Chapter 3: Medium and Form in Typography

Understanding the right tools for the job is always important to the hacker. You know better than to use the font tag for typographic control and tables for layout (unless economic considerations say otherwise, as in Chapter 2). Instead, you use CSS. It has taken a while, but web standards are finally such that content and style can be separated in this way. Understanding these technologies and their intended uses enables you to make wise decisions such as this. You probably hardly even recognize it as a decision – it’s just the way you do things.

Just as a hacker knows to separate HTML from CSS, a skilled designer can pick the right font for any situation in an instant. Thousands of hours of manipulating typography (making subtle changes that alter the hierarchy of a document) and thousands of hours spent admiring typefaces and understanding and studying their differences makes the trained designer able to picture a typeface as readily as your mother could picture your face.

Knowing the right font to use takes an understanding of the emotional response your audience will have to it. But an understanding of this emotional response stems from an understanding of the tools, people, and philosophies that are behind the letterforms. Not understanding these factors makes choosing fonts a guessing game.

In this chapter, I’ll explain how tools have shaped one of the most important elements of design: typography. I’ll show you how a mediocre font ...

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