9 essential marketing insights about typography

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By Matthew Stibbe, Articulate Marketing

Typography affects your credibility

Errol Morris carried out an experiment on New York Times readers. Presenting the same information in different fonts, he tested how credible it seemed. Roughly 40,000 people responded to his quiz and it turned out that even small differences between apparently similar fonts had a big impact on believability. (Hat tip: The Week.)

The difference between Baskerville and Georgia was a jump of 1.5 percent. Not huge in itself but considering that it takes one click on the font menu to change from one to the other, you can see how important the choice of font is.

1. Dress for the occasion

Please don't use Comic Sans, we're not a lemonade standSample text in Time New Roman, Helvetica, Georgia, Comic Sans, Baskerville

You wouldn’t wear a onesie to work, so don’t use Comic Sans in business. In fact, Morris says: ‘The conscious awareness of Comic Sans promotes — at least among some people — contempt and summary dismissal.’ Just check out these hilarious logos of famous brands, redone using Comic Sans.

NASA Logo redone in Comic Sans
With Comic Sans, it’s not rocket science any more. (Source: CreativePool.)

The only exceptions I’ll admit is if you work in the comic book industry (but I bet they don’t use it either) or if you’re a complete genius who discovered the Higgs Boson, in which case you can do whatever you like.

Higgs Bosun announcement in Comic Sans


We recognise words largely from the shape they make rather than from the collection of shapes of the individual letters in the words, according to Kevin Larson, a researcher in ‘Advanced Reading Technology’ at Microsoft. (Full disclosure: Microsoft is an Articulate client.)

In other words we see this:

The word 'shape' in lower case with a box around it Just the shape around the the word 'shape'

Not this:

The word 'shape' with boxes around the letters Just the letter boxes from the word 'shape'
We see words. Letters, not so much. (Source: Microsoft)

The ascenders and descenders help us differentiate the words. But using ALL CAPS means that these vital clues are eliminated and the only visual difference between the words is their length. It increases the cognitive load on the reader’s brain, as anyone who has read a contract preamble or an internet rant in all-caps will attest.

4. How people read

We don’t read in a continuous flow. Our eyes jump along a line of text like a small child hopping on hot sand in a series of saccades intermingled with short stops called fixations.

How much we take in with each eye fixation
How much we take in with each eye fixation. (Source: Wikipedia)

Sometimes we jump back when we miss something or don’t understand it. When this happens, there’s a double risk: you reduce comprehension and your reader may just stop reading altogether. Ouch!

Saccades, fixations and back skips
Saccades, fixations and back skips. (Source: Microsoft)

This means you want to avoid things that slow people down or force them to jump back through incomprehension. Typographical speed bumps include:

  • Foreign words
  • Italic text
  • All-caps text
  • Long quotations
  • Excessive punctuation (one reason why we now write ‘eg’ not ‘e.g.’ etc)
  • Unnecessary capitalisation, which is very common in the tech industry
  • Acronyms and abbreviations

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By Kim Pettit, Chair of the MTI Board of Directors

A month ago, Time announced its “Person of the Year” for 2018: killed and imprisoned journalists, dubbed “guardians of the truth.” Those pictured on its covers included Jamal Khashoggi, of the Washington Post; five staff members from the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, USA; the Philippines’ Maria Ressa, of Rappler; and the wives of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, both from Myanmar.

At Magazine Training international (MTI), we are deeply concerned about the growing violence—lethal, physical, and verbal—against journalists and media workers worldwide. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that 1,444 professionals were killed between 1992 and 2019. While 2018 is not the deadliest year on record (that was 2007, with 90 deaths), last year’s 60 fatalities mark the third year in a row of the latest resurgence of violence.

I appreciated Time’s choice to highlight this issue. In doing so, Time honored a Muslim, two Buddhists, a Jew, a Unitarian, a Roman Catholic, a self-described cynic, and two others whose faith or background were not mentioned in their obituaries.

I do not know how typical this religious breakdown is for journalists worldwide, or how many Christians—regardless of affiliation—are listed among CPJ’s 1,444 victims. I do know this: Christians should be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13–15).

We who claim to follow the One who said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6) should lead and support the search for truth and its proclamation. Kudos to Time for its timely reminder of the value of investigative journalism. May God graciously help all who do this work with courage.

At MTI, we know Christians in media face danger on two fronts. They face danger for reporting the truth, and they face danger for their faith in Christ. Last year, Newsweek and Foreign Policy carried stories on Christian persecution and genocide. Earlier this week, Christian Today reported that the persecution of Christians is expected to rise in 2019. Open Doors International’s figures for 2018 state “3,066 Christians were killed; 1,252 were abducted; 1,020 were raped or sexually harassed; and 793 churches were attacked.” These are heartbreaking statistics.

Christian writers, designers, and publishers in double jeopardy need our support. With a new year and new projects ahead, it can be easy to forget others face danger when we do not. Yet we are members of one Body, called to care for each other (1 Corinthians 12:12–26).

