Typographic dimensions


Measuring type and determining ‘best practice’.

x-height gauges

During my PhD, I developed some scales that could be used to determine the vertical dimension (x-height) of printed materials. [The accuracy of 1/20th of a millimeter turned out to be too accurate: this accuracy is not discernable by the human eye. I hope to conduct some experiments in which the ‘minimal useful increments’ can be determined.)

Text specifications.

A standard phrase is that ‘you need to learn the rules in order to break them’. The strange thing is that - after measuring about 1000 documents - there does not seem to be any designer who obeys the rules as they are provided in the literature. However, there are clear ‘professional patterns’ that most graphic designers seem to stick to. These patterns strongly depend on the genre, but are independent from typeface, paper-quality, line-length and ink-colour.

My publications on this topic:

Typographic dimensions and conventional wisdom: a discrepancy? Technical Communication. First Quarter 1999. February. pp 67-74 (+ 2 reactions) [Download pdf]

Too small? Not enough linespace? Probably, but how much larger should the vertical dimensions of the text below be to make it acceptable? Would this advice be applicable in several languages?