Monday, January 18, 2010

Typography Tip #2: Properly Using Dashes

There are three types of dashes used in type. Yep, three. Most people, unless you are a writer or work in a publishing industry, are unaware of anything beyond the standard hyphen and unfortunately I frequently see hyphens placed where they shouldn't be. It's a big enough problem that our agency proofreader has a Word document he sends to people when he gets enough of their writing that doesn't use dashes properly. Since he spelled things out to nicely, I'm plagerizing a bit of it in this post. Here's the rundown on the different kind of dashes and how to use them:
There are three categories of dashes: hyphens (-), en dashes (–) and em dashes (—). What's with the weird names? Well, en and em refer to the letters 'n' and 'm' respectively. In a given font, much of the distinction of width is based on the width of the 'm' since it is the widest letter in the alphabet. Therefore an em dash is the same width as the letter 'm' for a specific font. The same goes for an en dash, which is usually about half the width of an em dash (since the letter 'n' is generally half the width of the letter 'm'.)

That said, here are the guidelines for when to use these different dashes:
Hyphen (-)
Hyphens separate compound adjectives or hyphenated words
Examples: small-business owners or Pre-Raphaelite
En Dash (–)
En dashes substitute for the word “to” when writing dates
Example: January 15 – 17, 2010 
Note that there is a space on either side of the en dash.
Em Dash (—)
Em dashes separate the start of a sentence from the text when listing bullet points
  • Visual Communicators—Art Directors, Graphic Designers, etc.    
Em dashes also help when a list of items separated by commas contains additional commas that would make it difficult for the reader to understand:
(… the key Great Lakes states—Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, with the longest coastline of all, Ohio and Pennsylvania—have all agreed …).
Note that there is no space on either side of an em dash.
Okay, that's great, but all you see on your keyboard is a hyphen key right? Well you need to know a few commands to make en and em dashes happen and unfortunately it varies based on the program, but no worries, we have the short cuts listed below.

How to type en and em dashes:
PCs—for Microsoft Word (and most other PC word processing programs)
En dash
Typing a word followed by a space, two hyphens, another space and then a word will result in an en dash: word – word.
Em dash
Typing a word followed by two hyphens and then another word with no spaces either side of the hyphens yields an em dash: word—word.
Macs—for Adobe Creative Suite programs and anything within Mac OS
En dash
Key command: Alt/Option + - (hyphen)
Em dash
Key command: Shift + Alt/Option + - (hyphen)

**Please also note that a hyphen is not the same as the minus symbol. There is a separate glyph to use for this so that it matches the plus sign. (Thanks for the tip, Suzanne!)

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Taco Bell Diet?

While it seems a bit like an oxymoron to me, it is, in fact Taco Bell's new ad campaign. I remember seeing one of the ads a few weeks ago and thinking the fast food company was almost making fun of itself and by parading a woman, Christine Dougherty, around as this Subway's Jared-like success case in losing weight on the Taco Bell diet. There's nothing wrong with this, it's awesome that Christine lost the weight, and I can understand why Taco Bell would want to showcase her the way Subway showcased Jared, but it doesn't quite fit.

Initially your intuition and the years of learning that fast food is pretty much bad for you. Yes, Taco Bell has healthier menu options, like all the fast food chains do now, but still, how much healthier are they really? In this article from one of my favorite recipe websites, where the recipes from Cooking Light are housed, they discuss the healthfulness of the items on Taco Bell's Fresco menu and sum up that a consistent diet from them will probably leave you lacking calcium and fiber. Plus all of these items are high in sodium like much processed food, and while that's not necessarily going to keep you from slimming down, it may push your blood pressure up.

My bigger issue with spot is it's tone though. Whether Taco Bell's Fresco menu or not doesn't make a shred of difference in when the creative's bad. The commercial doesn't even seem to take itself seriously. It has a cheesy, goofy, infomercial style which I'm sure was intentional, they even have an infomercial for it. It makes it a little hard to tell if Taco Bell is really pushing this as a diet. Of course they have disclaimers like crazy about how Christine's story is not typical, but the treatment in the ad seems to walk that fine line where most people laugh it off as stupid, while a few gullible others think this might actually work. The issue I see here is Taco Bell has managed to partially lump it's brand in with the questionable diet pill companies of the world. Maybe that's a bit of a stretch, but I see this ad targeting the same kind of customers, especially when they're even marketing it as a Drive-thru diet—no exercise necessary. Sound familiar?

What do you think?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Typography Tip #1: Don't Double Space After A Period

This is one of my biggest pet peeves and any professional designer is going to tell you it's a very common typography mistake. The history of double spacing vs. single spacing after a period, however, is rather long and complicated. Just take a look at this Wikipedia article that will tell you all about the English style vs. the French style and the various spacing changes with punctuation over time. It's long and kind of confusing, but the end result is that the modern typesetting rules for the U.S. are to single space after a period.

But why did we all learn to double space after a period then? Well, originally I was taught in typography that it's a holdover from the typewriter era when every character had the same amount of space in what we call a monospaced font (like Courier). It was thought that two spaces after a period helped the reader differentiate where one sentence ended and another began since there was already so much space around all the letters and in the spaces between words. That's partially true, but a larger space (an em space*, not necessarily a double space) after a period was apparently an accepted style of typography way before the typewriter was around, though those professional typesetters used all different kinds of spaces around all types of punctuation that no one (except apparently the French) still use today.

That being said, single spacing after a period has become the accept style guide and should be how you're typing. Modern typographers and designers prefer single spacing because it offers a continuous flow for the reader's eye and a more aesthetic horizontal line of the text. I also believe it's easier to read. After being so used to single spacing, when I read something with double spacing it's jarring. Look at these next to paragraphs and decide for yourself. Which one looks better aesthetically and which one flows better for your eye.

