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Typography 101: Know how to dress for the occasion

July 29, 2015 by Klaus

There are over 60,000 fonts to choose from – from normal, conventional-looking ones to fancy curly ones and novelty loop-the-loop ones. So how do you choose the right one?

The key is in understanding the different styles of fonts and how to dress for each occasion. In other words, understand your product and your audience and you’ll get the feel for which typeface to use.

For example, when creating wedding invitations in North America, it’s perfectly fine to choose a fancy calligraphy font to highlight the pertinent information. It’s a fancy occasion and it calls for a fancy font. But chose that same script for a newspaper article and you’ll lose your readers by the second word.

Large amounts of text – such as in an annual report – need a level font that have even, balanced strokes that don’t flicker when set in large blocks (or paragraphs) and over many pages. You want a nice, even visual tone. But, small amounts of text – such as for a headline or title – have more flexibility in choice because you’re not trying to carry a large message. In this case, depending on your product and audience, a more decorative font may work because a little goes a long way.

The same line of thinking applies to designing for the print world vs. designing for the online world. For digital media, there are certain typefaces that are screen-savvier than others. They are balanced and have a more even type of stroke – making them easier to read on a screen.

For example, Times New Roman is a long-standing traditional font that has thin strokes and fat strokes. This is what makes it a good print choice but a poor digital choice. That contrast in strokes, while easy-to-read on paper, become pixelated on screen and cause a flicker effect. And now with the tendency to read everything on a smartphone, Times New Roman and other serif fonts are even less commonly used. The ‘little feet’ on this class of font make for a difficult read on small screens.

In fact, mobile sites in general are moving towards choosing clearer and cleaner fonts that have a higher visual appeal and are easier to read.

Now that we’ve examined the basic do’s and don’ts of choosing the right typeface, we’ll look at typography and brands in a future post.


Helping to be the change we want to see in the world

July 07, 2015 by Klaus
It may sound cliché, but sometimes a simple napkin sketch is all it takes for a vision to come to life.

About a year ago, musician friend Steve Mallory came to me with an idea – he wanted to record an album to benefit the social good and he wanted me to create the album art to accompany the project. I agreed and was excited about the idea of getting involved at the ground level. Because at this point, not only had the album yet to be recorded but the entire project was still in the initial conception stage.

Step one was to choose an initiative to support. After much discussion, Steve and his band mates – the Cherry Trees Band – chose to raise funds for the Water for Life Initiative through the Global Aid Network. As Canadians, they understand how fortunate we are to be amongst the top four countries in the world with fresh, clean drinking water (behind Sweden, Austria and Norway). Whereas in developing countries, 3.5 million people die annually from diseased water.

Their goal is to raise enough money to drill three wells that will feed water to 3,000 people for 25 years. These wells will not only produce hydration for villagers but also will create economic benefits and keep women safer.

Step two was to get to work recording the album of 10 original rock songs, titled “Change the World” after Ghandi’s famous quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Choosing a photograph of Ghandi was an obvious first choice when I began developing cover concepts. But, extensive searching through stock agencies proved to be disappointing. The licensing cost alone would be prohibitive.

This is where the napkin sketch comes in – as it’s where, based on research and reference material, I roughed out a simple yet effective profile of Ghandi. Steve was immediately excited by this thumbnail sketch on a scrap piece of paper and he used his phone to photograph it and show it around to everyone involved in the project. It was a hit. The broad strokes of the line drawing encapsulated everything Steve had envisioned for the album cover but (as he later admitted to me) in a completely different way than he had conceived it.

From there, I refined the illustration by adding bands of colour in irregular shapes to outline and highlight the profile, and finished it off by choosing typography that emphasized the significance of the words it conveyed.

And with all that, Change the World for the Water for Life Initiative was born. Find out how you can help change the world at