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Thread: help with typography

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    Default help with typography

    Hi all, I've been looking for threads regarding typography, though haven't really been able to find that much. Perhaps you can help me

    I have a couple of queries, mostly regarding font and font families and styles. Of course it makes sense to stick to the same font family on a particular map, though within the font family, is there a formal standard to follow? for instance, is there a standard that all mountain font need to be heavy type, or underlined? since most of us are dealing with fantasy maps, I'm sure it doesn't matter though if there is such a standard I'd like to get more information about this. Also, are there certain font types (like serif or sans serif) that are not recommended for cartography? I'd imagine sans serif, though you never know...

    Another problem I have (as in one thing that I'm consistently unhappy with and that people seem to point out) is filling areas with typography: as in, I have a mountain range and want to stretch the text to fill the entire range. On most maps (contemporary atlases) I've seen this is done by increasing the the size of spaces between the letters, though that, coupled with the text being rounded to conform with the shape of the mountain range doesn't look that nice. Any suggestions?

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    Guild Journeyer Freehand 5.5's Avatar
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    The most important thing in map typography is readability.
    Especially in maps there are a few problems with that, because of the background and the small space.
    So if you have a font type which is located over mountains or other problematic structures you should choose very readable fonts.
    Another good thing is to outline the font with a lighter color in order to maximize contrast between letters and background.
    E.g. Black letters on a dark brown mountain could be outlined by a lighter brown to pop up the typeface.
    Very nice is a light glow around the letters. It's easy to do in photoshop.

    I'd say it isn't always the easiest task to find optimal readable fonts if you search for typefaces with style and
    flavor for fantasy maps that aren't out of date.
    It's part of the schooling in graphic design, to be at the pulse of fonts. There are websites for typography and fonts.

    Key for choosing a special and yet fitting typeface is the association one has with the general form of it.
    A hint could be the historic period in which fantasy plays. e.g. If it is a gothic world, choose medieval black scripts.
    If it's SF, choose a technical looking typeface. If it's a desert map, choose egyptian looking fonts. etc.

    In maps another thing is important. Typefaces for different things should be different, in order to communicate better.
    The Typeface for mountains, cities and rivers should be different on the first sight. So that anyone reads something
    on the map, he knows from the typeface, what it is. That is very good if there are many labels on small space.

    If you want to fill big spaces with e few letters, the only way is to maximize the letter spacing. Sorry.
    Do NOT stretch fonts!!! A designer works a year or so on a professional font family and develops it to look most
    esthetically with a maximum of readability and a lot of more things. If you stretch a font, you destroy all that work.

    I hope that helped a bit. If there are more questions about typography, please ask.
    Last edited by Freehand 5.5; 01-14-2013 at 06:15 AM.

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    Guild Master Gracious Donor Midgardsormr's Avatar
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    I'd like to expand on Freehand's first line a little bit. There are two related qualities a font has: readability and legibility. Readability is how easy the font is to read over long stretches. It's a quality that is important to body copy and not so much to maps. The other term, legibility, is how easy it is to comprehend a single word in the font; it's important to headlines and map labels.

    Generally speaking, readability is improved by serif fonts, but since we're not concerned with body copy, the choice between serif, sans serif and decorative is largely a matter of style and personal taste. Legibility, on the other hand, is of primary importance, particularly on a map with a large number of labels. Most decorative fonts, such as you'd find at an online repository like Dafont.com, are poorly designed and can be quite illegible. In addition, they usually feel a bit heavy-handed when used as map labels. They can be okay for very large labels, particularly over a flat area, like the ocean, or for the map's title bar, if it has one. For smaller, more numerous labels, I would be inclined to choose a simple, professionally set font. There are good fonts that fit most settings. For instance, I like Belwe for many fantasy maps—it has a nice Celtic flavor. You can sometimes use an amateur's font if you're willing to spend the time doing some manual kerning or other touching up. (Kerning refers to the space between the letters. You can adjust it in Adobe applications by placing your font in the gap you want to change, holding down alt, and using the left- and right-arrows to move the right-hand side of the gap.)

    While an outline or a glow can help with legibility, do not go overboard. I like to start with a 1-pixel outline, then reduce the opacity until the labels lose legibility, then bring it back up slightly: just enough to improve it without looking like an effect. Likewise with glows—just enough to wash out the details beneath the label so that they no longer interfere with the text. Another approach is to make a copy of your labels, turn it into a mask, expand it slightly, then use that to mask out the lines layers, in effect cutting holes in the map where your text can live comfortably.