Single spacing:
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. Or did the quick brown fox jump over the fence? The second sentence is more familiar. I'm not sure why. The first sentence is the traditional phrase that uses all the letters of the alphabet. Isn't that right?
Double spacing:
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.  Or did the quick brown fox jump over the fence?  The second sentence is more familiar.  I'm not sure why.  The first sentence is the traditional phrase that uses all the letters of the alphabet.  Isn't that right?
Like the first one better? I do. Many of you who still double space may like the second one better since you're used to it a bit more, but open a book or magazine nearby and look at the spacing. It'll match the first one. The typesetting standard in the U.S. is now for single spacing after periods, so if you write anything that will ever be published and touched by a professional, keep in mind they'll just do a find/change to get rid of all your double spacing, and be highly annoyed at you for it.

* An em space is the the width of the letter 'm' in a given font. You will learn more about this when I do a post on properly using dashes.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Attention Special Interests: Leave the First Family Out Of Your Ads

Back in August, I blogged about  Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a thinly veiled vegan promoting activist group, referencing Sasha and Malia Obama in an ad campaign for healthier school lunches and plastered the ads all over the DC Metro. The White House, not surprisingly, was not pleased.

It seems PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is up to similar tricks but took it a step further by actually using Michelle Obama's photo in a recent anti-fur ad. The White House has said was never authorized. Um, why does PETA think they can use someone's image without permission? Especially someone like Michelle Obama, who is not only a celebrity, but someone who legally cannot endorse an special interest group like PETA. According to this Associated Press article,
PETA says that they will not take down the ads and maintains that Michelle Obama's past anti-fur declarations essentially give them license to use her image in a campaign.
Whoa, hold on there. How is that even remotely their excuse? Michelle Obama's public stand on fur isn't exactly a model release for an ad campaign. Or am I missing something?

Like I mentioned in my August post, ruffling the feathers of the White House is maybe not such a good idea and if PETA thinks Michelle Obama is as fabulous as they claim, why can't they show her and her position a little respect? Breaking the rules, false advertising and ticking off a popular political figure doesn't help your brand.

New in 2010: Typography Tips

One of the blogs New Years Resolutions is to bring a little more focus to design tips and more specifically typography tips. I'm a type nerd. I'll admit it. I doubt that most of the Creative Cooler's readers care quite as much about type as I do, but there are certain typography rules that everyone should know, designer or not.

If you choose to go into graphic design you will inevitably take a typography class. Most likely you will (and should) take many, but every designer remembers that first class because it's usually quite brutal. The thing about typography is that it's a kind of art form and those who understand it can quickly see and point out what's wrong, but until you reach that point you're usually scratching your head wondering what you did wrong, because it looks almost exactly the same as the one considered to be right. It takes awhile to reach that point and when you do, let me warn you, you will be forever plagued by the vast amount of bad typography that surrounds us daily.

The trouble is, many people set type these days and even plenty of designers never really learned how to treat typography well, let alone those who are simply setting type when they write something in Microsoft Word. There's leeway of course, like any art form, but there are also certain rules that pretty much every designer abides by, especially when it comes to setting something like body copy. Why? Because good typography actually helps you to read more easily. If a paragraph of copy is set poorly it slowly starts to strain your eyes and make you tired. I remember my typography professor telling us that getting tired while reading a textbook is mostly likely the fault of the typography and not the subject matter or writer. Textbooks are generally huge and packed with information. Printing a extra hundred pages to give the type enough space to breath is not usually an economical choice.

So if you've bothered to read this whole post on why everyone should learn the basics of typography, I hope you'll pay attention to future posts giving you said tips and take them to heart. I'm not the first blogger to post these tips and rules online, but since I still see so many people setting type poorly, the more people spreading the word the better.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Levi's And Whitman Pair Up For Campaign

A friend suggested that I blog about this commercial a few months ago, and I realize I'm a bit late in the game for commentary on this Walt Whitman Wieden + Kennedy Levi's campaign, but it's a really great commercial.

At first view, I noted the exceptional execution and artistry of the ad, completely aside from content. It's gritty, moving and a bit nostalgic. It becomes that much cooler when you learn that the voice recording is supposedly an actual recording of Walt Whitman reading his poem.

If you visit the commercial on YouTube, however, dozens of comments blast the spot as trying to be too deep for a spot that just sells jeans. If this were a commercial for a new denim brand like 7 for All Mankind I would agree, but this is Levi's. They have an iconic and historical significance to America. Did you know Levi Strauss and his partner, Jacob Davis, patented the use of copper rivets to strengthen stressed seams creating the rivet style that is an essential part of being jeans today? Traditionally, jeans were the working man's attire and eventually became a symbol of rebellion in the 1950s and then an American wardrobe staple. Levi's as a brand was a large part of that progression in American fashion history and culture, so I don't think the tone of this ad is out of place for the Levi's brand.

Actually, I think this new direction for W+K is much more fitting to Levi's than their last campaign, Live Unbuttoned. Slate offers the opinion that the shift in tone is due to the economic downturn and I'm sure that's party true, but I'd also like to think that maybe Levi's realized a generic pop ad, however upbeat it may be, doesn't help differentiate them much. Levi's has a lot more to draw on than many jeans companies and while its desirability in the fashion world may oscillate over the years, it's managed to hold strong long term.

What do you think?

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Creative Cooler Resolution

If you follow the Creative Cooler regularly, I'm sure you've noticed the recent lack of posts. Apologies on the slim amount of logo critiques and ad news lately, the holidays can really suck up one's time. However, my New Year's resolution for this year is to get my butt back into gear and get posting, so you will soon see some new content—starting tomorrow.

Thanks for sticking with us through 2009 and here's to a very creative 2010!