Type and User Experience

Recently, I attended an Advisory Board meeting for a local Visual Art School. The Board meets annually with owners of local design businesses to discuss what is happening in the industry and how instructors can best prepare Design students. At the meeting, we discussed several issues affecting the industry including the topic of Print Design versus Web Design. There were some disagreements about Print and its place in the ever-growing digital world.

Print Design isn’t dying, but the delivery method of paper is declining as our society and the culture shifts increasingly to a mobile digital world. With this shift, I believe it fosters a desire for the visceral connection of holding a tangible book in hand along with the act of turning a page. You see this shift all around. As we become more and more technologically mobile, our aesthetic influences become retro in nature. We long for a handcrafted artisan look. We want to hold onto the feeling of texture and touch as we interact within a digital construct.

Secondly, Print Design and proper Typography standards and concepts should be integrated into all things web. The web slowly has been doing this integration through CSS and HTML 5 (together in tandem.) As a result, web designers have better tools at their disposal to make better looking and more readable websites.

Also, Type needs to be taught as User Interaction (UI.) Type just shouldn’t just exist on a web page or your web/mobile application. Type on a website should serve the content and help the end user. Mark Boulton of Mark Boulton Designs says in “UI is visible. Type is visible.” that, “Legibility is a baseline requirement for typesetting anything. It’s like edible food. It shouldn’t really be a measure of what is good or not. Just like audibility and comprehension are baseline requirements for speech. There is more flavour in words; spoken or printed. There is more flavour in type, that if applied well, transcends content from being merely legible, to that of being pleasurable.”

As I have said earlier, print design isn’t gone nor will it be. Print design isn’t about formatting words for the delivery method of printing on paper. Print is about User Experience (UX) and always has been. Typography should be taught as a part of UI and UX design. Of course, Type principles for print differs from type principles for web, but good type fundamentals and principles should exist, be practiced and used in both print and web. UI and UX are all about the end user and having a website that is pleasant to read should always be a priority.