Matthew is a designer and Creative Circle candidate with 1+ years of experience working in Portland. Matthew is highly involved in the creative process and can have his hands in creating a branding identity for a brand. He designs mobile apps, teaming with a developer on functionality and user ease derived from UX research, and is experienced in designing web apps and responsive websites. He has designed print ads and packaging as well, while having the ability to art direct video ads.

After providing us an inside look of Portland for Design Week Portland, we caught up with Matthew again to hear more about how he lives creative.

Finding Creative Inspiration in Portland

One of the main ways that I’m continually reminded of Portland’s uniqueness is when I’m out and about; either headed to the studio or meeting a client. In each of the neighborhoods I encounter on a daily basis, either for work or play, there are residing some of the city’s unique makers and spaces that are guaranteed to inspire creativity or foster creative relationships. I do much of my creative dealings on Portland’s Eastside, due to its more relaxed pace. The Eastside was traditionally the more affordable, residential part of town, but with the exponentially increasing rate of Portland’s expansion, is has become a hub of industry in its own right.

Good Coffee in Buckman is where I love to start things off. They’re an independent group of shops serving the Eastside with a rotating repertoire of coffee and tea offerings. The impeccably minimal interior and walkway-side seating have provided countless beautiful backdrops for meetings with friends and clients.
Good Coffee in Buckman is where I love to start things off. They’re an independent group of shops serving the Eastside with a rotating repertoire of coffee and tea offerings. The impeccably minimal interior and walkway-side seating have provided countless beautiful backdrops for meetings with friends and clients.

 

Local to these Eastside neighborhoods are two open studios of local creatives, which are a great refresher and point of inspiration. The establishments allow space for both appreciation of their own wares, as well as interaction with other patrons and designers who may be visiting.
Local to these Eastside neighborhoods are two open studios of local creatives, which are a great refresher and point of inspiration. The establishments allow space for both appreciation of their own wares, as well as interaction with other patrons and designers who may be visiting.
Joey Roth specializes in household utilities designed to meet specific needs
Joey Roth specializes in household utilities designed to meet specific needs.
Joey Roth specializes in household utilities designed to meet specific needs, and Laura Hosgard specializes in lifestyle items. Both creatives have influenced me in incredible ways and are always willing to lend an ear to your current experiences and thoughts.
Laura Hosgard specializes in lifestyle items. Both creatives have influenced me in incredible ways and are always willing to lend an ear to your current experiences and thoughts.
If I’m ever looking to shop for myself or simply get inspired by the latest in men’s lifestyle, I always stop by Machus. They are tirelessly looking to rotate through some of the best names in establishment and independent designers alike. Even if you’re not looking for something new to wear, it’s impossible to leave without witnessing something creative you haven’t seen before.
If I’m ever looking to shop for myself or simply get inspired by the latest in men’s lifestyle, I always stop by Machus. They are tirelessly looking to rotate through some of the best names in establishment and independent designers alike. Even if you’re not looking for something new to wear, it’s impossible to leave without witnessing something creative you haven’t seen before.

On the other side of the river, in what is steadily gaining identity as Portland’s “West End” is what may be a familiar sight for many.

Although the lobby of the Ace Hotel and its conjoined Stumptown Coffee and Clyde Common have long been a destination of locals and tourists alike, there is a balcony overlooking the entire spread which isn’t advertised at all. It’s tucked away but still in the path of the Ace’s signature natural light, creating an ideal environment to either get work done or host an individual client for brainstorming or review. With so many good cups of coffee and refreshments nearby, it’s hard not to feel good about the Ace as a choice to spend some time.
Although the lobby of the Ace Hotel and its conjoined Stumptown Coffee and Clyde Common have long been a destination of locals and tourists alike, there is a balcony overlooking the entire spread which isn’t advertised at all. It’s tucked away but still in the path of the Ace’s signature natural light, creating an ideal environment to either get work done or host an individual client for brainstorming or review. With so many good cups of coffee and refreshments nearby, it’s hard not to feel good about the Ace as a choice to spend some time.
A wonderful place to retire the day is at Rontoms on East Burnside with a few friends, or even clients! The entire space was the brainchild of both the owner, who collects and restores midcentury furniture, and a local architect who designed the outdoor experience, including an asymmetrical patio roof for rainy days. A perfectly tasteful balance of work and play.
A wonderful place to retire the day is at Rontoms on East Burnside with a few friends, or even clients! The entire space was the brainchild of both the owner, who collects and restores midcentury furniture, and a local architect who designed the outdoor experience, including an asymmetrical patio roof for rainy days. A perfectly tasteful balance of work and play.

