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I absolutely love opening the Word document containing all of the copy for a job. Thousands of words waiting to be brought to life and revealed to the world. I see each sentence, paragraph, punctuation working together in musical harmony.

The golden section?
Page grids?
Modular scales?

Where do you begin when working with type? Is it just ‘another thing’ to get done or does it define the design - commanding you to painstakingly work until it is perfected?

I would fall into the latter.

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Valon’s comment is:

When I worked in an agency I used to get all the specs with the Word Document. I used to get the typeface, point-size, leading .. the whole nine yards. This way I had no choice or flexibility to do something that would truly satisfy my senses. And belive me I love Type, I can't wait to get my hands in any word document and translate it into a readable content that people would love reading.

To get back to the point, the way I usually start is by looking at what the copy is supposed to do. Is it suppose to inform, educate, enlighten...(?) All these terms run through my mind and usually help me realize the path that needs to be taken.

Also, I've been known to refer to Robert Bringhurst's 'The Elements of Typographic Style'. This book is truly a marvelous reference.

On Apr.29.2004 at 08:55 AM
Rob Bennett’s comment is:

I am a firm believer in the fact that type and image must work together in perfect harmony for any design to be successful. The concept, in many cases driven by the content, for the copy and the image must be the same, if I think you begin to confuse your audience about your message. One of my largest struggles is with our writers who don't take into account how their text will layout. This makes my job so much a bigger challenge, especially in long, educational pieces. I like to have a lot of consistency in my layouts, from spread to spread, and when the text length is inconsistent, this makes that goal nearly impossible. It is to me, my biggest design challenge.

That being said, as someone who started out as a writer, I have always loved typography. And the job where I wrote my copy and set the type on a Varityper, was the first step into my becoming a designer.

I just heard that Ellen Lupton will have a new book on typography coming out in the fall. I just attended a lecture by her that was fabulous and one can preview some of the book on her web site.

On Apr.29.2004 at 09:09 AM
erica’s comment is:

what? you guys get all the type at once, at the beginning of the project, in one document? i never knew such a thing was possible! must be nice.

On Apr.29.2004 at 09:09 AM
Valon’s comment is:

erica, in good days I get the type all at once - other days client comes up with new additions everyday, because "one of his/her cousins is a marketing analyst somewhere upstate and "knows" what she's talking about" - usually thats the excuse I get...

On Apr.29.2004 at 09:13 AM
Al-Insan Lashley’s comment is:

Strange thing is, my recent projects have not even included the writer as the first step. So I found myself writing headlines in the first set of presented comps.

If the client doesn't give me anything more than a creative brief and loose direction, I'll write the (headline/callout) copy myself.

On Apr.29.2004 at 10:56 AM
KM’s comment is:

Also, I've been known to refer to Robert Bringhurst's 'The Elements of Typographic Style'.

It should be in every graphic designers' possession.

what? you guys get all the type at once, at the beginning of the project, in one document?

No, not always In most instances, numerous emails which I have to take into Apimac Clean Text to remove line breaks.

On Apr.29.2004 at 11:01 AM
Al-Insan Lashley’s comment is:

My previous point being, that is how vital and essential type is. Otherwise, what are we designing?

On Apr.29.2004 at 11:02 AM
Rick’s comment is:

Erica - sure, they get it all at first.

Then once they've set it all, they get new copy.

"Oh, wait... we rev'ved the copy a little"

"One or two more litle tweaks..."

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

On Apr.29.2004 at 11:08 AM
Valerie’s comment is:

I do love to receive stories in word format and placing it in the layout for the first time.. the type is way too big, the indents are made using spaces, there are always weird punctuation marks... such a nice feeling to format with real text when I've been doing mockups with dummy text.

I love the "little tweaks" or "just a tiny change" that usually involves adding or deleting a few words and throws off the perfectly spaced and placed type. Most times, editors either don't understand or don't appreciate the time it takes to space out type so that there are no widows, so that the columns line up evenly, not too many hyphens, kerning so that type is easily readable, no single-word justifications, etc, etc.

