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Advice needed on fitting fonts into smaller spaces

Discussion in 'Fonts and Typography' started by Ogriv, Jan 20, 2006.

  1. Ogriv

    Ogriv Member

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    I have a customer that would like the text "FRANKLIN COUNTY EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAM" to fit into a 6 foot space. He wants the letters to be 7 inches tall. Every time I try to fit the text into the required space, it looks squished and not very readable. I have manipulated the spacing as well as character width, but it always looks squished. I have also tried to utilize a narrow font. But it seems that the narrow font's lines end up being too skinny.

    Any advice on the correct procedure would be appreciated.


    :thankyou:
     
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  2. tiamarie

    tiamarie Member

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    Try Myriad because it can be expanded and condensed without looking funny. I did a quick layout in illustrator and it looked fine.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2006
  3. The Vector Doctor

    The Vector Doctor Very Active Member

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    Distorting a font like condensing or expanding it is as one member here puts it - font murder. If you must condense a font more than 10% you should probably try a font that was already designed as a condensed font. Maybe even try a font called compressed - like Franklin Gothic compressed or extra compressed. They were designed to be tall and skinny. Some fonts do become ugly or unreadable when forced condensed

    You could always show your customer what the ugly faux condensed font looks like to talk them out of it. Unless they are required to have a 7" letter, you would be better off with a smaller letter. A 7" letter smashed to 60-70% of the original width is actually less readable than say a 5.5 to 6" tall letter left unmolested. Customers always think taller/bigger is better and that's not always the case.

    How about 2 lines of type?
     
  4. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

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    Using Compacta Bold, which is an extremely narrow font, at 7" height it is over 150" wide.

    Look at it this way: You have 43 characters including the spaces.

    72" / 43 = 1.67" average width per character

    1.67 / 7 = 23.86% width to height ratio

    Helvetica Medium has an average width to height ration of 90%. Helvetica Medium is one of the most legible fonts ever created. You are seeking to produce text which is 25% of that ideal ratio. I do not believe such a font has ever been brought to market because it would be inherently illegible. You have the power with a couple of mouse clicks to force a typeface to these specifications. That doesn't mean that you should. You should be advising your customer that what they want is strongly recommended against.
     
  5. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

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    Tia, the reason your image does not display properly is that you have it saved in CMYK color mode which does not display reliably on the internet. Try using RGB or Grayscale color mode for images you upload.
     
  6. James Chrimes

    James Chrimes Very Active Member

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    Any chance of stacking the wording to have a smaller Franklin County and under it have EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAM
     

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  7. tiamarie

    tiamarie Member

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    oops
     

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  8. PMG

    PMG Very Active Member

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    This layout is much more professional just my 3 cents worth!!!!LOL
     
  9. signage

    signage Major Contributor

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    Fred were can someone find the information on fonts like you posted above? Hight to width factors?
     
  10. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

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    My knowledge of them goes back to when Gregory Inc. had as their main business selling computer cut vinyl letters to the trade. their type book had width ratios as part of the information.

    You can come reasonably close by just typing A thru Z and calculating as follows:

    Height x (total length / 26) x 100 = Width Ratio

    HELVETICA MEDIUM CAPS

    1 x (24.104 / 26) x 100
    1 x .927 x 100 = 92.7%

    You can use this to select a face in the range you want to be in or to calculate the approximate line length a proposed style and height will come out to be.

    SIGN SOLUTIONS = 14 increments of space

    Using Helvetica Medium, and a proposed 3" height, we have

    14 x 3 x .927 = 38.93 inch line length

    If we know the line length desired, then we can determine the approximate cap height. Calculating for a 44" line length:

    44 / 14 / .927 = 3.39

    Lower case characters and numbers each have their own width ratios. Back in days of yore, we used to figure line lengths of mixed case and number all the time. We also taught hundreds of wholesale customers to do the same.
     
  11. Bobby H

    Bobby H Very Active Member

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    There may be some instances where someone can get away with distorting type. However, that really depends heavily on the typeface used and how mildly or severely it is distorted. In most cases distortion is indeed font murder.

    On items like technical height to width factors, throw all that stuff away. You would have separate values for just about every font in existence. Most people doing sign design work should have an eye for type that has harmony and balance versus tortured and killed. It's more of a feel kind of thing -which is another argument for the importance of talent in this business.

    Professional type designers spend countless hours tweaking letters and glyphs into the right sense of balance. The weight of the stroke, amount of white space, the spacing rhythm between letters are just a few of many delicate relationships at work in a well crafted font. And in just one swift move, an amateur can come along and throw all that careful balance right out the window.

    We all have a need for naturally condensed and compressed typefaces. Many are readily available in font folders on CorelDRAW CDs and CDs from other applications. Frankly anyone who just grabs a normal weight font and squishes it is just being lazy. It's pretty easy to load up a naturally condensed or compressed typeface.

    I attached a couple GIF images to this post to show examples of naturally compressed to ultra-compressed typefaces -along with examples of font murder trying to fit in the same amount of space.

    In the "murdered" examples one can easily see how odd the characters look when squeezed to unnatural proportions. Normally the vertical stems and strokes on standard sans-serif letters are supposed to be at least slightly wider than their horizontal strokes. But you can plainly see the distortion collapses the vertical strokes to horribly thin proportions while the horizontal parts remain wide.

    Stretched fonts to much wider proportions can cause similar problems. Overall the "flow" of the letter is turned into a wacked fun house mirror kind of effect -kind of like watching a CinemaScope movie in a theater with the wrong lens selected. The rhythm of type is shot and it makes discriminating designers want to shoot perpetrators of such errors.

    Finally, even when one uses a naturally compressed font like URW's Bee One or the thinnest most compressed instance of Briem Akademi MM, one reaches a point of diminishing returns when using compressed type.

    Too many customers fixate on sheer letter size when the real factors in legibility are the thickness of stroke and amount of white space between those strokes. Sometimes you'll get a much more legible layout by breaking copy up into multiple lines and using a normal weight font that can allow the lines of copy to breathe.
     

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