Whatever happened to the ‘Golden Rule’ of typesetting?

By Boris Sedacca

As I read the newly redesigned IML magazine Panel Building & Systems Integration (PBSI), my impression is that it looks great, despite breaking many of the classical rules of typesetting. 

Having edited an earlier incarnation of the magazine when it was called simply Panel Building more than a decade ago, I feel that the redesign seems to work well, with larger typefaces on body text making it easier to read, particularly for the silver-haired brigade of which I have been a member for many years.

However, traditionalists would argue that the use of a sans serif typeface belongs in headlines and subheadings rather than in body text. Conventional wisdom has it that a sans serif face is ‘legible’ while sans serif is ‘readable’, making the latter more suitable for body text.

Serifs are the small finishing strokes on the end of characters in a typeface such as Times New Roman. Sans serif fonts do not have these small finishing strokes.

The argument is that serifs help the eye move along the text better for reading continuous chunks of text, whereas their absence makes the eye stop – a favoured attribute where you want a headline to jump out of the page at you and hold your attention.

Nevertheless, this argument has been turned on its head by the modern computing environment. I stopped using serif typefaces for writing my articles more than a decade ago, and unlike print publications, most web-based magazines today use sans serif faces.

Another notable feature of the redesign is the shrinking use of white space, with text almost bleeding to the edges of the page. The typesetting classicist would be horrified by this breach of the ‘Golden Rule’, which is a predetermined ratio of white space according to the page dimensions, but what I find baffling is that it seems to work on this redesign.

We’d be interested in your views on this issue because here at Stone Junction, we have an age range from teen to very senior.

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Sedacca

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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