Rachel is a graphic designer, and Creative Circle candidate, with 5+ years of experience working out of Los Angeles and New York. Rachel works from concept to final production working with development teams and vendors. She has designed the UI for mobile and e-commerce websites, branding, email campaigns, banner ads, social media assets, presentation decks, brochures, infographics and other various print collateral.

In a collaboration with Bunch Magazine, the magazine for daring creatives, Rachel gave us an inside look at her life as a graphic designer. Watch the video below and get tips from Rachel on how to live creative.

A Day in the Life of a Graphic Designer

6 Ways to Live Creative and Still Get Your Work Done

1. Create a routine.

Working from home can at times get a bit disorienting. Days can fly past before you realize you’ve been in PJ’s for weeks. A trick that helps for me is getting dressed, and leaving the house in the morning. I usually grab fruit / coffee at the local grocery store. The accountability / structure of getting up and getting moving helps tons to send your brain those “time to work” signals.

2. Take a break.

Its easy to get in the zone and work for hours straight. Plan a break in your work schedule, whether its to go grab lunch, run an errand, or go to the gym — that mid-day break can work wonders for that mental block that’s keeping you from wrapping up a project.

3. Plan your workweek.

Keep a journal. Try and plan out what you’ll be working on for the week ahead. This way you can space projects out over the span of a few days, let it sit, and come back to it– within your deadlines. You’ll also be able to plan in advance which days will be your light days and which days will be all-nighters.

4. Give yourself enough time.

It’s really easy to over-commit. Predicting working hours is one of the toughest challenges for freelancers. Save yourself the headache and always pad in a bit of extra time in your schedule in case the project doesn’t wrap up as quickly as you anticipated. It’s always better to be early on a project (and make a good impression) than to be late on a delivery.

5. Take notes on your projects.

Sometimes a hectic weekend can wipe out all memory of Friday’s work-in-progress. Leave yourself notes about what you’re working on. When working through feedback, checklists are always great because you can see exactly where to pick back up and what you’ve completed already. A lot of times the client’s feedback will be scattered / coming from multiple stakeholders, so a checklist will help to piece together a cohesive plan.

6. Track your hours.

In the rare case that a client challenges you on your hours, or even just has sticker shock, you’ll want to have detailed notes on what you were working on and for how long. Keeping track of this in your journal makes billing / timesheets a breeze. I like to highlight my daily hours in my journal so I can quickly page through and reference the hours worked.
Day-in-the-Life-Computer

Food Desert, Idea Jackpot: The Design Week Open Houses of NW Portland

I may have spoken too soon when I declared that there was no need to plan for dinner during Design Week Portland’s series of open houses. In contrast to Tuesday night’s tour of N and NE Portland offices, where giant tamales, Mediterranean BBQ, and pizza abounded, the scene in NW was a relative food desert.

Nevertheless, it was a welcome excuse to check out Citizen, a truly remarkable company that concerns itself primarily with the intersections of design and technology, performing research and analysis of market and culture trends to find new ways for tech advances to integrate into our lives—and they create some seriously elegant flowcharts in the process. They also have one of the coolest office spaces in the city, tucked away on the fringe of where NW starts to become primarily industrial. Upon arrival they had Purple Rain projecting on the wall (respect), a few paces away from a ceiling pendant that had been fashioned out of Apple earbuds.

