Good spacing is more important than good lettering. Many beginners who can make a fair alphabet have trouble with letter spacing. If you will make an effort to equalize the space between the letters while learning their construction, you will avoid much trouble later. Using a yard-stick to measure the distance between letters seldom produces good results. The experienced letterer achieves correct spacing by eye. These simple suggestions may help. Different letters and dividing areas seldom occupy equal spaces. Words read better when the spaces between the letters are less than half the spaces occupied by the letters themselves.
For convenience, divide letters into three classes: regular, E-H-I-M-N and U; irregular, A-F-J-K-L-P-R-T-V-W-X-Y and Z; circular, B-C-D-G-O-Q and S (also & and ?). Ugly gaps between irregular letters can be avoided by fitting them closer together according to their shapes. Circular and irregular letters can be cut into the spaces between them and the spaces adjoining their curved or irregular sides. The amount thus taken from the dividing areas helps compensate for the extra space created by the form of the letter.
Letters can also be grouped as narrow, B-E-F-I-J-L-P-S-T-Y and ?; normal, C-D-G-H-K-O-Q-R-U-V-X-Z and &; and wide, A-M-N and W. Compressing a wide letter to fit into a space suiting a narrow or normal letter causes it to appear blacker than the rest of the letters. Stretching a narrow letter into the space of a wide one makes it appear lighter than the rest.
The chart illustrates how different combinations should be spaced (fig. 197). The full space as it appears between two straight letters is shown by the stippled block marked "A." Block "B" shows the dividing area between two circular letters. Note how the letters cut into it. Block "C" shows how the area appears between a circular and a straight letter. Block "D" shows the area between an irregular and a circular letter. (Note that the extra space at the top and bottom of a circular letter approximately equals what the letter cuts out of the dividing area. The irregular letter offers a similar example that requires closer fitting to compensate for the shape.) The examples shown here illustrate how the different combinations work out in use. In the word, "Spacing," letters of the same size and shape are spaced both ways. Note how legibility and unity are destroyed by mechanical arrangement. The yard-stick spacing of "Minatown" shows what happens when letters are all fitted into like areas with the same distance between them. Note how spotty the different letters look, especially M, A and W, and how unrelated the irregular letters appear. By making the M, N, A, O and W wider and fitting the irregular letters optically an even tone is obtained.
In addition to the alphabets already shown, three popular variations are:
Single-stroke Letters (fig. 198). The customary types for mechanical drawing. An ordinary ball-point pen works best for these letters, and a speedball pen for heavier lettering.
Formal Script (fig. 199). A favorite letter with a hundred uses. It is very flexible, has many variations.
Speedbali Script (fig. 200). A letter that attracts attention and has a smooth flowing line. It can be drawn very easily. A tirhesaver in newspaper and general lay-out work.
The lay-out is the arrangement of words and illustrations on the page. It is the first step in making a sign, a poster or an advertising drawing. On its quality depends the effectiveness of the finished work.
In making a lay-out, the artist examines and analyzes the problem before him. He may decide first what illustrations are needed; there will probably be a main one which will dominate the arrangement and there may be others, such as diagrams, charts, directional arrows, decorative borders, etc. At the same time he assembles all the copy required and determines what shall be the main headline. Other text may include subheadlines, descriptive paragraphs, dates, places, etc.
With all the elements of his finished work before him, the artist visualizes both words and illustrations as shapes of varying texture and weight. They may suggest to him at once a logical and effective combination, or he may try them in many different arrangements before reaching a final solution. This can be done either through numerous trial sketches or by use of a dummy on which cut-outs are moved around. The essential point is to see every element as a mass and to bind these masses together in an integral design.
In general, the poster combines lettering with painting or drawing and is laid out to put across a message with the utmost economy of means. It must be striking enough to catch the attention at first glance and simple enough to tell its story quickly and concisely. There is no formula for producing successful posters; it is largely a matter of the imagination and originality of the artist. As a rule, you will find that the subject to be treated will suggest the most effective approach.
The lay-out of a poster can be endlessly varied. The main problem is to make the letters and illustration work together as a single design.
Poster lay-out is one of the most fascinating problems which the artist can undertake and is a constant challenge to his imagination and ingenuity.