I have learned to smile and accept that small changes will happen.

On Apr.29.2004 at 11:39 AM
Rob Bennett’s comment is:

Rick's right about that. I can't tell you the number of times we've gotten a brochure done and then that call comes, we've got new copy. Can you just flow it in? Arghhh....I've instituted a policy that we won't layout anything until it's been approved by compliance (in the financial industry the final step for everything is compliance and getting through is a big enough pain that most people won't want to change it unless it's absolutely necessary). It's a great policy in theory but my new boss seems to think the layout needs to be done before the copy is finalized. Nothing like adding a bit of tension to the process. Oh well, just have work with what you have.

On Apr.29.2004 at 11:41 AM
Tan’s comment is:

Let's see...here's how I usually tackle it. This is assuming it's less than 100 pages, and more than 3.

1. First, I go through and read the document. Make sure it's coherent, and matches the piece it's fitting in.

2. I go through with some highlight markers, in different colors, and highlight different levels of subheads, text, captions, etc.--noting any charts, quotes, or any elements not part of the main text. Establish the hierarchy of information before dumping the text into the layouts.

3. Sometimes I do a quick word and page count estimate, allocating the text to specific spreads.

4. Then I usually pick the worse-case spread -- the one with the most levels of subheads, text, etc -- and start flowing the text in for designing.

But these days, that's where I stop. After the first spread, the rest is handed over to a production designer to flow the rest in.

And somewhere in the process, I have our copy editor review the document as it's being flowed. A good copy editor knows hyphenation/ragging issues and will work with the designers to craft and finesse the text before layouts are finalized.

On Apr.29.2004 at 11:48 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> I absolutely love opening the Word document containing all of the copy for a job.

I hate that feeling, actually. Specially when the documents are all set up in different sizes, colors and styles. It is an overwhelming moment (if it's a long piece). But with patience and perseverance all becomes well.

I actually have a hard time for the first 30 minutes of laying down large bodies of text. It feels like a huge piece of pizza dough that keeps flopping and falling from my hands just when I think I have it under control. To continue with the pizza analogy… once I have a nice round ball of dough that I can manage, I start kneading it slowly and making sure it's all even and well dispersed — no bubbles! Then if I feel adventurous I flip it in the air a few times (that would be the equivalent of setting whole paragraphs in Clarendon at 14 pt, so exhilarating!). Lastly I add some ingredients (images, dingbats, whatever). Put it in the oven (sending it to the printer) and wait patiently until it comes out.

Yeah, setting type is something like that.

Or I'm just hungry.

On Apr.29.2004 at 11:49 AM
sheepstealer’s comment is:

It seems like there are several issues on the stone here.

1- Where to start?

I’m going to naively assume that the copy really does come in one document at one time. Althought it's not usually the case, it will help me make my point. Here is a summarized list of the tricks I use when setting client-supplied text:

Print as-is

Printing the document with all of it's horsey headlines, bold bolds and italic italics is the best way to see the writer’s intended hierarchy. Once the text is flowed into Quark it will lose its formatting and be hard to follow.

Flow in the text

I usually make a separate text box off to the side so I can mess with the type before I put it into its actual position.

Eliminate the extras

Search and replace all double spaces, double tabs, and double hard returns with singles -- Periods used to have double spaces in the old typewriter days, but in correct typesetting only a single space is required. Tabs are usually a lot more than doubled in your standard Word doc. One tab at the right distance is all that's required. And, as tabs and spaces usually run wild, so do the hard returns. Each paragraph or headline only needs one return. If you want space after, use the space after specs.

