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Article: What Is Leading Definition in Typography Design?

What Is Leading Definition in Typography Design?

Created by Guasca Studio -

Although graphic design is more accessible due to higher awareness of technology, not everyone can master it. There are people who still employ others to make for them. An example is typography design. People think that typography is easy but will soon give up upon trying to make one. 

There are many elements in typography design that will contribute to its final result. Leading is one of the main elements. Without an appropriate leading, the typography may not be readable. It may prevent the design from achieving the aesthetic that you are going for too.


Understanding Leading in Typography

Leading can be defined as a space between the text lines. It may refer to a space between two text lines in typography. However, it can also refer to multiple lines at once. Without any spacing, reading typography might become a very challenging task.

When it comes to graphic web design, people tend to use different terms. It is often called line height or line spacing. The terms are interchangeable in graphic design. Because typography tends to be digital these days, then digital design terms are more familiar to most people.

However, there is one major between the terms leading and line height or spacing. It lies in the way to measure both typography concepts in a design. Here is the explanation:

1. Measuring Leading

Measuring line spacing is not too complicated. As leading is a space between lines, the measurement starts from the bottom line to the next line’s top part. In typography, the bottom line or baseline is imaginary. However, one can create a line according to the design.

2. Measuring Line Height

Line height is measured from the baseline of one text line to the next line’s baseline. Because of that, the line height is basically a leading with added text height in typography. Thus, there is a major difference between the two design concepts.

However, if people are talking about graphic design these days, the concept of spacing being used is the line height. There is no option for traditional typography leading into modern typesetting coding. Line height is a common issue. However, the importance of leading remains significant.

Created by Giuseppe Salermno


The Origination of Term Leading

Leading received its term due to the old tradition of typography. In the past, modern graphic design had yet to be known by people. Thus, all forms of typesetting in typography were done by hand. To create space between lines, people are using lead strips in the design.

Lead material was used because it is delicate yet sturdy enough to handle characters. People used to utilize metal and wood materials to create arts in typography. Although modern graphic design is more popular today, the term leading remains to be used.

Typography is a form of art that involves a type arrangement. A typography design can be a mere ornamental design, but most likely, it becomes a tool to deliver information. Therefore, there are certain criteria that a graphic design of typography must fulfill:

1. Legibility

In a typography design, legibility refers to the ability for readers to decode what is written in the graphic design. It is to fulfill the function of typography as a communication tool. If readers are unable to understand what is being written, it means that there is a design failure.

2. Appealing

Because typography is an art, it should be appealing. Being appealing is not always equal to having an intricate design. It simply means that the typography design should encourage its readers to continue reading. Too intricate design, especially with poor spacing, may hinder reading motivation.

3. Readability

Last but not least, a typography design should be readable. In the context of typography, including graphic design, readability means how a text art can help readers comprehend the information. If a design does not fulfill this criterion, then it is not good typography.

Created by Cristian Tournier

At the end of the day, a typesetting graphic design must be able to relay information, whether as an ornament or more. After all, typography consists of various symbols that have been understood by humans almost universally. People use it more than using other forms of typesetting art for a reason.

It is important to understand that there are various factors influencing how a design is perceived by humans. Here are some factors influencing the perception of typography:

  • The difficulty of words being presented in the design.
  • The visibility of the typography design to readers’ eyes even from a certain distance.
  • The way the design can capture readers’ attention from their periphery.
  • The speed of readers to read the information written on the graphic design.
  • Features in the graphic design that motivates the reader’s cognition to continue reading.
  • Fatigue when reading the typography.
Created by Domenico Bellantuono

There are many ways for typography to achieve the readability function or ability to relay information. The following list shows how a typesetting graphic artist makes an effort to increase a design’s readability:

  • Choosing an appropriate font for the typography project because the font will determine the rest of the design.
  • Determining the right point size (including leading) in the typesetting art project based on the space available and expected distant legibility.
  • Setting the right line spacing or leading according to the other elements in the typography.
  • Determining the right letter spacing or tracking in the graphic work.
  • Making adjustments on the kerning or space between paired letters in the typography design (which is different from letter spacing as letter spacing is more uniformed).

To conclude, having a leading in a typography design is crucial, whichever leading definition is used. Typesetting graphic design is a delicate art. It should not come off as an abstract concept, as people should be able to discern the typography well.

Line spacing, along with other components in graphic art, should work together to fulfill the three functions of typography arts. Thus, it should not be surprising that among professionals, determining leading in a typography design takes time. It can either make the design or ruin it.

Created by Domenico Bellantuono


Types of Leading Known in Typography design

People who dabble in typography need to know that leading is very varied. An artist will use a certain type of line spacing for a specific art project. Before learning about factors that determine a leading use, it is necessary to get to know the types of line spacing.

You need to understand the measurement concept being used in graphic design. As an example, the artist uses a typeface named Helvetica. If the chosen typography setting is Helvetica 10/12 then the 10 refers to typeface point size, while the 12 to line spacing size.

Here are the types of leading known among people working on typography arts:

1. Normal or Regular Line Spacing Type

When a typesetting artwork employs normal line spacing, then the line would appear uniform. It is because the point size applied in the leading is equal to the one applied in the typeface style being chosen. To convey that the type is normal, people will use equal leading and typeface point sizes.

2. Positive Line Spacing Type

The second known line spacing type is positive leading. In a typography design, positive leading will make the graphic design appear quite sparse. There is a considerable space between the lines. An example of a measurement that indicates the use of positive leading in the design is TNR 10/12.

3. Negative Line Spacing Type

The next type of line spacing commonly used in typography arts graphic design is negative leading. When applied to a graphic design, the lines will appear very tight. It is because the leading size is smaller than the typeface point size. The measurement example of this leading is TNR 10/8.


