The Seven Contrasts of Type - Graphic Design - Daniel Francavilla OCAD | Typography | Graphic Design

the seven contrasts of type 07


The Seven Contrasts of Type Copyright © 2010 - 2013 First published in 2010 by: Ontario College of Art & Design, Graphic Design 2 Text copyright © 2010 - 2013 Valerie Schein Design and layout copyright © 2010 - 2013 Daniel Francavilla All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in any retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. Printed and bound in Canada.

There are seven contrasts in type
Communication and expression are always affected by contrast. With greater contrast, comes greater clarity. The readability becomes relative through proper use. Contrast supplies the viewer with a path to follow. A visually expressive map of typography allows for comprehension. High contrast commands attention and generates direction. Low contrast is assigned to supportive information and is applied to word or text shapes, h are of secondary and tertiary importance. The control of type on the page, gives the reader a hierarchy of importance and a sense of expression. A successful graphic designer will guide the reader through the page using words and columns of type as value shapes. He or she carefully scrutinizes the proportion and arrangement of lights and darks in a composition. Clear and concise use of value distribution will increase emotional impact. A composition that employs eighty-percent black has a different expression than one that employs eighty percent white. This book demonstrates that careful use of contrast will greatly enhance the communicative use of type as a visual form, in an effort to expand and clarify typographic principles.


InIn order to be order to be truly

give back
– Oprah Winfrey



you have

to stand for something

To move forward you have to


contrast | size

Bigger isn’t always better
Size is the first and most basic form of typographic contrast. By changing the font size, the viewers eye is immediately drawn to the content. Words or letters set in the same style of type maintain the relationship of the letter to the background and you create a physical enlargement of the pattern ABA. What is the first thing you see on the opposite page? In reviewing the quotation, the eye is immediately drawn to larger: Through contrast, you are lead to the word “larger” and the remainder of the statement. The font used for the lettering is the same, allowing the viewer to remain undistracted and permit the size contrast to control and lead the eye. The relative sizes of things can be adjusted for the purposes of creating a perspective illusion, exaggerating comparative apparent attributes as a message or metaphor, or simply to achieve a balanced layout in terms of the distribution, mass, and space.



contrast | weight

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind
– Dr. Seuss

Watch your weight
Weight refers to the perceived mass created by the typeface’s stroke and counters. Using weight easily communicates meaning as well as creating rhythm on the page. Selecting a typeface with several families, makes it easy for the designer to control hierarchy inside a composition without risking the sense of harmony. Priorities can be structured as the weight increases or decreases from the focal point. Weight is often used to create emphasis, also called focus – causing text of an image to seem more important than others. Creating a balanced series of emphases is critical to creating a good overall composition: too many emphases is chaotic, too few is boring. When the eye is not directed where to look, it tends to just look away. In any layout, a maximum of 3 weights is recommended. In reviewing the quotation, the eye is immediately drawn to “are” and “feel”. Through contrast, you are lead to “don’t matter” and “don’t mind” and finally the remainder of the statement. The viewer almost hears the emphasis allowing the full meaning of statement to communicate, control and lead the eye.


Design is not just what it LOOKS like and FEELS like Design is how it WORKS
– Steve Jobs


03 03

contrast | form

How important is the form?
Form refers to the distinction between upper case letters and its lowercase equivalent. These forms not only compliment each other, but the letters themselves have now have ability to express a different context. Contrasting uppercase against lowercase depicts formality against casual. Uppercase letters start sentences or are often used as Acronyms. Too many cap forms and there is loss in legibility so use it sparingly. Working with form allows some freedom with design, as layout need not be changed to draw attention to a piece of text of the same point size and leading. In reviewing the quotation, the eye reads through, but takes note of the word “WORKS”. As a visual cue, the letterform contrast awakens the importance of a specific word or words.



contrast | structure

cture str u A mes eco b ural itect arch tur al t sculp ts nd no a lemen its e when their r have re longe no natu tion in llinaire ustifica ume Apo j
– Guilla


Adding structure
The use of structure involves contrasting the thicks and thins of type. The roman letter and the italic counterpart are a common method. A true italic is measured at 12 to 15 degrees less upright than it’s counterpart. Typefaces are purposely designed with variations in structure so that letterforms compliment each other and give the designer a clear advantage when distinguishing textual priority. To contrast structure you can also contrast different families and achieve distinct visual differences between thicks and thins. The quotation demonstrates how emphasis can be controlled. The word “architectural” contrasts with “sculptural” and by doing this, the structure change is not only like increasing or decreasing the volume, but changes the very quality and tone of the voice to suit the expression.


an ideais byimagination -Frank Lloyd Wright



contrast | texture


Touchable texture
Texture is how the type appears as a single unit on the page – creating a grey value. This texture is derived from the letterforms, their rhythm, density and how they are arranged letter to letter, word to word and line to line on the page. Texture can be compared to fabric – the type is equal to the threads that form it. Texture also calls to our sense of touch so the viewer can be spoken to on two levels. By altering type’s visual darkness, you alter the space it occupies. With variations in light, dark, dense, and volumous, the texture is keyed to the brain’s function to identify visual stimuli and the viewer’s experience is used to tell them where the eye should travel next.


he whole world, T as


experience it visually, comes to us through the mystic realm of color
– Hans Hofmann


0 036

contrast | colour

Colourful creations
Colour alters the scale of relationship between similar letterforms. A typographic colour change allows a designer to highlight structure and invigorate a page. A letterform’s shape and value are more important in determining it’s spatial depth. The tonal values of the colours can be used to create the illusion of size difference and the perceptual difference among colours like red, blue or green can play a dramatic role in typography. Rich spatial perceptions can be achieved through varying colour intensities and allows the designer to separate information as well as creating visual interest. Notice how in the quotation, colour is used to emphasis priority words, at different tints depending on their importance.



– Le wis C arro ll

ere wh now ’t k don ing, you e go any r If ar oad w you t you here ill take

contrast | direction


Where are you headed?
Directional contrast is a great way to prompt the viewer to take in a quick emotion or message viewpoint without interrupting the information the viewer has read or will read. As an efficient use of space, it opens up the opportunity for texture shifts and size shifts. The viewer’s eye is like water. Once it has entered the picture plane it will seek the course of least resistance. Left to its own devices, the eye is happy to move around, seeking the easiest route – their conventional reading direction. In general, images dominated with strong verticals and horizontals have a more formal quality compared with images dominated by diagonals (slanted lines, triangles) or orbicularity (sweeping curves, spirals) creating a feeling of motion or dynamism. By using direction, the designer can provide strong pathways for the eye to adhere to, sweeping through the prime areas of focus and moving along, but not falling outside the edge of the picture plane. If the designer has control, the viewer will feel that they are “compelled” from the image.


The Seven Contrasts of Type
Text by Valerie Schein Design and Layout by Daniel Francavilla Copyright © 2010 - 2013



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