We’re making great progress! If you’ve been following along, so far we’ve addressed three big issues with simple solutions: the default screen, understanding our software, and image problems. This next step may not feel all that important, but it’s a valuable time saver that has made the difference in finishing under pressure for me.
The fourth step to improve your church media right now is:
Know, organize, and understand your fonts.
I currently have over 5,500 fonts in over 1,800 font families activated on my computer. Chances are, you’ve amassed a pretty large collection yourself over the years. The good news is that a wide variety of fonts provides you with a wide variety of options. The bad news? You don’t need the overwhelming majority of them. Many of them are ugly, poorly designed and not worth having installed. In fact, they’re probably slowing you down.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning of our rule:
Know your fonts. When I was first getting started in design, I was overwhelmed. I purchased all the software I knew the pros used, I purchased a very expensive, very expansive type collection from Adobe. Great design should have been a given, right?
I can’t tell you how many hours I wasted—oh, the time I lost!—setting type in my designs because my workflow went like this: Type something in, spend hour after hour clicking through the font drop down menu in Photoshop until something looked right, and then keep going in case I found something I liked better. By the time I got to the end of the list, I had forgotten the one I originally wanted to go with. So it would start again. All. Over. Again.
I see so many designers starting out who make this same fatal mistake. My solution was finally to print out a page per font and start memorizing them based on potential uses. While I don’t know that I would recommend that same solution to everyone, I do recommend that you memorize some go-to fonts for every situation.
If it’s too overwhelming to memorize groups of fonts, choose a “big three”. A versatile sans-serif (purchase the Helvetica Neue family); a versatile serif (either Adobe Garamond Pro, or Trajan Pro); and a script (either Porcelain or Bickham Script). Most fashion conscious people will tell you that having too much in your wardrobe is a mistake. Instead, have a few high quality pieces you can mix-and-match. The same is true with your fonts. Pick a few high quality, versatile fonts, and you’ll be golden. (Note: you get what you pay for with type, and some fonts are free for a reason. You need to make at least a modest investment in type if you’re serious about making your church media first rate.)
The less time you spend having to think about fonts, the more time you can spend on the design and composition side of things. You need to work on getting to a point where as soon as you hear a sermon title, you know exactly what font you can and should go with.
Organize your fonts. I’d be lying if I said that I was a super organized person. The life of a designer can get absolutely overtaken by font management if you don’t take the time, however, to properly organize. There are tons of great resources for font management out there for both Mac and PC. (Check out this excellent article from Smashing Magazine for some reviews. When I was a PC, I used Extensis Suitcase, btw.)
I currently use an app called FontCase (Mac only) that works kind of like an iTunes for my fonts. I’m able to create collections of fonts that I can enable/disable as a group, get a quick visual on font families, see individual glyphs, and most importantly for me, tag each font with keywords that I can then search and organize by.
This step will allow you a little wiggle room with the first step. If you’re not able to memorize the names of fonts, but can tag and group them, you’ll find that your efficiency will still be greatly increased.
Understand your fonts (& typography). This step is a little more complex, but vitally important. A lot of design comes down to the ability to see how one thing plays off another. How dark balances with light. How heavy balances with thin. How colors behave with one another.
For typography, you need to understand how to manipulate a font in order to squeeze all the design goodness out of it. A prime example is character spacing, or tracking. When you write words by hand, the letters aren’t evenly spaced. Depending on what letter you write, you may place it closer to the one before it, or further away. With computerized type, the letters are spaced mechanically. So even if you’re using a beautiful, expensive font, it may not look its best until you manually adjust the spacing.
Additionally, line height/spacing has an equal importance in rectifying the problem of mechanical typesetting. I don’t pretend to be a font specialist or a typography genius. If you’re serious about design, I recommend that you take the time to do some research online, and take time to read the blog of John Boardly at ILoveTypography.com. Specifically, you should read his series on Type Terminology, and Choosing Type.
I’m running a little long with this part, so I’ll sign off until Part 5 next week. I’ll post some additional font resources shortly. In the meantime, you know the drill — grab my RSS feed or follow me on Twitter or Facebook to be notified when new posts are available. Thanks for reading!