Week 05

Class meeting on Friday, June 25th from 8am – 1pm in room 145.

Week 05 – Topics

Web critiques
Web Typography
Best of the Web: Typography
Assign midterm project
Technical lab: Typography & CSS. CSS selectors.

Reminder: Our class will meet on Friday, June 25th from 8:00am-1:00pm.
Only people who have another class scheduled at this same time will be excused from this class. I will email the room number and will also post it on the class site.


1) Lab assignment: Using the HTML and CSS files that you’ve been working on, use the CSS properties outlined in the class notes below to style the text for your site and experiment with the various properties. Referring to the “15 Great Examples of Web Typography” in the resources below the Web Typography notes, practice creating typography that copies several styles from one of the site. Refer to the our textbook, Stylin’ with CSS (pg 66-96). Please upload the HTML and CSS files to the class server before our next class on Friday, June 25th.

2) Project due by Wednesday, June 16th: Next week our class will meet on Friday, June 25th and we’ll participate in La Mer Walker’s ID01 speaker series. (I will email you more details and also post the information to our class site.)

The speaker will be from the Digital Agency R/GA.

Geetika Agrawal
Interaction Design Director

(See her bio below)

In preparation for your speaker next week, please read the following 3 articles and go through the R/GA website. Based on the videos we viewed in class and your reading of the three articles, please prepare three questions about interactive design, branding, the agency, or any other questions you may have. Please email the 3 questions to be on Wednesday, June 16th and post them to your process blog.

A digital agency that’s revolutionizing the way we experience brands

R/GA: Digital Agency of the Year ‘09

Digital Agency of the Year: R/GA

3) Project due before next week: Find 3 articles that discuss typography for the Web. (Be sure to check out the I love typography website). Post a link to these articles on your class blog and include a 5-6 sentence summary of the article. What does the article detail, how is it helpful to your understanding of Web typography, and what did you learn by reading it? Also, on your process blog, please post links to 3 websites that have outstanding web typography and tell me why you think so. What about the typography makes it “good?” And, 3 websites that offer the user a sense of community and/or customization. Tell me a bit about the site and how it draws a user to the site.

4) Midterm Project client:
Before next week, please email me details of the client you have selected for your midterm project. You will need my final approval to proceed with your chosen client. You will need to do this as soon as possible since I will need to see the design comp of your home page by Friday, June 25th.

5) Midterm Project Home page: Please begin work on the design of the home page for your midterm project. (Be sure you have received my approval before starting.) Remember to keep in mind the sub-navigation you will need to design for the landing page when you are designing the home page. I would like you to bring in your Photoshop/Illustrator file to our next class on Friday, June 25th.

Geetika Agrawal Bio

Interaction Design Director

December 2008 — Present (1 year 7 months)
Integrated web/mobile/retail projects for Mastercard, Nokia, Barnes & Noble nook, Walmart, Pepsico, American Eagle

Art Center College of Design
MS , Industrial Design , 2002 — 2004

Create Integrated Interaction Design solutions and strategies for multi-channel digital projects including digital marketing campaigns, transactional experiences, rich internet and mobile applications, consumer devices, physical environments, events.

Passionate participant of social media, digital culture, physical interactive art and new technologies. During my evenings and weekends, I co-produce art and music events, volunteer, meet new people doing interesting work and dance!

Subject of interest: Creating user-experiences that help bring Social Change and Cure through elements of casual play and performing arts.

1. System Design i.e. going out in the field to understand user and business needs, framing the problem, identifying innovative opportunities and finding solutions.
2. Translating user-experiences across multiple channels and varying scales.
3. Breadth of skills include working collaboratively with strategists, planners, visual designers, technologists and producers, help in business development and build the company’s talent resources.

Midterm Project – Due July 6

Specifications: Design a prototype website home page and first-level of another section (landing page) for a client** of your choice. Focus on creating an interesting navigational interface that allows the user to navigate the site in multiple ways . Use HTML and an external CSS file to build the prototype for your home page and first-level page of your site. Post your thoughts and decision-making process for this project on your WP blog.

I want you to use the knowledge and skills we’ve covered in class — and hopefully you’ve supplemented on your own — to build a prototype of these two pages for a website. I do not expect the site to be built perfectly — your technical skills will improve over time. But I do expect you to use the knowledge you’ve acquired to construct a functioning site that lives on a server environment.


