3 Type Manual: Gutters, Margins and Type Systems

We learned how to properly decide the gutter of a grid. Until now I was just guessing the numbers or picking a number between 0.3 and 0.5 cm. An important point that was covered was that layouts and grids all have 1 main purpose: to serve the reader. So “ease of information” is a key thing we should keep in mind when designing. There’s no need to follow the system if it doesn’t look aesthetic and makes it difficult for the reader. In fact, breaking the rules is okay when it’s done for conceptual effect.

Another important thing we covered were dashes. I knew there was a small dash and a long dash. There are actually 3 kinds of dashes…

— em dash: based on the ‘m’, ‘less emphatic period’
–   en dash: based on the ‘n’, used in ranges of dates (23–28 Dec)
–    hyphens: hyphenates words.

This is important to remember because sometimes people incorrectly use them or put 2 — instead of 1 long one. These kinds of things (like double spaces) need to be checked because it’s incorrect and they can cause problems in setting type.

‘m’s are used to measure gutters and margins. Usually the ‘m’ of the body copy is used to find the em square: square created from the width of the m. Just 1 em square can’t be used for the gutter, the gaps between columns will be too thin. Em squares can also be used to measure margins.

I wanted my body type to be the typeface that I had been researching in History class: Akzidenz Grotesk.

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^ Akziedenz Grotesk wasn’t available in indesign so I check in Font Explorer: it wasn’t there. I searched in Adobe Typekit to download it myself, even they didn’t have it.

The reason why finding my typeface was important was because I had to create gutters using the lowercase m of my typeface.

I started looking at alternatives for the typeface: franklin gothic, univers and helvetica. I ended up choosing univers, because it seemed the most similar or matching with akzidenz grotesk.

Using the em squares to make margins


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 em square to make gutters.

I experimented with placing placeholder text and chunks of rectangles on my spreads to see what kind of layout it could give me.

What confuses me when it comes to using a grid is things like this:

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 If I make shapes like this/or split my type like this, in the first image, when the two rectangles are identical, the bottom rectangle lands in the gutter. In the second image, if I shift the bottom rectangle to not end in the gutter, it looks odd. But there’s a central part of it that is still in the gutter. Is that fine??

These are some of the main ones we discussed:

^  In the end, the worry that I was having about how to place images didn’t really matter, it was okay as if that part landed in the gutter.  Apart from that, the way I was placing my images seemed unnecessarily complicated. It was following the system, but objects themselves weren’t consistent with other objects in the system. This was where the professors reemphasised the importance of intervals.
 We also remphasised why grid-like page systems are difficult to follow. Because differences between positions are so incremental, the system can’t be followed. That, and there isn’t enough contrast or meaning in deciding a placement. We also discussed how the Root 5 always produces long results and is typical for menus or brochures.An important point I noted was that margins are usually decided keeping in mind where the reader will hold the book. Typically they’re a thumbs width, and page numbers that are placed at the top make reading easier.

An important point I noted was that margins are usually decided keeping in mind where the reader will hold the book. Typically they’re a thumbs width, and page numbers that are placed at the top make reading easier.

Next we discussed creating type systems. Rules that we refreshed was how an average of 65 line measure is ideal at a particular size and how 7-13 type size should be used for body copy. For the leading we also shouldn’t rely on the default/auto.

We could use any system for our type system (it didn’t have to be even/odd/golden ratio to match our pages visual system). The trick was to look at what looked good visually. Another thing to keep in mind was contrast. When deciding a system, it’s good to match fonts, but contrast can prevent things from looking dull. To create contrast we could either look at letters that look similar and are different in weight, or that look structurally different and have the same weight. A simple way to keep structures different was to choose a serif and a san-serif font.

We also discussed ordering categories. I mentioned my idea of alphabetical, but unfortunately that was too simple…(I really wanted alphabetical). Another way I thought the words could be divided was by what they could be applied to, for example, words/letters/sentences.

By the end of it we had to have a Type system that considered the type for:

And we had to consider how we would categorise our words.

I started my type system by looking at the body text. I knew I wanted my body to be Akzidenz Grotesk, it was simple, minimal and clear, but not overused (unlike Helvetica).

I went to IT and found the typeface in font explorer through the VCU account. For some reason it wasn’t reading it easily without the VCU login. Now that I had found my typeface I also Needed to change the gutters I had designed my spreads around depending on the size of the ‘m’ of the new typeface. This was because there was a visible difference in the m square of Univers and Akzidenz Grotesk:


To decide the leading I set my type as solid and then went through systems, adding even numbers and then seeing if it looked good. If it didn’t I moved on and chose odd numbers. I tried the golden ratio but by that time I knew that the even number system looked the best. I needed to start with 8 pts and had to use 6 at times (for captions) because my page size was relatively small, so using even numbers was the best solution.

^Next came creating contrast. I looked at some san-serifed fonts to vary their stroke weight for contrast. But I didn’t like the way varying stroke weights created contrast, it was too forced and ‘in your face’. I started looking for serifed fonts that matched akzidenz grotesk.
I looked at types like Superclarendon, Cambria and Century. I ended up picking Century because the others were too different in their forms. For example, Superclarendon (upper one) had very large counters, emphasized serifs and a high variation in stroke modulation.


Side note:


^ This looks so nice. I know I’m not supposed to like it because it’s supposed to be ugly, but it’s so unprofessional and ‘ugly’ that it looks nice. Stars for dots!!!

By this time, I was focusing on my favourite root 5 page, so I experimented with condensed type as well, keeping in mind that I had a very narrow page.

 It did NOT look nice. I hate the way it looks so tight, it’s almost as bad as a really small font size. I think it’ll make reading very difficult/ poor readability.

In the end, my type system was:

Akzidenz Grotesk, bold, 22pts for the title
Italic, 10pts for the subheading
light 16 for the author
Century, regular, 14 for categories
Akzidenze grotesk, medium, 10pts for the header
Akzidenze, set at 8/10.
Century, regular, 40, for the folio
The caption was akzidenz, 6.
Citations for the same, I wanted to have them at 4pt size but that was too small.

What we discussed:

 Points I need to remember: The long and thin caption doesn’t work. It makes reading difficult because the line length is so short. My subtitle is positioned oddly, I could split it into two lines. It looks very intentionally positioned. The bolder folio doesn’t work. In fact, the folio and the dark objects in general grab the eye way too much. I could make my folio smaller. Which I didn’t want to do. Another suggestion was that I could make the folio lighter.


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