Admittedly, I looked forward to this week’s readings with barely suppressed glee as a welcome relief from fiddling with the portfolio assignment. I had already watched “Helvetica,” and listening to the designers’ ideas regarding typefaces and design in general (to paraphrase, design is the fight against ugliness) enlivened the notion of typography for me. Setting type is something that students and scholars do all the time with papers and presentations, but a lot of this follows certain conventions. Most rules for submission require 1″ margins, 12 pt. font (Times often specified), and double spacing. Most of the outside-the-box type setting I’ve seen by students (undergrads) occurs when they find themselves trying to make a certain page requirement. At that point of panic, margins and line-spacing are tweaked relentlessly, and fonts with larger kerning are deployed.
Note to students: your professors know what you’re doing, and Courier is not ok.
Learning the intricacies of typeface development and good typography is particularly vital for digital humanists, as the shift from print to digital hasn’t changed the fact that text is the bulk of what is put up. The stunning wealth of print-suitable fonts aren’t all available for the web, and many that are carry a steep price tag. Open source fonts are increasingly available, but need to be used judiciously–using an elaborate font throughout a page, one that slows how long it takes for the page to load, isn’t ideal. For those of us just starting out, I think clearly conceptualizing our sites’ typography from the start is the way to go. I think this is a situation where planning, good understanding of typographical rules, and cleverness are going to do a lot of good.