  1. Home page
  2. Landing page of a main section (first-level of another section) with sub-navigation.

You need to upload your midterm project to the class server in order to present your project to the class. Please do this BEFORE class on Tuesday, July 6.

** Note: Before next week, please email me with details of the client you have selected for your midterm project. You will need my final approval to proceed with your chosen client.

The client should be a real or fictitious company that is nation-wide and provides product(s) and/or service(s) to the general public. You should avoid picking small, local companies that do not have interest in a large public audience. You should also think about what kind of interactivity could eventually be added to the site. In what ways can the brand be developed to create a sense of community and build a relationship with the user?  How can you engage the user of the site in a conversation with the brand?

Gone are the days when brands could effectively broadcast one-way messages to an audience with no expectation – or means – of a response. The most beloved brands today engage in conversations with people that can feel personal, even private. To aid the dialogue, marketers are using data in order to create simple tracking tools that help customers gain insights about themselves and even change their behaviours for the better: to lose weight, get more sleep, consume less electricity, save more money, or run a marathon. These tools are the beating heart of successful digital brand platforms, deepening customers’ self-awareness and strengthening ties between peers.

Please read the following articles to help explain what I mean by creating a sense of community and building relationships.

Branding in a New Dimension
How to build a brand and a relationship in a Web 2.0 world

Mother of Invention
It’s not enough to exploit technology, you need to create it

We are now in the era in which brands must create new transformational technologies. Don’t think about how to exploit Facebook as a media venue or stick a TV ad on YouTube—think about how to create new ways that serve your customers and your brand. As a guide, think about it in terms of the four C’s: content, commerce, community and customization.

Think about how you could apply these types of online interactions for the products and/or services provided by the company you choose as your client.

The midterm project web site specifications are:

  • home page and landing page for a major section of the site.
  • A clear navigation system.
  • A successful sub navigation system.
  • A strong visual design and concept: A theme and visual concept that carries through the site.
  • A design that works well on 1024×728 displays (i.e. navigation & primary content inside 990×560).
  • You must use mostly HTML text in the site.
  • You must use either a two column or three column div structure. (Do not build your site completely in tables or completely with AP divs!)
  • You must use an external CSS file.


Possible sources for images other than Corbis:

Web typography

Traditional print designers have a huge amount of options available to them when it comes to typography, including the sheer numbers of fonts available, and options for positioning text. Typography on the web is a lot more limited, because we must design using fonts and positioning, etc that we know will be available on the computers of the users that will look at their web sites—it is no use just designing for yourself on the web!

Limitations of web typography include:
  • A reduced selection of fonts
  • No hyphenation, making full justification look ugly when a column of text gets narrow
  • Poor control over kerning (ie, the spacing between the letters)
  • A lack of control over how the work is viewed—designers must account for a wide variety of screen sizes, resolutions and environments

Let’s look at these points in a bit more depth.

Reduced selection of fonts

The reduced selection of fonts is often the first thing you will run up against when styling your text. Although you can specify any font you like in your CSS, visitors to your sites will only see your text displayed in that font if they happen to have it installed on their own computer—if they don’t, their browser will either use an alternative font that you’ve specified in your CSS, or resort to the browser default (usually Times New Roman). So, you may like to see all your body text displayed with special fonts like Trump Medieval or Avant Garde, but unless your target audience is heavily biased towards designers your viewers likely aren’t going to get the benefit. For this reason, most web designers limit themselves to the most commonly-available fonts across all systems, which are usually limited to the following:

Andale Mono
Times New Roman
Arial/Arial Black
Courier/Courier New
Trebuchet MS
Comic Sans (this is an unprofessional, many would say ugly font—don’t use this, except perhaps sparingly on sites aimed at children)

These look like Figure 1:

Figure 1: The most commonly available fonts across all systems are limited to the above.

Specifying any of the above fonts means you’re reasonably likely to be picking a font that most of your visitors will also have. Microsoft also introduced six new fonts designed for screen use in Windows Vista and XP, and, oddly, chose to begin all their names with the letter C. If you want to use them, they are Cambria, Calibri, Candara, Consolas, Constantia and Corbel. I’d advise against using these, however, because they are not likely to be available on the Mac or Linux platforms.

