Visual Literacy: Fonts Part II of II

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I remember the 1980’s when desktop publishing (DTP) became the rage. Pioneered by the Mac and Aldus Pagemaker, suddenly, everyone could call themself a desktop publisher. Of course, back then, few people could afford the laser printers needed to produce the high-quality output that was required for professional standards. But I digress….

The availability of fonts wasn’t anywhere near what it was today. Today, fonts can be easily copied and installed from a variety of sources. I recently had to find the Grand Theft Auto font and did that in a matter of minutes (it’s called Pricedown) using online forums and

But like I said in the previous post, fonts are easily abused. Few people possess the fundamental knowledge needed to wield fonts in an effective manner, but simply mimic what they see from MS Word templates.

If you think about it, the fundamentals for font usage is the very same used in this current series on visual literacy and art appreciation.

  • Keep the number of visual elements (fonts) as few as possible. Remember this to your grave – less is more.
  • Establish a certain composition or rhythm within your canvas. There is a natural order of things. Objects all have weight, and hence gravity. Some objects repel others, some attract – so you’ve got to intuitively figure out how much “personal space” each font or word or sentence requires.
  • Colors + composition = clarity. How clear is your visual/verbal message? For example, I abhor artwork which are nothing but frenzied dabs of paints, because they tell me nothing and they are hence worth nothing. Only pretentious art critics believe they can see some meaning, because otherwise they have no career to speak of. The same goes for font use – they require strict discipline in use, or you lose their power to impress.
  • Sometimes, the most boring fonts are the most effective ones. But do try to experiment lah.

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So naturally, once you figure out the basics, you’d want to do fun stuff with fonts. If you keep to the principles of clarity and let your imagination fly, there are many visuals you can make with text. These are just simple examples of what is possible.





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