Design Week Portland Alternate Usage for Earbuds at Citizen Inc

At this point, we’re so deep in Design Week that you can’t help but start to recognize people who are working the same circuit you are. Such was the case with Luke, an architectural consultant I had also seen at Wednesday night’s party at NORTH. Mutual recognition demanded we introduce ourselves, swapping notes about the other events we had already attended, and those we planned to. It was pleasant enough that I stayed longer than I meant to, but eventually I pulled away, on to the next adventure.

Big Frog Custom T-shirts has been hidden in plain sight on W Burnside for four years, though I’d never heard of them. They’ll digitally print a design of your, or their, making with no minimum, on tees that come in an array of colors and sizes and… that’s pretty much it! But they did have snacks.

Design Week Portland Big Frog T-Shirts

The simplicity of Big Frog afforded me more time at Hand-Eye Supply, a shop that specializes in the best versions of tools for all kinds of projects. There’s a global selection of writing instruments, notebooks, tools, axes, and workwear—a curated retail haven for the fetishization of creative supplies. They are the retail arm of Core 77, an influential design site whose job board, Coroflot, is having its new office built within the adjacent Hand-Eye warehouse. It’s actually on wheels, and began as a planned tiny house by Laurence Sarrazin of Los Osos design studio, built with wood milled on the property it was originally slated for. I’ve met Sarrazin once before—she’s brilliant, and I enjoyed sharing a beer and conversation with her, though my stomach was starting to rumble by the time I finished ogling the Italian-made staplers on my way out.

Design Week Portland Hand-Eye Supply

My last open house of the evening was Anthropologie. I’d been curious about how they’d activate the store for the occasion, and thought they might use the opportunity to highlight their collaborations with independent designers. Nope! They were simply open, business humming as usual. It worked out since I needed to price out a duvet cover, but I didn’t dwell long before walking the few blocks to the westside tomboy headquarters of Wildfang.

Presented by Sockeye creative studio, the event at Wildfang was accompanied by—finally, hooray!—freshly cooked up dim sum treats by Boke Bowl, which just about saved my life. It featured Piers Fawkes, founder and editor of PSFK, a site that specializes in future-thinking news, inspiration, and forecasts. The night’s topic was “The Future of Retail”—basically a breakdown of the latest technology tools being used by companies to communicate with customers, maximize the availability of product information, and streamline their overall systems in ways that are both admirably efficient and depressingly capable of eliminating human employment. It was on the dry side for a jovial, dim sum and canned wine kind of crowd, but it got my juices flowing, and I drove home thinking through the inspiration it gave me for my billion-dollar startup idea.

And no, obviously, I’m not telling you what that is.


Marjorie is a former Creative Circle candidate based in Portland who recently accepted a full-time offer for her dream job. She is a writer/editor and stylist/producer with an emphasis in the design world. If you are interested in working with someone like Marjorie, please contact your nearest Creative Circle office.

Still on the fence about attending events or open houses?

Read our blog on why it’s important.

Points NORTH: The Power of a Good Party

The description was vague but intriguing for “Further North,” a Design Week Portland event being hosted by NORTH, an advertising agency known for its work with Columbia Sportswear, Pacific Foods, and Cover Oregon (not their fault!). Would it be a panel, a lecture… ? Turns out, it was mostly just a party—a really good party—albeit with opportunities to make your own poster in the spirit of NORTH’s handmade methods for creating fonts and label designs. There was also a booth (where you could ask a NORTH employee anything), free burritos, beer on tap, and a display of how the creatives at NORTH go from literally doodling with ink and paper to creating some of the most recognizable package design on the shelves of the grocery store.

Creative Circle_Marjorie S_North Relatable Art

Full disclosure: I knew there would be some familiar faces in the crowd. One of NORTH’s Creative Directors is an old acquaintance who dates one of my good friends, and an art director I’ve worked with for years produces his outdoor adventure magazine, Stay Wild (to which I also contribute writing and copyediting), under NORTH’s custodianship. Since I was rolling solo, this took the edge off potential awkwardness, but instead of limiting me to interactions with people I already knew, these associations served as a bridge to get to know other, looser contacts.