Replace incorrect characters

The quotation marks and apostrophes are infamous for flowing in as inch marks and foot marks (I believe they're actually called double prime and prime, if you want to get technical) In Quark, if you turn on the smart quotes you can simply search ", replace with " and they'll all switch correctly. I also watch really carefully for �, �, �. Those can sometimes switch to weird little characters of many sorts. And while you're fixing things a spellcheck wouldn't hurt.

Format the complete text as the “Main Body Copy” style sheet, and flow into place

Now that the text is clean, it can be formatted into the format that will be most dominant throughout the document. Not until this point is the text worthy to be in its final resting place on the well-designed page. So what are you waiting for? Select all, copy, paste. Now it’s in there.

Your word document is your map

Now that the text is in place, and formatted as your main body copy, use the word document as a guide to apply all other type styles.

2- Is setting the type just another thing? or does it make the design?

Please see the answer to question #1. Do you think I'd have all this stuff memorized if it was just another thing?


On Apr.29.2004 at 11:53 AM
Paul’s comment is:

I loved reading that Sheepstealer! It's pretty similar to what I do, actually, but I've never looked at it from above before. Makes me feel a kinship with all of y'all, knowing we are all out there doing similar things on a daily basis...

On Apr.29.2004 at 12:57 PM
marian’s comment is:

I too hate the Word document. I usually print it so I have some reference for headings, subheadings, quotes etc (like Tan said), and I read it. Then I import it into a blank InDesign file, Select All and apply No Style to purge it of all those nasty Word style attributes. Then I bring it into my real InDesign file and start from scratch.

Type to me has always had a "feel." It's intuitive and I can't really describe it. But I always start with the body copy, I have an idea how I want it to feel and I set large chunks of body copy in various faces to see if they're giving me the right feel. I print them out, look at them and think about them. I may also use an alternate face for headings or whatever, and I usually do this after I have the body figured out.

It also depends on how much text there is and what kind it is. If I know I'm going to need a lot of levels of headings or there's a lot of italics and various styles of emphasis, I make sure I start with a typeface that has enough styles and weights to suit my purposes. If it's really simple, I might choose a face that has only roman and italic (and small caps) ... unless I know my client will request bold (and some clients I just know will), and then I have to judge whether they will accept "there is no bold." or not.

I used to have a co-worker who I'd consult to check if I'd done something typographically inappropriate. He knew lot more history and theory than I did, but I can't ever remember him saying I'd committed any faux pas. So I guess my instincts are pretty good -- they've all I've got now.

After that it's just going through it with a fine-toothed comb.

On Apr.29.2004 at 02:08 PM
Jerry Reyes’s comment is:

Seeing so many double hyphens -- is really starting to get under my skin. It’s another leave-behind that the typewriter left us (the em-dash — wasn't available on most machines). And to think that people are still learning this incorrect and bad habit in typing. It also doesn’t help that Windows systems make many punctuation characters so elusive, most users don’t even know how to insert them.

On Apr.29.2004 at 02:56 PM
sheepstealer’s comment is:


Yes, the double hyphen is a crutch. I think it brings up a whole new topic of will the text work on the web. I've had so much trouble getting characters to read as they should that I’ve sometimes compromised when posting text online — as above.

I should have been perceptive enough to realize that Matthew Carter's Georgia would include all of the proper characters.

Good catch, Jerry.

On Apr.29.2004 at 04:18 PM
KM’s comment is:

I think it brings up a whole new topic of will the text work on the web.

Sheepstealer — you've brought up a good point. Similar to this article on Reservocation.

On Apr.29.2004 at 04:55 PM
Ryan Pescatore Frisk’s comment is:

Thank you Jerry & Sheepstealer (finally)!

It’s all too indicative of focus when visiting a site like design observer, which claims to be on the side of design/typographic knowledge, and having to put up with accessive double hyphens. Catelijne suggests that maybe the authors are trying to be figurative (he he!) like the :), and why don't they just use ++.

Oh, all the typographic ’rules’...

Does anyone read Jan Tschichold anymore (of course with many grains of salt!)?

