Typesetting Tools Enhance Graphic Design

The first typesetting devices consisted of wooden blocks with letters and pictures carved into them. Ink was applied and books were produced. It was a slow and tedious process. In the 15th century, a German printer, Johann Gutenberg, invented moveable type made from lead. The Gutenberg press allowed for mass production of publications and the spread of knowledge to everyone.

Font Selection

The printing presses were made possible because of moveable type. These lead blocks each represented a letter and punctuation marks. To produce a page, each word had to be put together by hand. As time consuming as that sounds, book production was far faster than the old method of copying each page by hand.

As presses evolved, so did the graphic designs. Fonts were created to add variety to a page,called serif and sans serif, the use of typesetting made reading easier.

Of course, computers took the variety of fonts to an entirely new level. Gone was the need to produce each letter block. Today’s programs contain hundreds of fonts.

Design Elements

Graphic artists use different type elements for variety on the page to denote a mood. A large initial cap to begin the first word of a story adds drama to a page and draws a reader’s attention.

Another method to add interest to a publication using graphic design is to make the first paragraph of a story a larger font than the rest of the text.

Parts of a Page

Typesetting can be used to add interest to pages that may contain few photographs or graphic images. A designer has many fonts and colors at his or her disposal. Traditional magazine and newspaper pages contain the same basic elements: Headlines, body text, photo captions and pulled quotes—these are specific quotes from the article that are “pulled” from the body text and set off for emphasis. By using type as a tool, the otherwise gray page is now inviting to read.


Designers don’t like rules and many are meant to be broken. But in graphic design, a few simple–let’s call them guidelines–need to be followed. Generally, do not use more than three fonts in one particular article. For typesetting consistency, use the same font for each like element throughout the product.

One rule to break involves the font selection for the body text. Above all else, make sure it is readable. Many artistic fonts are available that are meant to be used for specific purposes. But using a bold, italic font as body text defeats the purpose.

Type specifics

In the paragraph format box of word processing and desktop publishing programs there are commands called leading and kerning. Leading is the space between lines of text and kerning the space between letters. Adjusting these for graphic design is risky. The software contains default settings set up for each font. By changing these settings, you increase or decrease the density of the text. Small fonts may need more leading and large font sizes may need less. If the typesetting on the page looks too dark, adjusting these settings may help to add white space.

Blocks of text are displayed in specific alignments. If you choose left alignment, all the text is lined up on the left margin, right alignment, it is lined up on the right, and centered, all the words are centered against each other. There is one more called justified where the text is aligned on both left and right margins. Graphic design decisions for using justified are limited. In order to achieve this, kerning must be implemented and letters in words are spaced to accommodate. All the words have different spaces between the letters. It is not a very aesthetic use of typesetting and should be used sparingly.

Many varieties and choices of fonts are available but choose wisely. The wrong combinations of any or all of these elements will result is a poorly designed and hard to read publication. Getting a second chance to make an impression is not always possible. However, produce a unique design and you will have a professional looking, powerful tool at your disposal.

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