Standing in the same conversation circle as the aforementioned CD put me in position to strike up a long conversation with the NORTH’s Executive Producer—who I’d technically met previously, but only slightly knew. The arrival of a freelance photographer I knew led to an introduction to a Portland-based wardrobe stylist whose work I’ve been following. I didn’t know that Kelley Roy, founder of the ADX manufacturing hub and Portland Made advocacy center, would be there, but I ended up talking to her for most of the last leg of the evening, and I even met, IRL, the owner of a modeling and talent agency before we realized we’d already corresponded over email months ago.

Creative Circle_Marjorie S_North Plans for Cans

I was surprised to check my phone and realize that I’d stayed for almost the entirety of the three-hour event, floating from conversation to conversation, and getting an impromptu tour of NORTH employees’ desk collections (including a ticket stub from Dollywood, a sea monkey terrarium, and a preserved baby shark), their hilarious “email treadmill,” and the dark, upholstered booths hidden throughout their offices for private phone calls (though they look like they’re for making out).

In an industry where relationships and personal chemistry are a bedrock, NORTH set the tone by being welcoming and curious about its guests. There may not have been much formality or structure involved, but I left the event feeling fulfilled, connected, and as though the time—though about twice as long as anticipated—had been well spent.


Marjorie is a former Creative Circle candidate based in Portland who recently accepted a full-time offer for her dream job. She is a writer/editor and stylist/producer with an emphasis in the design world. If you are interested in working with someone like Marjorie, please contact your nearest Creative Circle office.

Still on the fence about attending events or open houses?

Read our blog on why it’s important.

A Design Week Cleansing Breath with Maya Lin’s Bird Blind

Creative Circle_Marjorie S_Bird Blind 2

While much of the city was still, presumably, recovering from the long line to the puppy room at Design Week Portland’s opening party, a group of festival attendees gathered early-ish on Sunday morning. Hosted by Confluence, the 10 a.m. hike doubled as a tour of restoration efforts underway in the Sandy River Delta, crowned by a Maya Lin-designed bird blind structure that marries aesthetic principles to the efforts of conservation.

Confluence is a non-profit that concerns itself with connecting people to place, concentrating on points along the Columbia River. Our walk on Sunday, for instance, went through 1,000 Acre Dog Park, an off-leash pooch paradise I’ve visited several times without understanding much about the land (actually closer to 1,500 acres) history of the area. Originally used by native peoples as grounds for hunting and gathering, the property was, among other things, since used as a cattle pasture and the site of an aluminum factory before being reclaimed by the U.S. Forest Service. Under its management, it is being restored to its native state, including the removal of invasive Himalayan blackberry, which choked much of it until a few years ago.

Creative Circle_Marjorie S_Bird Blind 1

I once stumbled upon the bird blind without realizing what it was. Intentionally placed around a sudden corner of trail for unexpected impact, the round structure is made from a series of wooden slats, with a long ramp reaching out of the forest. Subtle engraving on the ramp’s handrail offers an explanation of the blind’s existence, and upon closer examination you’ll find that each slat is devoted to a native species, as noted in the journals of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Each animal’s scientific name is listed along with the name the explorers’ used in reference to it (like a striped skunk that was listed as a “polecat”) and their conservation status. A just-completed, updated poster (see below) by ecological designer Dylan Woock mimics the round design of the structure, and bears good news—most of the species’ statuses are an improvement over their listing at the time of Lin’s installation, thanks in large part due to efforts by groups like Confluence.

Most of this week at #DWPDX will be devoted to urban affairs and digital innovation, but it felt good to get out in the sun for a blast of fresh air, sunshine, and a little education on how thoughtful design can be deployed to educate and preserve our natural assets as well as drive our industries. Thus cleansed, I’m ready to plunge back into the realm of branding agencies, international retail, and experimental city architecture. Let’s do this!


Marjorie is a former Creative Circle candidate based in Portland who recently accepted a full-time offer for her dream job. She is a writer/editor and stylist/producer with an emphasis in the design world. If you are interested in working with someone like Marjorie, please contact your nearest Creative Circle office.

Still on the fence about attending events or open houses?

Read our blog on why it’s important.