    I'm going to politely disagree with Freehand concerning the number of typefaces on a document. I wouldn't use more than three fonts in a single map. One for large labels, one for small ones, and maybe a third for cartouches. You can get some additional variety by adjusting size and color, and by using the italics variant. I prefer to let the symbols indicate what a particular feature is rather than using a different font.
    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist
    http://www.bryanray.name

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    Quote Originally Posted by Midgardsormr View Post
    Most decorative fonts, such as you'd find at an online repository like Dafont.com, are poorly designed and can be quite illegible.
    True, I've been checking dafont and though there are some interesting fonts there, I haven't really been struck by anything as being very useful for my cartography. Do you have any other suggestions?

    I wouldn't use more than three fonts in a single map. One for large labels, one for small ones, and maybe a third for cartouches. You can get some additional variety by adjusting size and color, and by using the italics variant. I prefer to let the symbols indicate what a particular feature is rather than using a different font.
    even though contemporary atlases, for instance, use heavy, underline, italics etc do denote different features? though i suppose you can get quite a bit of variety with different styles from the same font family.

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    Default help with typography

    On the topic of text over busy areas, you will want to add a knockout outline around text to allow "whitespace" (or parchment-space) around the text to keep it separated from the graphics it overlaps.

    This can be done in any number of ways which will all be very software specific.

    -RobA>

    Sorry for the brevity, sent using Tapatalk...

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    Guild Master Gracious Donor Midgardsormr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vorropohaiah View Post
    True, I've been checking dafont and though there are some interesting fonts there, I haven't really been struck by anything as being very useful for my cartography. Do you have any other suggestions?
    I believe there's a thread in the Mapping Resources subforum that has links to quite a few useful fonts. I don't really have any suggestions beyond that. I have a few favorites that I tend to use a lot, and I don't really go hunting for more.

    even though contemporary atlases, for instance, use heavy, underline, italics etc do denote different features? though i suppose you can get quite a bit of variety with different styles from the same font family.
    Right, I meant no more than three distinct fonts, like Caslon, Garamond and Tahoma (those being fonts I use a lot and were thus the first to come to mind; I don't necessarily recommend using them together). You can usually get away with using variants like Bold, Oblique or Condensed of each of those if you need greater typographical hierarchy than you can get from just the base fonts themselves. Now that I mention it, that concept of hierarchy is a good way to think about things. If a label is of greater importance than others, then it should have some quality that makes it stand out: Size, weight or color. But don't vary those traits arbitrarily, since that will weaken the unity of the picture.
    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist
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    Guild Journeyer Freehand 5.5's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Midgardsormr View Post
    I'd like to expand on Freehand's first line a little bit. There are two related qualities a font has: readability and legibility.
    Ah, thanks for telling more precisely. In German there is only one word (Lesbarkeit) for reading and consulting text. So I didn't know the word legibility - but I meant it for sure.

    Quote Originally Posted by Midgardsormr View Post
    I'm going to politely disagree with Freehand concerning the number of typefaces on a document. I wouldn't use more than three fonts in a single map. One for large labels, one for small ones, and maybe a third for cartouches. You can get some additional variety by adjusting size and color, and by using the italics variant. I prefer to let the symbols indicate what a particular feature is rather than using a different font.
    Perhaps you misunderstood, what I said, because the word typeface and font isn't the same. A font (-family) may consist of many typefaces (book, bold etc.).
    So if you label settlements you could use many different typefaces (e.g. book, medium, bold) of one font to indicate size without using more than one font.
    Or you label all water-things with italic typefaces of the same font.
    So speaking of typefaces I think there is definitely the possibility of more than three. If it comes to fonts, you are right, but that wasn't what I said.

    But I think, in creative work (especially typography for stylish and unreal fantasy maps) there is no such thing as a quick recipe of bulletproof design. Talking about the maximum of fonts, typefaces, colors, shapes or anything will always go beyond the limit of some special definitions of a project. Every advice could only be a friendly hint.
    Good example for breaking the rules was a nice map I saw some days ago, where multiple things were set in another font, chosen in the style of the things they represent. From a typography scholar's point of view a no-go, but how cool it worked out in that special case! Unfortunately i can't find the link, but the map was called continent of Aarklash.
    Last edited by Freehand 5.5; 01-24-2013 at 09:28 AM.

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    Guild Master Gracious Donor Midgardsormr's Avatar
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    You're right, I did misunderstand the terminology.

    And of course, every "rule" in graphic design is only an invitation to find a way to break it. The trick is in knowing the right time to break it.
    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist
    http://www.bryanray.name

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