If your content is mostly words, typography is key. Some designers spend more time improving their visual design skills than their typography skills. They copy other people's UI to learn more about texture and depth. These skills are valuable, and I don't want to suggest otherwise.

What I suggest is that you don't skip out on typography. Words work wonders, and it's a timeless skill to learn how to visually present those words.

If you start with the words, then make them look fantastic, you're more than half way there to a beautiful design. You'll realise that you don't need to spend a lot of extra time on the visual design, because your design will already look good to almost everyone who sees it.

You don't have to believe me. Here's Jeffrey Zeldman:

The easiest, fastest, most readily attainable path to clean, uncluttered, authoritative, branded design is through typography.

Maybe you don't put a lot of time into learning visual design techniques, and you're not particularly interesting in trying? Maybe your mind doesn't work that way, or you've realised like I did that visual design is not an easy topic to learn. There aren't many people teaching practical visual design techniques. Everyone's out there copying each other to learn new trends and interesting techniques. Typography can help if you're not the best visual designer, as Kate Moran says.

Like color, bold or large typography becomes another tool for communicating meaning when there are few elements on the page. Effectively exploiting interesting typography can help compensate for having fewer elements like photos and graphics, and can make a minimalist design feel more visually engaging.

The best thing about typography is that there are many, very practical guides to good typography, and it is a skill you can pick up quickly. Matthew Butterick, who wrote a guide titled "Typography in ten minutes", says this:

This is a bold claim, but I stand behind it: if you learn and follow these five typography rules, you will be a better typographer than nearly every writer—and even most graphic designers.

Airbnb's app redesign, which is mentioned earlier in this book, had a heavy focus on typography to make the visual design work. Here's an excerpt from the Google Design blog, where they interviewed Karri Saarinen, Design Lead at Airbnb:

A stripped-down approach to system icons, buttons, and layout delivers a welcoming and accessible experience regardless of a user's language or location. “A lot of [the Airbnb] app is very typographic,” says Saarinen. Rather than rely solely on potentially ambiguous icons, the design team leaned on text and translation to facilitate communication between hosts and guests. Variation in type sizes throughout the layout helps users quickly decode content hierarchy, while the emphasis on written words creates clarity when communicating across the app's 27 available languages.

Typography is a skill that has a very high impact to effort ratio. You can follow a few simple rules to make a big difference to your design. The best thing is, once you've made those improvements to the words on your page, you'll often find that very few other improvements need to be made.

Modest and restrained → ← Minimal Back to the table of contents