Design Week Portland starts this week. We asked designer Matthew T. to share how Portland lives creative through some of the city’s inspirational spaces.

The Good Mod

Creative-Circle_Matthew-T_The-Good-Mod

Nestled in one of West Burnside’s longstanding warehouse loft spaces, The Good Mod boasts a diverse stockpile of refurbished Midcentury furniture and design. Ascend the old-school industrial elevator via the unassuming glass-paned entrance on street-level, and you will be greeted by a pleasant host who will help you navigate the towers of Eames chair frames and nordic coffee tables. A unique quality of The Good Mod is its ability to seem peaceful and minimal while functioning as an active repair shop. The open concept and natural light allows for a moment of peace in the buzz of Portland’s thriving West End neighborhood.

 

Ace Hotel

Creative-Circle_Matthew-T_Ace-Hotel

Further embedded in Portland’s West End is the flagship location of Ace Hotel, an independent hospitality effort focused on design-driven hosting, with extra care attended to the presence of local designers and an engaged staff. Aside from its bright lobby, which also houses a Stumptown Coffee location, the upstairs common areas host an intimate study area where anyone can go to relax, meet others, or read one of the many publications complimentarily provided.

 

Clyde Common

Creative-Circle_Matthew-T_Clyde-Common

A staple of the west side, Clyde Common features a clean, rustic interior which buzzes with activity during happy hours on weekdays. Common plates include poutine, rustic eggs, or a charcuterie plate to share. Pair those with a local draft ale or their “pacific standard” cocktail, and you have an outfit ready to suit your spring evening.

 

Good Coffee

Creative-Circle_Matthew-T_Good-Coffee

As the name might imply, this cafe was established with the intent to put a quality cup first. Started by a few industry veterans, the new cafe now boasts two locations on Portland’s east side. When you go, look for a variety of bean offerings as well as the unique drinking vessels you are served.

 

Olympic National Forest

Creative-Circle_Matthew-T_Olympic-National-Forest

A drive outside of the city may find you in one of the nearby national forests. One popular destination has been the entryway to the greater Olympic National Forest, which resides near Lake Cushman, Shelton, and other rural communities. Nearby you’ll find trellises, old bridges, and an abundance of nature trails.


Matthew is a Creative Circle candidate and your guide to DWP’s events and open houses.

Still on the fence about attending events or open houses?

Read our blog on why it’s important.

Can’t attend?

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram for updates and recaps.

Artist and designer Max Springer (@and.max.springer) and his wife Lauren (@lalaplaza) decided to make the move from Los Angeles to New York. We asked them to share their journey and their art on our Instagram (@Creative.Circle). See how they live creative.

Instagram_Max S
Driving from Los Angeles to Boulder, Colorado. Not a lot of time to see the local sites but enjoying the motel and gas station tourism pamphlets.

Location: Grand Junction, Colorado

Instagram_Max S_Grand Junction
No time for skiing today.

Location: Vail, Colorado

Instagram_Max S_Colorado
So long, Nebraska.

Instagram_Max S_Chihuaha
Passing Cleveland, we didn’t stop at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum but took a slight detour through southern Ohio.

Location: Wooster Cemetery

Instagram_Max S_Wooster Cemetery
Stopped for lunch in Berlin, Ohio.

Location: Holmes County, Ohio

Instagram_Max S_Berlin, OH
Pit stop at Circle K. Home stretch.

Instagram_Max S_Circle K
Welcome home Max and Lauren! Thanks for sharing your trip with us!

Instagram_Max S_Home
Find out more about their art (and get a postcard mailed to you) at www.laurencherrymaxspringer.com
Want to hire Max? Call Creative Circle New York!

Typography Tidbits is presented by TypeEd to feed your typographic hunger and nourish your design output.

This morsel is about typography in presentation design.


Have you ever been in the audience of a conference seminar or presentation and “checked out?”

That’s me, and it happens all the time. I usually start to daydream about seven minutes in. Sure, some of the mind-wandering has to do with the lack of the presenter’s tone, enthusiasm, and speaking skill, but if the visuals don’t match the content, I get easily distracted.