So, compared to the thousands of typefaces available to print designers, web designers can reliably choose from just over a dozen. But is this a serious limitation? Typography is about far more than simply selecting an attractive font, it’s about line lengths and kerning and white space as well—remember that typographers pre-dating electronic fonts would have faced similar limitations.


When it comes to aligning your text within its container, there are four options: left-aligned, right-aligned, centre-aligned and fully-justified. Fully-justified text, where both the left and right edges of the block are aligned to the vertical sides of their container, can look more attractive than text with a “ragged” edge, and you’ll see it a lot in magazines and books. On the web, however, it’s problematic due to the lack of automatic hyphenation, which breaks words at appropriate points to better fit them in the line. To fully justify the block of text, all the browser can do is adjust the spacing between the words, which can lead to “rivers of white space” running vertically through the block—this usually happens when the line length within the block is too short and there aren’t enough spaces to adjust subtly, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Rivers of whitespace can spoil justified text blocks.

As you can see in this screenshot, the lack of hyphenation to break words at natural points has caused the spacing between certain words to grow to unacceptable sizes. To avoid this, you should use left-aligned text for the most part on the Web.


Kerning is the process of adjusting the spacing between particular pairs of letters when the font in use is a proportional one (such as Times New Roman, where the space between each character varies from character to character) rather than a monospaced one (such as Courier, where the space between each character is the same each time). It’s used in print to tighten up the space between letters that align naturally, such as a W followed by an A, and can give a more professional look and feel to the text. Most professional fonts come with kerning instructions built in, to provide spacing information to the type renderer. See Figure 3 for an illustration of the difference kerning makes.

Figure 3: Kerning can certainly improve the look of text.

In the above screenshot, the first word has not been kerned. The second word, though, has had the spacing between the W and the A reduced, whilst the space between the A and the S has been increased a touch.

On the web, kerning with this level of precision is effectively unavailable. The only thing we have that comes close to it is the ability to use tracking, which in the print world means adjusting the space between characters throughout the copy, no matter what those characters are—so, you could decrease the space between your W and your A, but you’ll also be affecting the space between every other letter. On the web, tracking is better known as letter spacing, and is controlled with CSS—this is illustrated in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Proper kerning is not available on the Web; the closest we have available is more general letter spacing.

In the above screenshot, the spacing between each character has been increased by the same amount. Whilst this has helped separate the A and the S, the space between the W and A is now too much. Letter spacing with CSS is a difficult property to use effectively due to this all-or-nothing nature, and for this reason it is best used sparingly.

A lack of control

With all this talk of the print world, there’s something very important worth bearing in mind, and that is that the web is not print. So where the print designer doesn’t have to worry about the end viewer resizing the text, or not having the desired set of fonts, or not having aliasing enabled, we do, and there’s often a temptation to try and force a particular design upon the viewer—fixing a rigid text size for instance, or placing text in fixed-width and fixed-height containers, or even replacing whole chunks of text with images.

This lack of control needn’t be a problem however—you just have to get used to the idea that people will want to read your content on a variety of devices in a variety of environments in a variety of ways. You shouldn’t try to stop them, or make it difficult for them—if they want to read your content then it should be as easy to do so as possible. They may wish to read it on their mobile device during their commute home; they may prefer to print everything out and read it on paper instead of a screen; they may be visually impaired and need to increase the font size somewhat. This is why, when you style your text on the web, what you’re really doing is providing a guide to all the different browsing devices as to how you’d prefer that text be seen. Devices are free to ignore everything you say, of course, but that’s ok—what matters is that you’re not trying to force your design decisions on your entire audience.

How is typography done on the web?

Typography on the web is controlled entirely with CSS, and by using CSS you gain a lot of control: not just over the size, colour and typeface selection but also over the line height, the letter spacing, the level of capitalisation (all caps, initial caps, small-caps or no capitalisation at all) and even control over how the first letter or first line of your text is styled.