Factors Determining Leading in Graphic Design

In the case of graphic typography design, there is no such thing as one perfect leading to fit every design. One leading might be appropriate to an art project but not to the others. There are many elements that will determine the appropriate leading use in graphic arts.
The following factors will influence how an artist makes a choice of leading in their typesetting art project:

1. Ascenders and Descenders

Ascender in typography refers to characters with tall features such as the letters “l” and “h”. Meanwhile, descender, according to the graphic typesetting art, is its exact opposite. It refers to characters with features that go below the baseline. The examples are “g” and “p”.
Understandably, both concepts play a huge role in determining leading when doing graphic arts. In certain typefaces, the ascenders and descenders can be very distracting. That would affect how a typography design maker arranges the leading.

2. The Typeface X-height

Like ascenders and descenders, the X-height of a certain typeface used in the graphic art will determine the leading. In typography, the X height can be defined as the standard height of the characters. It is measured from the upper to lower baseline of one text line.
Every typeface will display a different X-height. When a typeface style with a tall X-height does not have an appropriate leading distance, people will have an issue with discerning the informative graphic design. It is a delicate matter in the study of typography.

Created by Pouya A.


3. Space for the Text

Line spacing is also determined by where the text is placed. A typography design does not exist on its own. Graphic design combines texts, background, and other graphic elements. Therefore, within this type of graphic art, leading is linked with other elements that are not necessarily related to typography.
When determining the leading of a graphic design, the typography artist should look at where the text would be placed. Leading can be decided based on the comparison between the text and space. Design makers can also determine leading according to background space color.

4. The Amount of Text

Another factor that determines leading would be the amount of text presented in a typesetting art. People usually will not have a hard time if the topography design involves a large text quantity. It is because the placement of a small amount of text is easier within the project.
When a large amount of text is placed with tight leading, people will have a hard time reading the information presented through the graphic art. It is because the legibility of that design is very poor, thus affecting its readability. 

5. Interface Purpose of the Art

Graphic art is a form of visual art created to serve a specific purpose. In the form of typography art, all elements (including leading) will depend on the purpose of the design. We need to remember again that spacing is related to the readability of text.

If the design has the main purpose of delivering textual information, then according to typography, it is alright to use tight leading. Tight spacing will help readers to read information faster. But if readers are expected to discern other graphic elements in the design, too, the tight spacing would be distracting.

Created by Victoria Ng


Type Studies in Typography design

The previous pointers in the line spacing setup are not enough. Graphic typesetting work is more complicated than just determining leading for one section of the project. Sometimes, a whole text will require various setups. A typography artist should be able to create a cohesive artwork.

A typography design artist might need to conduct a type study in order to create graphic art that looks coherent. Type study involves breaking down a text into smaller portions. In these small pieces, it would be easier to take care of line spacing, typeface, and other typography elements.
Conducting type study in the process of creating a typography design has several benefits, including but not limited to:

  • Minimizing time to work on a graphic art of a website or blog because the typography maker only focuses on small objects.
  • It is easier to adjust design applications from a small template to a larger template.
  • Making it easier for the typography artist to focus on smaller details (leading, kerning, and other components) that would be overlooked if done in larger chunks. 
  • Combining the typesetting elements is easier for the eye of the typography design artist.
Created by Junki Hong


Important Tips to Improve Typography design

Although graphic arts seem like a form of visual arts that everyone can access, only a few design artists would be excellent at it. In a typography design, there are several components that would improve it. Here are some pointers to serve an excellent  typography design:

1. Choosing the Right Software

In typography, software plays a vital role in the success of one’s work. Each typesetting software will yield a distinctive result because it has certain functions. The software being used should be able to fulfill the typography artist’s vision of the design.

When using graphic art software for typesetting, the typographer should not be satisfied with the default setting. Most typography art projects require customization because they try to fulfill certain purposes.

2. Making Adjustments According to the Typeface

The way a typography artist chooses a typeface for their typography arts will depend on the tone of their project and personal preferences. Certain typefaces will make a design look informal, while others are suitable for formal graphic style.
Typography elements like line spacing should be adjusted according to the typeface. As explained in the previous parts, a typeface will have distinctive characteristics such as weight, descender, and ascender. Those typography art elements must be considered.

Created by Alessio Longa

3. Paying Attention to Colored Texts

The color of the text is also studied within this typesetting study. The most basic combination is to have black text presented over a white background. However, this combination can be too bland from a graphic art perspective.

Using colored text is recommended to increase the attractiveness of a typography design. Unfortunately, the wrong typeface, weight, and line spacing can make the text illegible. For colored text, the artist is recommended to lighten the weight and increase the space.

4. Differences in Heading and Body

A good text will have different sections to improve its readability. It is basic knowledge in this typesetting art. Usually, a text consists of several headings and bodies. Line spacing for both components should not be applied in a similar way.
If the heading of text consists of multiple lines, it is advised against using sparse line spacing. Instead, the artist should employ a tighter space system. Meanwhile, for the body, a tighter space is more recommended to help readers discern the message.

5. Trial and Error Along the Way

There is one thing that a graphic artist should remember in the quest to make a great typography design. Trial and error is a normal process. The artist should be ready to make tiny adjustments for their projects every time a change is made.
A common practice among graphic artists is making a few samples at once. These samples would be compared side by side. It would be easy to make decisions after making this comparison, although the effort is multiplied.

Created by Lotus White-Sugito


Final Words

To conclude, leading is an important component in typography design. It is pivotal for graphic artists to pay attention to this seemingly minuscule detail because it determines how the typography art serves its purposes. As graphic designers, we should put more concern on how the details and elements are customized. And lastly, we all should enjoy the creative process, and we hope you enjoy reading this article!

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