Sometimes slide typos or tangents in the imagery will catch my eye and I begin to play the “find what needs to be fixed” game. Other times, the presentation design just has too much going on. But most of the time, it feels like I’m lost. Long presentations seem to go on forever. Sometimes I notice others checked out too, as evidenced by their eyes looking down at their smartphones.

Presentation slides might be easier to follow if they were designed simply, like children’s storybooks. With large letters, few words per sentence, page numbers and chapter breaks; these mental tracking devices help us to follow a story in a simple manner, tell us when we can take a mental break, and when we can expect to finish.

Used in your slide presentation, these mental devices can help audiences follow along and track your verbal delivery, enriching both the visual and audible experience in real-time.

If you’re designing five slides or 200 slides, consider incorporating design devices to keep your audience’s attention:

  1. Consider the reader when choosing fonts
  2. Consistency in formatting is key
  3. Size matters and less is more

Consider the reader when choosing fonts.

When setting a type size for your slides, consider the reading distance between your audience’s eyes and the presentation. Yes, there’ll be a reading distance difference between presenting a printed deck across the table to one person, and presenting an on-screen talk to a crowd of 5,000.

For example, a typeface with thin serifs may not work well in low contrast presentations. For ease-of-reading consider typefaces with thick serifs, or medium and bold sans serif fonts. If there’s a font aptly named “display” or “banner,” then you may have found one that’s heavy enough for the screen. For your headers and chapter break headlines, choose display faces that aren’t so overly decorative where it slows the reader down.

Make it easy for your audience to read, and they’ll follow right along.

Chapter Break Sample

Our topic transition slide, as shown with Miller Display, a heavier font made for larger sizes, and set at 65 points.

Here’s a trick; design a single slide with your chosen typefaces, then stand back from your computer to see if you can read it from a distance. Then, keep the lights on and dim the screen as low as it can go, and read it again. Test as many light conditions as possible, especially if you aren’t able to work with the venue’s projector ahead of time.

Consistency in formatting is key.

Using a consistent grid, typography system and color palette will keep order and help to make each slide feel like it’s part of a larger story. If every page follows the system, you’ll create harmony and unity from the cover slide to the ending slide, and every topic in-between.

Music Sample

Our baseline grid shown in InDesign, with type and imagery lined up to the grid.

Think about incorporating topic transition slides. In books, we refer to them as section or chapter breaks; in the theater, they are known as act names (Act I, Act II, etc). As you begin another topic, consider designing these pages with proportionally larger type and different background colors, while utilizing the system grid. These slides will serve to create a pause in your story’s pace and bring audiences back to the topic if they’ve checked out.

For the top and or bottom of the slide, you might consider developing a header and footer system to address the name of the presentation and the slide number, serving as a folio and page number. For presentations longer than 30 slides, the use of this device is not only appropriate but creates structure for the overall presentation.

For charts and graphs, don’t forget to incorporate the design system into these too. Information graphics are a key part of the presentation and challenge people to make sense of them. Format your visuals so they look like they are characters in the story, and keep your audience’s brains on-topic.

Size matters and less is more.

Silicon Valley marketer Guy Kawasaki once said “If you need to put 8–point or 10–point fonts up there it’s because you do not know your material.”

Typically, the larger the font the better, with respect to the margins. We’re talking 24 points and higher here, but don’t design to the edge of the screen. Words will be the main focus when using ample white space all around.

That also means less copy on the slide. Don’t ask your audience to do double duty; read and listen at the same time. If you have to put words on screen, make them count — you can convey the rest of the content verbally.

En Dash Sample

Less words help to highlight one concept at a time.

If you need space for more copy for bullet points, divide them up among more slides or builds, which creates anticipation for each point.

Simply-designed presentations make it easy for people to follow. Well-timed visual and verbal cues capture audience attention and keep them entertained. And consistency throughout helps to package it all together into the attractive gift of a story that inspires others.

Are there other visual devices that you’ve been able to incorporate to simplify and streamline your presentation message? Flag us down on Twitter at @TypeEd and let us know.