I sure as hell hope so.

On Apr.29.2004 at 06:45 PM
Sam’s comment is:

Simon & Schuster has the best system I've come across in book publishing. Their copy editing department corrects and then tags the Word document with XPressTags. The tags are listed, comprising all the typographic elements in a manuscript, then given to the designer, who makes lay-outs accounting for each element. The designer then makes style sheets for each element -- (sic, you pedants) actually the XPressTags are standardized for both departments so everyone's calling an A-head the same thing. The designer (turned typesetter) then imports the Word doc with "Include style sheets" turned on and the entire book flows in with all style sheets applied. It's like a video game--the chapter headings appear in display type, extracts are indented and spaced per their styles, etc. There's still some work with breaking pages, orphans and the like, but it's a great system. Applying "no style" or option-clicking no-style (Quark) to strip out all the Word gook is dangerous because it removes italics, superscripts, and such. Seems like more work than less, in the long run.

On Apr.29.2004 at 11:01 PM
Steven’s comment is:

Okay, I guess my process would similar to Tan, Sheepstealer, Marian, and Armin because I haven't had dinner yet. ;-)


Where do you begin when working with type?

Step 1

I always start off by printing out the raw Word doc and reading it all the way through. Writers tend to have a love/have relationship with me for doing this: love me because a designer actually appreciates the value of what they do and the meaning of their content; hate me because I come back and complain to them when they aren't making any sense or are being inconsistent/sloppy with how they are handling information. In any event, like Tan, while reading I usually go through the doc with colored highlighters and mark-up the headline/subhead hierarchies, to get an idea of how the flow of content will integrate with the initial ideas of the layout.

Step 2

Like Marian, I next spend a lot of time fussing about with fonts and sizes. I will usually create a very rough mock-up of the layout I have in mind (like two text columns with whatever border) and then I'll flow in a chunk of body text. Then I start mucking about with various fonts and sizes and make all sorts of printouts. And yeah Marian, it really is intuitive: it has to "feel" right, whatever that may end up being. At this point too, if I'm creating a 48 page brochure (or whatever), I'll take the rough layout document and create another multi-page document with linked text blocks that has the "guestimated" number of pages to which everyone initially has agreed. And then I kind of work between the two of these documents to create some typographic options. What I'm doing here is making sure that the one or two page type treatment will flush out to approximately fill the desired number of pages and making sure that I don't create problems for myself later on. The advantage about this too is that sometimes you find out that you have a couple of extra pages for images or those dreaded additions. Never tell the client at this point that you have extra pages or they will give you more text, guaranteed!

Step 3

At this point, I'll start formatting the heads/subheads within the multi-page layout to get a rough idea of how the content is flowing and breaking. From this I'll have best-case and worse-case spreads, which I'll use to work through the initial dialog and approvals about the design with the client. And then from there, I start working on the specific details of the various page/spread layouts. I won't go in and start fussing with the little typographic details or corrections until I know that the copy is close to being final. Otherwise, there's too much time wasted redoing them over and over and over, and then I get cranky.

Is it just 'another thing' to get done or does it define the design - commanding you to painstakingly work until it is perfected?

Type is really important to me, not only visually but the actual content or meaning itself. In fact, if I'm working with really poorly written copy, for instance when someone gives me a document that's just a disjointed, inconsistent collection of bits and pieces of various previously-created documents, (a favorite little technique of way too many marketing people) I can have a hard time designing and creating layouts because it's impossible to know what exactly they're saying, where the emphases and natural breaks are, and generally how to organize the information.

Okay, it's 10:30 and I'm now starving. Time to heat-up and eat some yummy food my wife brought home from her restaurant job!

On Apr.30.2004 at 12:38 AM
Alex’s comment is:

Wow, thanks for the Apimac Clean Text reference! I've been wanting something like this for a long time.

On Apr.30.2004 at 11:07 AM
sheepstealer’s comment is:

Wow. The true typophiles are really coming out of the woodwork. It's refreshing to see.

