Typographic Rules

A major feature of Adobe Indesign is the ability to control the gray space of blocks of text through kerning, tracking, hyphenation, and glyph scaling. People have invented systems similar to these tools in the past, but they didn’t catch on.

These tools are a big advancement over what has been possible with previous page layout programs. To make adjustments, the user has the option of using Indesign’s automated paragraph or single-line composer tool, or using the manually adjustable maximum and minimum word spacing, hyphenation slider, and/or glyph scaling tool. All this flexibility and control requires that graphic designers have a better understanding of typographic rules, like whether it is preferable to adjust tracking in a paragraph or text or to adjust the amount of hyphens (more hyphens is considered much more preferable than gappy text).

A program that imposes line breaks where the software chooses can look obviously computer generated. Taking the time to tweak a paragraph so that lines are broken and hyphenated where they seem natural gives the page a more organic feel (for example, it feels natural that “7 a.m.” not be broken so that “a.m.” is on the second line). This is especially important when creating printed pieces such as brochures, sell sheets, and trade ads. However, at DDA we also pay attention to these rules when designing websites. For websites, sometimes I might use a justified paragraph, sometimes a ragged right paragraph. It all depends on the look and feel that fits well with the content.