Michael Stinson is a co-founder and instructor at TypeEd, where he helps designers implement better typography, efficiently. Get more typography in your inbox when you sign up for more updates about TypeEd.

Monthly Typography Tidbits help to feed your typographic hunger and nourish your design output.

This month’s morsel is about designing for the reader.


When I began my graphic design career, I had no clue how important typography was. I was told early on that the reason I had a job was because of “the content.” If people weren’t reading, my designs weren’t working. No matter how cool the photos were or what type of varnish was used on the cover—if it wasn’t being read, it wasn’t selling our clients’ products and services, and therefore, I was out of a job.

Anyone can make a headline look beautiful, but keep the attention of the reader throughout the body copy so they’ll want to turn the page and read more? That’s your challenge.

As a graphic designer or creative director, you’re designing for the reader; not just for yourself or for the client. Others may try to dictate design choices to suit their own personal tastes, but let’s keep the business goal in mind; persuading a person to act, whether that is to subscribe, purchase, donate, write a letter or so on.

Let’s design for the reader first, then choices on graphic elements such as imagery and color can be implemented afterwards. I tell my students, it’s like designing a car. You’re designing a driving experience so that a person can, first and foremost, drive the car. All the bells and whistles on the dashboard should not deter from that core goal.

Typography is a tool to help readers take information off the page, and that’s if it’s used correctly. The way type is arranged affects how people to read, and, adversely encourage them to avoid reading too. With typography, designers work with all sorts of tools; with grids, picas, glyphs but we also need to know a bit of psychology in order to typeset for the reader.

How to know if you’re encouraging or discouraging readers to read? Here are three steps in which you can set up your design for success:

 

1. First, understand how humans read.

It’s important to understand how humans recognize words and how the brain processes information. Research shows that to a large degree, we read by the shape of the word, rather than letter by letter. Our eyes scan a page in a rapid movement (otherwise known as a saccade), picking up word shapes along the way while our brains convert those forms into meaning.

How fast we saccade is based on our own reading experience, of course, but once we are used to seeing a word, we can instantly recognize the word based on that shape for the rest of our life (this is why logo marks are so memorable).

content_wordshape
The outer shape outlines the unique shape around the ascenders and descenders of a word. The more unique the shape, the easier it is to read. Therefore, type set in all capital letters is a little harder to read. To make all-caps more readable, space out the letters to slow the reader down.

 

2. Provide clues for faster scanning.

A good hierarchical system uses the Gestalt Law of Similarity  to tell the reader which areas to scan to find what they may be looking for. The Law of Similarity, one of the Gestalt Laws of Perceptual Organization does just that, tells the brain that items that are similar tend to be grouped together.

similarity

If certain visuals look similar, the brain groups together in the similar context. Consistency is important for how we format headers, sub-headers, footnotes and other elements of hierarchy. Choose one typeface, one size, and one style for these items. Change the system, and the brain will perceive it otherwise.

For example, I might choose to set my headers Miller Text Roman Small Caps set in 12 points across a whole document. Once that style is established, then the person reading knows now to jump to each set of text in small caps to read what the next block of copy is about.

 

3. Help people to read more competently.

As a designer, you can actually change the reading experience altogether; slow reading down, speed reading up and so on. Do your readers a favor and help them to read by choosing typefaces that encourage them to keep reading your body copy without distraction.

content_sabon

One way to do this is to choose a typeface that has a little bit of contrast. Monotone, or uniform stroke letterforms are less readable than ones with some level of contrast. A modest variety of width in the strokes, transitions and stress of a letterform helps to inform the eye what the letter is, and provide an immediate identification of the word to the reader. If possible, choose a typeface that has minor to medium contrast. Once letterforms have extreme contrast in strokes and stress, they become difficult to read again.

I hope you’ll design for your audience and encourage your readers to act! Let me know if you have questions about designing for readability on Twitter at @TypeEd.


Michael Stinson is a co-founder and instructor at TypeEd, where he helps designers implement better typography, efficiently. Get more typography in your inbox when you sign up for more updates about TypeEd.