Q&A on Blackboard readings

White, “Text”

1. According to the author, what’s the most intelligent design decision you can make?

Informed use of white space is the most intelligent design decision one can make, according to White. I tend to agree with this statement. With the exception of content (which, I would argue, is also often a design choice), white space is the largest deciding factor in how a document’s final design will look.

2. How does White define “conventions?” How are conventions useful?

For White, the word “conventions” seems to be equivalent to “rules.” White does say, though, that any convention can be broken – it’s just that a designer must be informed about the convention before knowing enough to break it effectively. She details eight conventions that are perhaps the most widely known.

3. Are conventions universal? Should conventions be considered “rules?”

Although “rules” is the word I used to define “conventions” above, it is important to realize that they are breakable. A good designer will always take into account the context of a piece and which conventions might be limiting in that context. Conventions are certainly not universal.

Williams, “Readability and Legibility”

1. What is the difference, according to Williams, between readability and legibility?

Readability refers to the ease with which a person can quickly navigate body type or anything else that would have a large amount of text as one entity. Legibility is more applicable to headlines or other title-type elements that occur in small sections.

2. What makes a typeface or font face readable?

Several elements make a typeface or font more readable. Williams says it is a moderation of features. This means the face should not incorporate anything that really stands out – it should be average-sized with average thickness and an average x-height, etc. It is also noteworthy that serif typefaces are generally considered more readable, and additional leading can make up for other deficiencies in readability by allowing the eye a space to move back to the beginning of each new line.
3. When does text have to be legible? When can text serve more decorative, artistic functions?

Text should be legible when people are reading quickly – in situations where the reader will be skimming, scanning or making a quick judgment. Text can serve artistic functions in these cases as long as the designer is aware of the conventions being broken and how those broken conventions work within the piece.

Brumberger, “Rhetoric of Typography”

1. Do you think the typeface in which this article is presented is “rhetorically appropriate?” Why or why not?

Yes and no. This article was meant to be read in a printed journal from a physical page. The typeface (which looks like Times?) is serif and very average. It is extremely readable. However, I read this article on the computer screen. On the screen, the serifs were too skinny to do much good and the weight of the lines was not thick enough to be readable until I zoomed far in. So, in terms of its expected rhetorical situation, the typeface chosen was appropriate. But, I read it outside of the expected rhetorical situation, and the appropriate typeface choice for my rhetorical situation would have been different.

2. What does the author mean when she argues that typefaces have “personas?”

She means that typefaces can evoke certain feelings and connotations within our minds. They may give the text characteristics that we would not otherwise have attributed to it.

3. Take a look at the chunks/passages embedded on one of your favorite webpages and rank the attributes of each using the scale Brumberger used and presents on page 228 of her study.

CNN.com uses the same typeface (with a font change for the main headline) throughout its home page. They choice, a sans-serif that is highly “invisible,” projects seriousness without being too cold. In my opinion, it is confident and professional. Going from the top of Brumberger’s scale to the bottom, I would rate its attributes as follows: cheap – 2, cold – 3, confident – 7, dignified -6 , elegant – 6, feminine – 2, formal – 5, friendly – 6, inviting – 7, loud – 4, masculine – 5, playful – 1, pretentious – 3, professional – 7, relaxed – 4, scholarly – 7, serious – 7, sloppy – 1, straightforward – 7, warm – 5.

4. What’s the “so what?” of Brumberger’s study? What are the conclusions and implications she draws? What can we learn—as writers and editors—from her study?

I was disappointed by Brumberger’s study. I had hoped that she would be able to prove at least one of her hypothesis. I do think she succeeded in demonstrating how differently people can perceive something as “simple” as typeface choice. This shows us that, as designers, every detail is vitally important. The choice of typeface can evoke a number of different ideas if we know how to use the conventions surrounding that choice correctly. As writers and editors, we must be aware (even in a text-only document) of how our typeface choice affects the way readers perceive our work.


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