As with every craft, it’s important for aspiring designers to have a firm grasp of the guidelines. In order for your skills to fully develop, there are a few things you need to familiarize yourself with.

Here are 9 rules of typography that all graphic designers should know:

1) Understand kerning.

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Kerning is the act of fine-tuning the space between characters to produce a streamlined, unified pairing. All fonts will come preset with a certain amount of space between characters. In the case of monospaced typefaces, like Courier New, this space will be even throughout all characters.

But for most typefaces, there’s some degree of contrast between the weight of each character and the space between them. Making micro-adjustments between these characters is necessary for designing.

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2) Limit your fonts.

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It’s an honest mistake for newbies to make. You think using a vast assortment of fonts and styles will help you in your design journey. But the truth is that most great work is the product of some degree of self-restriction.

Working within preset perimeters can help you refine a project with more efficiency, satisfying you (and your clients) quicker.

It’s easy to get caught up with too many options at your disposal, and you find that you lose creative control. Do yourself a favor and limit yourself to a healthy handful of typefaces to choose from.

3) Utilize visual hierarchy.

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A decent grasp of visual hierarchy is going to be key when designing anything from websites to print advertisements. Typographic hierarchy is a system that uses typography — size, font, and layout — to show users where to look for certain information, often drawing them to the most important text first.

There are a number of tools we can use to create a neat and orderly visual hierarchy in our work.

4) Practice smart pairing.

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When creating a visual hierarchy, you’ll likely find it greatly beneficial to utilize the right font pairings. And while you may be eager to choose your two favorite fonts, it’s important to understand how these fonts work together, and the natural order they create. 

A good method for stretching the versatility of typefaces is utilizing superfamilies. A superfamily is a set of fonts that are crafted to work together in harmony. These fonts are related by their sharing of certain characteristics.

5) Avoid stretching fonts.

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Foundries and type designers invest a ton of time into meticulously crafting the letterforms of their typefaces. It’s important to keep that in mind when stretching your text. Typically, when stretching typefaces, it’s in an attempt to make the text taller or wider.

Some typefaces will include fonts in their family that accomplish this without distorting the actual letterforms.

In some cases, there will be variants of the typeface that offer these naturally higher or wider forms. Conduct research into typefaces that achieve these results organically and you can refine your repertoire even further.

6) Use negative space.

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White space is not empty space. That can’t be stressed enough. Knowing when not to apply something is just as important as knowing when and how to. This can help you bring out important aspects of your design, aspects that might otherwise be buried in a more busy layout. Don’t be afraid to hold back in the right instance. This of course takes a skillful eye.

7) Avoid gimmicks.

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Design fads come and go. What’s cool today may not hold up tomorrow. As a rule of thumb, you should avoid trends, lest you risk your project falling flat as soon as the next fad comes along.

8) Use the right tools.

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Having the right tools at your disposal is key. Utilizing the right list of programs that can assist you in your design journey will help you grow as an artist, satisfy your clients and build your portfolio. You’re likely familiar with Adobe In-Design and for good reason. It’s the industry standard.

If you’re just starting out and don’t want to splurge on the cost of Adobe’s program, check out these free alternatives. They won’t get you all the way there, but they’re fantastic for beginners just looking to get their feet wet:

Scribus. Available for Windows, macOS, and various GNU/Linux distributions. It has an extensive layout program, though its range of functions isn’t quite as developed as In-Design.

Affinity Publisher. Affinity Publisher works with Windows and Mac, offering a free, feature-rich alternative to In Design. It also possesses a similar interface to In Design for those familiar with its layout.

VivaDesigner. This application offers both desktop and web versions. The free version is easily accessible but operates in a limited capacity. But, there is a full-range version for purchase!

9) Be inspired.

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Above all, be inspired. Keeping your ear to the wall will help you stay up to date on design trends and keep you open to the inspiration you need to create consistent, beautiful work.