We can pray. We can use our various platforms to help those who are suffering tell their stories. We can work for justice and peace. We can provide direct aid and encouragement when possible, and when this is not possible, look for other ways to support our brothers and sisters in difficult situations.

If you read Nuru’s story, you already know that MTI is serving publishers where serving Christ is dangerous. If you met Daphrose at our recent conference in Kenya, you know the passion publishers bring to the work of proclaiming salvation, healing, and restoration through Christ.

MTI is aware of the dangers of serving Christ in publishing in many places. In addition to conferences, workshops, courses, and manuals, MTI offers such resources as tips for staying safe when covering disaster or unrest, tips for protecting your mental health when reporting on trauma, encouragement, and much, much more.

Kim Pettit is an experienced writer and editor and is former executive director/CEO of the Christian Trade Association International.

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Sorting out all those terms can be confusing in itself, so we’ve compiled a visual glossary that will guide you through the lingo — whether you’re an aspiring typeface designer or just a general typography enthusiast. Learning the building blocks of typography will help you better understand how to pick a suitable font and apply it effectively within your design projects.


The Basics: Typefaces Categories & Styles

01. Font/Typeface:


Back in the days of metal type and printing presses, fonts and typefaces were two different things — the typeface was the specific design of the letters, say Times New Roman or Baskerville; while the font referred to the particular size or style of that typeface, say 10 point regular or 24 point italic (each created as its own collection of cast metal letters and other characters). Today, however, many designers use the terms more or less interchangeably. The best and most straightforward modern definition I’ve run across (courtesy of Fontshop) goes as follows:

“A collection of letters, numbers, punctuation, and other symbols used to set text (or related) matter. Although font and typeface are often used interchangeably, font refers to the physical embodiment (whether it’s a case of metal pieces or a computer file) while typeface refers to the design (the way it looks). A font is what you use, and a typeface is what you see.”

02. Character:


An individual symbol of the full character set that makes up a typeface; may take the form of a letter, number, punctuation mark, etc.

03. Alternate Character / Glyph:


A non-standard (sometimes decorative) variation of a character that comes as an extra option with a font file.

04. Serif:


A short line or stroke attached to or extending from the open ends of a letterform; also refers to the general category of typefaces that have been designed with this feature.

05. Sans-Serif / Sans:


Literally “without line”; the general category of typefaces (or an individual typeface) designed without serifs.

06. Italic:


A slanted version of a typeface (slants from left to right); a true italic is uniquely designed, more than a tilted version of the upright (a.k.a. “roman”) typeface.

The Foundation: Positioning & Spacing

07. Baseline:


The imaginary line on which most letters and other characters sit.

08. Cap Line:


The imaginary line that marks the upper boundary of capital letters and some lowercase letters’ ascenders (see Ascender definition in the next section).

09. X-Height:


The height of a typeface’s lowercase letters (disregarding ascenders and descenders).

10. Tracking / Letter-Spacing:


The uniform amount of spacing between characters in a complete section of text (sentence, line, paragraph, page, etc.).

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By Carla Foote, Fine Print Editorial

Data is just a Google-search away – from sources around the world. Content is available in all formats and platforms. In the midst of so much content and data, it takes insight and discernment to provide accurate, clear and relevant information that informs and equips.

Here are a few principles for communicating data:

  • Does the data make sense? All those estimation problems that math teachers force on their students are actually useful, because they help in discerning if a number makes sense. When a number is stated precisely, such as “886,400 people live in the city,” then one might assume that accuracy is guaranteed. However, if the city in question is Mexico City, then it is possible that a digit was lost and the actual number is closer to 8,864,000. As an editor, I may not know the actual population of Mexico City, but I know it is one of world’s largest cities, so the figure of less than a million people doesn’t make sense. If a number doesn’t make sense, I can search different sources to verify the number.
  • Is the data accurately labeled? Population information is available for cities and for metropolitan areas. There is a difference. The population within the city limits may be vastly different from the population in an area that includes suburbs which surround the city. For example, an estimated 21.2 million people live in the metropolitan area which includes Mexico City.
  • Is the data comparable? If I am comparing cities in the Americas, I may want to discuss New York City and Mexico City. If I am sloppy with the data, I could say that New York has 19.6 million people while Mexico City has 8.9 million, leading the reader to believe that New York City is larger than Mexico City. The data cited are not comparable – the New York metropolitan area has 19.6 million people, but New York City has 8.3 million people. On both scales, New York City is smaller than Mexico City.

These are just a few checks to use when presenting data. Accuracy matters!

image budget
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An Image Budget is used to keep track of images ordered, listing the article for which the image was ordered, who did the work, what price was originally agreed upon, and the amount actually billed. This form is a great way for the magazine’s art director to keep track of requested art and stay organized for each issue.

Download the free sample here

For tips on “1o Things to Consider when Pricing Illustrations” read this article in PRINT.


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This is your chance to learn with other publishing professionals on 30 Sept. – 6 Oct. 

