Space Matters


BIG IDEA: Graphic Design is an art that is all about the details! It’s about perfection! There is no room for error!

This brings us to the minute detail of the spacing between letters—kerning and/or tracking.

Kerning: The visually appropriate placement of the proximity of letters in relation to their neighboring letters in a word.

Tracking: The equal spacing of letters within a word.

Kerning and tracking a word appropriately could mean the difference of creating a calm, sophisticated and serious feeling OR a very stressed, busy feeling.

I’m one for using loose kerning (letters spaced further apart then is normal) for headlines/titles/logos that should be modern or peaceful, like Athleta®. However, for a very active or pressured feeling I will use tight kerning (letters that are spaced very close together then is normal), like FedEx®.

Normal kerning, on the other hand, is your standard spacing where the only thing that you are using to convey the vibe of your company is the typeface you use, like Target®.

One thing to note: When kerning your letters, consider the positive and negative space the letters are creating as they sit next to each other. It is acceptable that the actual spacing might not be equal, the important part is that the spacing should be visually appropriate.

Tracking is good for when you have to cut or even add space in body copy, but a real designer (sorry folks!) doesn’t use tracking within headlines/titles/logos because they are so big that every detail matters.


Not only are these terms important for you to know so that you look really smart when you are amongst other graphic designers, but you WILL need to know these terms when designing with any design program (Adobe Creative Cloud apps recommended!)

More about programs in my next entry.


Make Some Space


Space is a major element of design that will be used everywhere in your design and it’s not limited to typography!

Leading is an important term that refers to the spacing between the horizontal lines of type (for historical background go to:

When it comes to headlines and titles, you may either use a lot of space between lines for a more quiet and calm composition or use less space to give your composition more stress and energy. In either case, legibility is imperative.

As seen below, two posters designed by the brilliant Paula Scher are using leading in a creative way to help not only convey a message, but to engage people to go to the ballet and theater.


Body copy, on the other hand, should be judged by eye. Too much space between lines or too little space can make your message hard to read. If you can read it comfortably, so can your reader. 

TIP: Be honest with yourself as a designer…even if your design looks “cool,” always ask yourself, “Am I effectively communicating my message?” If the answer is, “ehhhh” then it’s time to revisit your design….Again, be honest!

(Font) Size Matters


A headline of a story is large for a reason—to get the readers’ attention and to emphasize the main idea.

Fonts are measured in points. Point size of a font is the measurement of the height of a font that you are going to use within a design (72 pts. per inch). Utilizing the font size appropriately can help communicate your idea appropriately.

For example, your font size can help emphasize a sentiment or hide a photo credit. Hint: When designing any printed material and want people to read it comfortably, don’t go any smaller than 9pt. (Again, rules are made to be broken…) 

Fonts are measured differently for web design. Here is a great site for more info about website type setting:

Serif or Sans Serif?

p4w-hvqtpom-shaun-bell-1Since graphic design hinges on typography, it’s important to know how to discern type and why you should do so. There are two top tier categories that describe the appearance of type: Serif and Sans Serif. The difference is basic, but it can make a huge impact on how you communicate a concept.

SERIF:  Serif typefaces are those that have a line, or foot, at the bottom or top of a stroke.

SANS SERIF:  San Serif typefaces are those that do not have feet.
Why Does This Matter?… BIG IDEA AHEAD!
When you are choosing a typeface for your project, you have to think of it as the most important thing that will create the overall feeling of your project. Sans serif typefaces are usually very clear and easy to read. In addition, they could be perceived as economical or modern. In comparison to serif typefaces, which can be ornate and complex. Serif typefaces are considered to be more old fashioned, however, they are also thought of as sophisticated.

Rules Are Meant to Be Broken:
A typographic rule is that large bodies of sans serif type is harder to read in comparison to serif type. You are the designer, so you do what is appropriate to your design…just thought I would put it out there…


qghgdbbsnm8-elaine-casapIn the world of graphic design, we use the terms font or typeface to reference the visual style of letters that will make up your words (i.e. Times New Roman). To keep this concept really simple because no one really cares about the difference (if you run into someone who does…play along and smile!): Typeface and font are virtually the same thing.

There are a trillion typefaces to express various concepts or feelings and the right one will help make you a star and the wrong one will make you just another face in the crowd!

When I’m looking for an awesome font, I go to:

What is Graphic Design?


When I was in high school, deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up, I asked my art teacher, “What is graphic design?” He had the most basic answer: “Anything that involves words.” He pointed to a bag of pretzels and said, “This is graphic design.”

My point of view is anything and everything that involves communication of an idea can be considered graphic design. Some very few examples would be as simple as street signs and complex as websites, brochures, apps, logos and etc. Since graphic design is all about communication, that would also include photography, illustration and painting.

GRAPHIC DESIGN IS…the combination of imagery and typography composed in an engaging way to communicate an idea.

Welcome to Serif / Sans Serif

My name is Dara and I AM A GRAPHIC DESIGNER (said in a loud echoing voice!). I’ve been a graphic designer for twenty years, which is unbelievable to me. I’m also an art teacher who has taught graphic design for four years. This blog is created for those that have NO graphic design experience, but want to learn about the fine details to the BIG IDEAS!

As serious as I take my profession, I know that there are many working graphic designers that didn’t go to school for graphic design or even art. Graphic design is an art for everyone and anyone can learn the fundamentals and implement them! I will try not to weigh you down with minute facts like history or lengthy verbiage. However, I will offer information that a graphic designer HAS to know. Welcome to Serif/Sans Serif!