I'm trying to imagine what someone like John Baskerville or Giambattista Bodoni would have listed as their steps to typographic layout.

Who were their clients? In what format did they receive text? How did they plan page counts? What if they got to the end of the book and were one line too long? How did it feel to not need �s and �s after every little clever name or sentence. And what was the process of spell checking?

It seems like their job was a lot harder than mine, yet with all of my tools, and style sheets, and the billion fonts at my disposal, I can only dream of typesetting a page as beautifully as the masters used to do it.

How come their stuff always looks so much better?

On Apr.30.2004 at 01:10 PM
Jerry’s comment is:

Sheepstealer: Beautifully set pages are achievable with our current tools. I seriously believe that people who aspire to design have to read good texts on typography, as old as they may be and as futuristic as their reader can be, a serious designer will value their information. Every good designer should read.

A good starting point is The Elements of Typographic Style. I ate that book up so lovingly in school. I wanted to cherish and preserve it, but it proved too useful and took it everywhere, adding wear and tear but that’s OK. It literally became my Bible and gave me an edge over my classmates. The instructors also took notice that there was a change in my work.

We can’t rely on our computer to look and think for us. To paraphrase Picasso: The computer can answer questions but can’t ask them. Look at a proof and massage those forms until they look like you intend. We are not only at the mercy of the type designer or the person who carelessly digitized an old font, but also of the layout software’s text engine (vroom-vroom), the algorithm that “decides” how to place the letterforms. If you have time, you should go in and fine-tune the type, that awkward kerning, hanging punctuation, etc.

The way I set type is look at its fundamental purpose. It’s so easy to add more than necessary with the computer, and I sometimes do, but am constantly checking myself in the process. I almost always edit down, strip away features until I’m left with the essentials that the project requires.

On Apr.30.2004 at 02:54 PM
Ryan Pescatore Frisk’s comment is:

My second edition Bringhurst has the earliest copyright date as 1992, this is not historic in many senses. It’s a good reference point, but definitely not a destination.

Why not start closer to the beginning?

Jan Middendorp just produced a beautiful compendium called Dutch Type. While not a style guide like Bringhurst's, one can obtain a stronger sense of living history.

On Apr.30.2004 at 06:17 PM
Jerry Reyes’s comment is:

I'll have to check it out Ryan. I have to admit, I haven't been browsing the bookstacks lately.

Fred Smeijers’ Counterpunch also packs a good history lesson. Another fun read and healthy addition for anyone working with type.

On May.01.2004 at 12:39 PM
kris’s comment is:

Select All and apply No Style to purge it of all those nasty Word style attributes.

Yes! Begone Double Spaces! Banish those Double Hyphens! Exorcise the embedded Internet Pictures with faux � 'embossed'! Avast me Client—Layout Guru's, the Type Pirates will cut your Word Copy Art to shreds, Lay waste to your naive Super Bold Slanted Headlines, and Purge once and for all the Nasty Word Style Attributes! Har Harrgh. From the ashes of your 'Supplied Copy' the Type Pirates will raise up the Body of Proper Typography, and make the world an Easier Place to Read!


On May.02.2004 at 06:42 AM
bryony’s comment is:

90% of the time I work with one writer who knows how I like my files and there is no cleaning up to do. For the other 10% first thing to do is to go in and clean up all offending characters and traditions (mentioned by many so I won’t repeat), extra returns and remove all styles. Then, once I decide if the file needs to be broken into parts or not, I am ready to import, restyle and work with ease.

On May.04.2004 at 11:32 AM
david’s comment is:

i know exactly how you feel. i live for formatting type. must be some sort of neurological disorder. i especially love all the tiny details involved. making perfect TM's, kerning, super-ultra proper typographic traditions from the chicago manual of style. fun fun fun fun fun!

On May.04.2004 at 02:35 PM