Typography & Compelling Copywriting

Remember the original IBM-PC? Its display capabilities gave us one solitary, stark dot-matrix "font". We were constrained to 80 characters per line and 25 lines per screen, all in glorious CRT green. Thanks to visionary perfectionists like Steve Jobs, digital typography and display reached the point where browser, monitor, and printed page are now open, virtually limitless canvases for beautiful, substantive content.

Typography is the art of communicating clearly and easily with type. It is also a bit of a science, because we know that applying principles like visual hierarchy, Gestalt laws, vertical rhythms, and proper stylings make text more readable on the web or in print. There is much more to it than just selecting and applying a font stack. Parameters such as kerning (the spacing between individual letters) and leading (the vertical space between lines of text) can literally transform the look of your text for better or worse.

But typography for responsive web design is a particularly tough nut to crack because it requires our text to be sized programmatically, using media queries, to be easily readable on any device screen. Designer Kenneth Wang has written, and made available online, an outstanding Typography Handbook on best web typographic practices.

There are thousands of free fonts available on the web, but as a general rule I hesitate to use them for two reasons—(a). they are often of poor quality, and (b). those of better quality have been so widely used that savvy web users are tired of seeing them. One exception to this rule is the use of high-quality web fonts from Google. I source most of the display and decorative fonts I use from professional type foundries and it makes a big difference. For general text fonts I don't sleep until I find the set that clicks with the look and feel of the project I'm working on.

Finding and applying the best typography is half the battle. The other (winning) half is using that type to put your message across effectively, and that's where compelling copywriting comes in.

With one of the best-selling web design books in recent years being entitled Don't Make Me Think, it comes as no surprise that clear, concise writing is crucial for capturing and holding readers' attention. My writing skills range from corporate, legal, and technical writing to multiple award-winning lyrical prose. My approach to copywriting is based on a life-long love of words and the English language, with particular emphasis on proper spelling and grammar. If I write it, it will be clear, cogent, commanding, compelling, conclusive, consequential, convivial, and convincing.

In his classic book On Writing Well author William Zinsser points out that writing is largely a process of... rewriting. "Professional writers rewrite their sentences over and over and then rewrite what they have rewritten," says Zinsser. As a writer, I can attest to the authority of his statement. As a successful songwriter, I am especially familiar with a cycle that consists of writing, editing, walking away, coming back, and restarting the cycle. That is the method by which substantive, effective writing of any kind gets done.

Whether on the web or in print, image is everything. Words and images are my thing—I love putting them together in creative and innovative ways; I am a storyteller. Your brand has a story to tell, and I can help you tell it with the impact it deserves—that is what sets you (and me) apart from the crowd. I can't help thinking big, but I sweat the details.

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