Graphic Design: Fonts, Tabs and Text

When it comes to my job or this blog or anything that I design, I become a super control-freak perfectionist. I'm sure that is super annoying for people who have to work with me. I'm sorry, Ebby! Anyhow, one of the main design elements I am selective about is font choice. And along with this comes the importance of proper "text etiquette" within a document.

A bad font choice can kill a design and a great font choice can make a design. I always put a good deal of time into finding the perfect font for whatever it is I am designing.

For this post, I am pretending that somebody hired me to design a piece of material for the Minnesota State Fair. Ha!

The first thing I always do is place my artwork in InDesign and get it positioned how I want. I type out my copy and put it in the approximate place I would like for it to reside.

With my direct selection tool selected (black arrow in the Tools palette), I click on my text so there is a blue box surrounding it (like in the image below). Then I choose the very first font displayed on my Character palette (found under Window and Type & Tables) and click within its cell. The first font in my list is Agency FB. When I click on Agency FB, the copy within the blue box reflects that font change. And as I hit the down arrow on my keyboard, my copy changes fonts with each press of the button as it runs through my font list. This is such a simple way to see how a font is actually going to look in a design. And it is so quick. I can run through my entire font list in a matter of minutes.

I scroll through the fonts until I come to one that I think might work with the design. In this case, the first one I like is Blackadder ITC. So I drag a copy of my text box (Alt + drag mouse, or Cmd + drag on a Mac) next to my design. I continue through my font list and copy all of my favorites to the pasteboard.

Now I start weeding out fonts from the list.

Until I find the one I like the best. And I always keep my top three or four favorites on the pasteboard, just in case I need another font option down the road for whatever reason.

I think the text would look better on two lines, so I line up the "M" in Minnesota with the "G" in Great from the first line. I could either use the Tabs tool to accomplish this (Ctrl Shift T) or I could use one of my favorite little text secrets.

What is the secret? First, look at this text box filled with unformatted text.

Let's say I want all of the text in the paragraph to left align with the word "Minnesota." I click directly before the "M" and I hit Ctrl backslash (the key immediately above the Enter key). And like magic, all of the text within that paragraph will left align to that exact location.

If I don't necessarily want the text to align in a static spot within the paragraph, but I want some sort of text alignment or tabbing, this is when the Tabs tool is useful. The Tabs tool can be found under Type and then Tabs (or Ctrl Shift T). Choose how you want to align your text (left-justified, centered, etc.) on the top left portion of the Tabs palette. Here, I chose left alignment and then I clicked on a location above the ruler where I wanted my text to align (the blue highlighted area). I clicked within my text box in the spot I wanted to tab and I hit the Tab button on my keyboard. Anywhere I hit Tab within my paragraph will left align with this spot.

You might be thinking that these little text tidbits seem extremely elementary, right? One would think so! But it is unbelievable how many times I have opened a document that has been created or modified by another user only to discover that there are 52 spaces before or after a word in order to get it to align with something from another row. The space bar should never be needed for text alignment or to replace tabbing.

The space bar should also never be used to wrap text around to the next line. Not necessary! Click before the word/sentence you want moved to the next line and do a soft return. That is, Shift Enter.

So, there. Now you have gotten a glimpse of the perfectionist side of me.