Don’t just stand by and watch while some 65 Christian publishing professionals from 15 countries gather in Nairobi, Kenya, next week. Find your place at our first conference in Africa. Listen to some of the world’s most respected journalists, and network with Christians in publishing from around the world. Don’t be left out of this opportunity.
Who’s coming? Publishing professionals from these countries:
Australia Brazil
Burkina Faso
Democratic Republic of Congo
 Ghana  India
 Kenya  Nigeria
 Pakistan  Romania
 Rwanda Uganda
United States


Don’t miss out. Register today.

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Ever have trouble communicating with others regarding typography? Use these key terms to pave the way to better understanding.

  • ascender – The part of a lower-case letter that extends above the x-height.
  • baseline – The invisible line on which the letters rest.
  • boldface – A heavier version of the normal weight of a typeface.
  • centered – A typographic arrangement in which type appears in the center of a defined space.
  • characters – Individual letters or numbers.
  • condensed – A narrower version of the normal width of a typeface.
  • descender – The part of a lower-case letter that extends below the x-height.
  • drop cap – An enlarged initial letter that extends below the first base line of body text. A drop cap should be base aligned with one of the text’s base lines.
  • font – One design of a particular typeface. It includes all of the designed characters such as numerals and punctuation.
  • initial cap – A larger letter at the beginning of a block of text. An initial cap may be a drop cap, or it may sit on the first line of text.
  • italic – Type in which the letters are slanted to the right and drawn to suggest handwriting.
  • justified type – Lines of type that are flush on both the left and right edges.
  • kern – To tighten the space between letterforms to achieve optically-consistent letter spacing.
  • letter spacing – Insertion of space between the letters of a word to improve the appearance of a line of type.
  • line spacing/leading – In text, the space between the baseline of one line and the baseline of the next.
  • loose lines – Lines of text with too much space between letters and words.
  • point size – The size of type measured from the top of the ascenders to the bottom of the descenders.
  • ragged – Multiple lines of type set with either the left or right edge uneven.
  • roman – Name often applied to the Latin alphabet as it is used in English and most other European languages.  Also used to identify vertical type as distinct from italic.
  • sans serif: Type without serifs. (The display text in this manual is sans serif.)
  • serifs – Small strokes at the ends of the main strokes of letters. (The body text in this manual has serifs.)
  • soft return – A carriage return that breaks to a new line but doesn’t start a new paragraph. In most programs, you can type a soft return by pressing the shift-return keys.
  • text type – Type, usually between 6 and 14 points, used for text compositions.
  • typeface – A named type design, such as Garamond, Helvetica, or Times Roman.
  • type family – All the variations of a particular typeface. Type families usually consist of the basic roman, italic, and bold. Larger type families may include condensed, expanded, outlined, as well as a variety of different weights.
  • typography – The style and arrangement of the headline and subhead letters on a page.
  • x-height – The height of lower-case letters without ascenders and descenders. It is defined by the base line and the mean line.

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Magazine design is much more than simply arranging type and art on a spread. Your magazine’s job is to talk to your readers in a way they can understand. Your words do that, but the magazine’s design also talks to your readers. What is your magazine telling your readers?

Your readers may not know what magazine architecture is, but they will recognize a poorly thought out design system. Is your magazine’s architecture sloppy or have you developed templates for departments, created a carefully thought-out design system, and identified usage standards? Does your magazine have a visual identity or is it a hodge podge of pictures and text? Do your readers recognize your brand and identify with it?

Your magazine’s design is just as important as its editorial content. Even if you hire someone to handle your magazine’s design you need to know how to communicate with the designer.

As an editor you may be drawn to the editing course. But, please consider whether your magazine really needs a well-informed editor who can help form the magazine’s visual identity. You do not need to be an artist to attend this course. If you know your magazine and your reader, then you are a critical part of the design team. Ideally you should attend this course with your designer. But if your designer isn’t able to attend, you will still benefit from a course, which teaches you how to identify the characteristics of a well-designed magazine and gives you the tools to talk to your designer.

Learn more about the Magazine Publishing Institute

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An article status chart is one system to help keep track of the progress of work on upcoming issues. This sample chart (for a bimonthly magazine) shows the status of assigned articles. You may also choose to use project management software or cloud-based solutions.


*You can download this chart and many more free samples here.

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We are glad to let you know about a Spanish-language online course on creating comics from a Christian perspective.

A una semana del inicio de nuestro curso libre:

“Creación de Cómics con perspectivas cristianas”, con el diseñador gráfico Jose Carlos Gutiérrez.
Este curso lo ofrecemos LetraViva Red, Media Associates International (MAI) y COMIX35/Christian Comics International.
– No es necesario saber dibujar bien para conocer más y aprender a desarrollar este arte
– Editores y escritores: una oportunidad para familiarizarse con esta forma de comunicarse
– Un medio muy difundido entre los jóvenes de la cual podemos aprender mucho, y con la cual podremos comunicarnos mejor. Dirigido a personas de cualquier edad.

You can find more information in: