast, off-center. Or plainer. Or all of the above.
Text Layout Tip 4: Choose fonts & colors deliberately.
So you want to find the perfect, totally unique font for your project. Great! But a good designer doesn’t just use the first font or color that they happen to like.
When choosing a font, you want to keep it neat and legible, without getting too fancy. Headline fonts used for emphasis can be more whimsical or decorative, since the text is usually large and there’s not much of it. This is a great chance to use a font to add extra meaning or express personality!
If you have a lot of text, like in a paragraph, you want a font that’s pretty plain. Often what seems “plain” or “boring” works out to “well-designed” and “easily readable” behind the scenes. Again, the more time people spend trying to figure out what your text says, the more distracted they are from the message itself. There’s a reason you don’t see a font like Jokerman used in academic journals.
Color gives you another chance to get creative and expressive! Just make sure that you limit your selection to one or two colors or your design will start to look messy. Stick to colors that provide a high contrast between the text and its background (like this dark blue text on the white background). In the Jokerman text above, you can hardly see the word “to” because it’s written in light yellow.
Do I have to follow all these rules? They seem so restrictive.
It is possible to have a successful text layout that doesn’t follow all of these rules. You should totally spend time experimenting within your designs to find what works. But if you do a quick Google search for “creative text layout” you’ll see that there are tons of cool text layouts out there, and the majority of them do follow most of the rules in these tips! That doesn’t mean they all look boring or the same. It just means they have a strong design foundation that allows them to communicate effectively.
You probably already use some of these tips intuitively. You sly fox, you.
Which text layout rules already come naturally to you, and which do you struggle with? Do you also spend way too long looking at fonts?