By styling the text’s containing block, you also have control over the level of justification of the text and the line length. Not only that, you also only have to create your style rules in one location—your stylesheet—to have those rules apply to all of your text, across your whole website (or you can be specific and target particular paragraphs, or areas on the page). Furthermore, if you ever find yourself needing to increase your website text size, or change the body font, you only have to change the value in your stylesheet.

Quick tips

Here are some quick tips to help you out with typography on the Web.

Select a range of fonts

It’s good practice to include back-up selections when specifying your preferred display font. So, rather than simply specifying “Georgia”, you could specify “Georgia, Cambria, “Times New Roman”, Times, serif”. So, first the browser will attempt to use a font named Georgia, but if this font isn’t installed it will try for Cambria, then Times New Roman, followed by Times, followed by whatever the operating system has assigned to the “serif” keyword.

Line length

To aid readability, the average length of a line of text within your containing block should be around 40–60 characters per line, though this should vary depending on your audience (children prefer shorter line lengths, adults prefer longer). An ideal line length is shown in Figure 5:

Figure 5: 60 characters per line—the ideal line length.

The text in the screenshot is about 60 characters per line. Any more than this and the reader may have to start moving their eyes—or even their head—in order to follow the text, which can increase eye-strain and makes the text harder to take in.

Line height

Line height refers to the vertical space between your lines, and you can make your type more readable by increasing it a little above the browser default (which also allows more space for subscript and superscript characters)—see the difference between the two paragraphs in Figure 6:

Figure 6: Line height can make a big difference to the look and feel of text.

The first paragraph in the above screenshot has a default line height, and can feel a little cramped. The second paragraph has had its line height increased, and the text has a bit more room to breathe, making it a bit more readable. Too much line height, though, and you make the text harder to read again, so be careful.

Drop caps

By targeting the first-letter pseudo-element with something like p:first-letter { }, you can style the first letter of a line differently from the rest—such styling is usually known as a drop cap, where the first letter takes up about 3–4 lines of text—see Figure 7.

Figure 7: A typical drop cap.

Small caps

Often, fonts come with a small-caps variation—a set of capitalised letters that are uppercased but approximately the size of the lowercase variant. This is useful for when you want to capitalise something but don’t want to draw too much attention to it, so it can be used for abbreviations, for example. Even if the system doesn’t have a small-cap variant of the specified font, that’s ok—the browser will generate its own version by using full capitalisation and then shrinking the characters to around 70% of their normal size. Figure 8 shows small caps in action.

Figure 8: Small caps in action.

Hanging punctuation

A good typographical effect can be used if your sentence starts with quote marks. Using the text-indent CSS property combined with a negative value—either a value in ems (-10em), points (-10pt), pixels (-10px) or percent (-10%)—allows you to shunt the quote mark out into the left, maintaining the left vertical line of your block of text, as shown in Figure 9:

Figure 9: Hanging punctuation.

Typographically-correct punctuation and other entities

You can make your text look more professional and elegant by using the wide variety of typographic HTML entities that are available such as “smart” or “curly” quotes and en– and em—dashes. A lot of blogging and word processing software will automatically do this for you as you type, turning your regular straight quotes into the typographically-correct curly variety, and turning strings of dashes into en and em dashes. See Figure 10 for examples of typographically-correct punctuation.

Figure 10: Typographically-correct punctuation

Once you start peppering your copy with smart punctuation, your text can look far more elegant and professional—more like something from a magazine or a book than from online. Bear in mind though that this sort of punctuation can look a little pixellated for people with older screens or with aliasing disabled, so use with caution.

Then there’s entities—bits of special HTML that you can insert into your copy to generate special characters not easily available from your keyboard. Figure 11 contains a number of entities:

Figure 11: HTML entities

These can be typed in by hand, but a lot of content management software can convert or insert these for you with ease.


A pull-quote is a short extract from your text that appears elsewhere on your page with a larger text size, and sometimes a different font, to draw attention to it. You’ll have seen them in almost every magazine you’ve ever read, and they’re an effective way of breaking up your text and highlighting key quotes or phrases—and they’re also easy to do on the web with some simple markup and styling. Just make the text larger, perhaps set it in a different font, position it so that the regular text wraps around it and you’re done. There are also some more advanced solutions that involve JavaScript picking out selected text and automatically populating a pull quote from it, which can save you having to write the same text twice in your markup.


