Information hierarchy: mapping content creatively

Below are the assignments from last week that I believe are the most inventive. When reviewing them remember the criteria: hierarchy, organization and experimentation. Not all the assignments shown meet all the criteria, so evaluate them to see which do and which don’t. I look forward to reading your comments.


Typographic maps

I love maps. I collect them and enjoy creating them. When done well they can be visually pleasing and informationally useful. This map, created from type only, is done the old fashioned way by craftsmanship, rather than a software action script. See for yourself.

Information hierarchy: mapping content

Assignment 6: Hierarchy and organization. In this assignment the objective was to create clear hierarchy and to organize information so it was easy to navigate. These are the pages that best demonstrate those characteristics. A few are not free of problems but are worth showing.

The feature story in the upper left example needs to be adjusted so it is less crowded by the very dominant elements that surround it.

The lower left example is organized effectively on a five column grid. However it does not make the best use of the second color. And a heading above the features is needed.

The lower center example shows excellent hierarchy through contrast in scale, weight and color, but does not show a feature story prominently and so is less well organized than the other pages here.

Notice how the white space on four of the six examples provides those pages with an elegant appearance.

What size type?

This is a question I am often asked.

However it’s difficult to answer with absolute certainty because some typefaces look larger than others at the same size.

The typeface Perpetua, created by Eric Gill in 1925, is a beautiful typeface. It was designed with a small x-height—literally the height of the lowercase letter x. It has long, ascenders and descenders which are the lines that extend above and below the x-height.

The typeface Helvetica, designed by Max Miedinger in 1957, is also a beautiful typeface. It has a taller x-height than Perpetua, and shorter ascenders and descenders.

If I answer the question this way,  “Use 11 point type for setting text,” I would get two different looking results depending on whether I use Perpetua or Helvetica.

Here’s what I mean. Although difficult to believe, both typefaces are the same size, but Helvetica appears the larger of the two typefaces because of the way it was designed.

[You may want to enlarge the image below by clicking it.]

Below are the same typefaces which I have visually balanced to appear to be the same size.

Perpetua is still 11 points in size but to make Helvetica appear the same size, I reduced it  to 8.5 points, almost 25% smaller in absolute typesize than Perpetua.

And so the only useful answer to this question is, “It depends on the typeface. But as a starting point use type that is between 9 and 12 points in size, and then print a sample of the page to check how easy the type is to read.”

Marking paragraphs: outrageously

Below are six solutions that nicely demonstrate the third category of assignment four. Despite their unconventional approaches, there are elements of both playfulness and organization. Let me know what you think.

Typographic hierarchy

Below are three solutions that best solve assignment five. I have included only one page of the three from each student for the purposes of clarity.

The hierarchy is clear, the type choices are appropriate, the use of space is elegant. The individual elements of information are placed logically and reinforce the hierarchy.

There are visual relationships that link one element to another through alignment, such as the vertical of one letter that aligns with the beginning of a new line of type.

One of the biggest mistakes made this week was to over design the pages, and to forget the simple requirement of clearly showing the information hierarchy.

More classical cds: Bernstein Century

Here is another series of classical cds. This time the typography is more dominant than the design approach seen in the Christian Thielemann series from the previous post.

What are your thoughts about this typography? Is the hierarchy clearer? Is the typeface appropriate? Are the rules framing the text necessary? And what about the overall design?