So that’s typography, and typography on the web; hopefully you can see that text online needn’t be limited to Verdana, small, #333333—there is a wide range of typographic tricks and tips that can help make your text stand out from the rest of the crowd. For most websites, the reason people will be visiting is to read what you or your authors have written; it makes sense, then, to make that reading as pleasurable as possible.

This information about Typography on the web is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non Commercial - Share Alike 2.5 license.

CSS Properties for Typography

font-family value: one or more quotation mark-enclosed font names followed by an optional generic font name

font-style values: Italic, normal

font-variant values: normal, small-caps

font-weight values: bold, normal, lighter, bolder, integer (100-900)

font-size values: an absolute size, a relative size, a length, a percentage

letter-spacing value: either normal or a length

line-height value: either normal, a number, a length, a percentage

text-align value: one of left, right, center, justify

text-decoration values:blink, line-through, none, overline, underline

text-indent values: either a length or percentage

text-transform values:capitalize, lowercase, uppercase

vertical-align values: either baseline, sub, super, top, text-top, middle, bottom, text-bottom, a percentage, a length

word-spacing values: either normal or a length

How to size text using ems

Text for the screen is sized with CSS in terms of pixels, ems or keywords. Sizing with pixels is easy: get your selector and give it a font-size – no more thought required. Sizing with keywords is more complicated and requires a few workarounds, but you’re in luck as the techniques are well documented. That leaves ems. At this point people often leg it. ‘Ems are too inconsistent,’ they say, ‘they’re too hard; they never work.’ Well that may be the received wisdom, but if ever the was a case of FUD then this is it. I will now attempt to show you how ems can be as quick and easy to use as pixels.

If the world were an ideal place, we’d all use pixels. But it’s not, we have the broken browser to contend with. IE/Win will not allow readers to resize text that has been sized in pixels. Like it or not, your readers will want to resize text at some point. Perhaps they are short-sighted, doing a presentation, using a ridiculously high resolution laptop or simply have tired eyes. So unless you know (not think) your audience won’t be using IE/Win or will never wish to resize their text then pixels are not yet a viable solution.

Keyword-based text sizing will allow all browsers to resize text so this is a possibility, but I don’t find it gives me the precision that pixels would give me. Using ems however, allows all browsers to resize text and also provides pixel-level precision and so they tend to be my unit of choice.

I’ll show you, from scratch, how to size text in a document using ems. I’ll assume throughout that we are dealing with a browser set to ‘medium’ text. The default size for ‘medium’ text in all modern browsers is 16px. Our first step is to reduce this size for the entire document by setting body size to 62.5%:

body { font-size: 62.5%;  /* 1em = 16px therefore 16px × 62.5% = 10px */ }

This takes 16px down to 10px which I’m using purely because it’s a nice round number for example purposes – 10px text is too small for the real world. From now on it’s easy to think in pixels but still set sizes in terms of ems: 1em is 10px, 0.8em is 8px, 1.6em is 16px, etc. If you are laying out your document using CSS (which you are, right?) then you have probably used a few divs to group together elements. Apply text-size to these divs and your job is almost done. Consider a two column layout with header and footer:

<div id=”navigation”> … </div>
<div id=”main_content”> … </div>
<div id=”side_bar”> … </div>
<div id=”footer”> … </div>

#navigation {font-size:1em}
#main_content {font-size:1.2em}
#side_bar {font-size:1em}
#footer {font-size:0.9em}

So this would give us a document where text in the navigation and side bar is displayed at 10px, the main content is 12px and the footer is 9px.

This information about "How to size text using ems" is from the Clagnut website.

More Web Typography Resources

15 Great Examples of Web Typography

A guide to Web typography

The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web

CSS Cheat Sheets


CSS example

body { font-size: 62.5%;  /* 1em = 16px therefore 16px × 62.5% = 10px */ }
h1 { font-size: 2em; /* 10px × 2em = 20px */ }
p { font-size: 1.2em; /* 10px × 1.2em = 12px */ }

The code below is a good example of basic CSS properties for the <h1> heading and <p> paragraph tag of a web page.

body {
 font-size: 62.5%;

h1 {
font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;

p {
font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;


Sorry, but comments are currently closed.

About Author


Instructor for Interactive Design 01