Tag Archives: Justification

InDesign Defaults

When Matthew Butterick mentioned this series as a good online source for reading about typography, he also mentioned its general bias towards InDesign in the examples I give. That’s true. And while I deal with and have dealt with plenty of other tools, software and otherwise, for editing, writing, drawing, setting and composing what will ultimately become design that’s typographic in nature, InDesign, particularly the few-generations-old InDesign, is the one I regularly turn to when working with digital type.

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I have to a limited extent touched on the most popular typographic medium, hypertext, and its conveyance, your browser, but it’s still unnecessarily complicated to talk about a simple concept in a simple way, say, kerning, or small caps, when web standards aren’t there yet, and there’s no good way of ensuring that the results I’m getting are the ones you’ll get. Other stuff like columnar layout and text flow, H&J, baseline grids, and the ability to detect the size of final output, are altogether missing from browsers or in their infancy. All that, and the fact that a fixed medium  lends itself well to making a single set of arbitrary and finite adjustments here and there is one of the things that has always drawn me to print work, and for this specific purpose (demonstrating the principles of typography), caused me to remain with a tool made for print production. (That said, I do plan to focus more on typography in the new medium as part of Using Type, but I’ve had a good long run so far sticking to the basics in the old.)

Internal note

As a kind of wrap to what I’ve written in the series thus far I thought, ‘This writing isn’t really giving much of a glimpse into the typographer’s brain; more like the brain stem.’ These principles I’ve covered aren’t what typographers talk about, just as musicians rarely discuss fingerings, or emergency room doctors their stitching technique. These become built-in, and felt, and what happens beyond that point in the creative process becomes much harder to describe. That’s where I want to go though. At least get to something concrete that articulates a principle better than, ‘You’ve just got to feel it.’ There’s wisdom in following one’s instincts, but if the reader doesn’t see the reasoning that leads to the platform from which the typographer instinctively leaps—to the next decision, little good it does. Those benefited are almost exclusively the readers who already understand the concept, those who also ‘just feel it.’

Anyway, forget all this. I’ll get to it and either strike gold or retreat. Today, and over the next couple of weeks, I want to talk more about what happens inside that typographer’s brain stem. And this is shop talk, the painter reviewing his list of brushes and ladders, the photographer his lenses. Kind of as a last final rundown, I want to go specifically over the conscious decisions made working with InDesign before the first project file opens.

General note on setting defaults

When in InDesign, or any of the major CS or CC Adobe apps, the way to set a program-wide default is by setting something while no documents are open. To make document-wide defaults, (and I’m actually not sure this works everywhere) you specify something while nothing in the document is selected. There are other defaults, such as New Document and Print menu defaults, which are set within those menus using a Save Preset dialog.

The defaults

With no documents open, consider what to keep from what’s already chosen for you by default. In the Character palette, set the font family and size if you have one in mind. Here I set mine to Jordi Embodas’s Pona 9 pt and leave the leading set to auto. That’s what the parentheses mean.

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Now, this next part is important. Set the kerning value to Metrics. This, not optical, should be your default. See above.

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Also, through the top rightmost button on the Character palette, which looks like a tiny down arrow next to three horizontal lines, enable Ligatures and Contextual alternates. This last one allows for example complex connected scripts to work as intended.

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On to Paragraph. Select the Align to baseline grid option at the lower right. I also recommend hyphenation being on by default. Change if you disagree, or if the language you primarily work in doesn’t have a very good hyphenation dictionary or whatever.

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The place you set up the baseline grid is under (on the Mac) InDesign > Preferences > Grids, or the same under the Edit menu in Windows. Here I set my increment to 6 pt, and Start at the top, 0 in.

And of course I use points and inches because I’m an American, but if you’d prefer millimeters and centimeters, the same can be set one dialog up from Grids in Units and Increments.

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Unless you work primarily with Pro fonts, the following is ill-advised: Go to Advanced Type and set the Small Cap height to 25%. And while you’re at it, you may consider altering the superscript and subscript values. What will this do? Instead of InDesign surreptitiously inserting fake small caps, this setting will make all fake small caps terribly noticeable. You can then go and replace them with properly drawn and proportioned real small caps. The same goes with these settings for super- and subscripts.

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Lastly, hyphenation and justification. Follow these settings, referring to my post on the subject to know when to deviate, for example, when exporting a PDF to be read primarily on-screen you should never scale glyphs. These are set from the top rightmost corner of the Paragraph palette. After looking at it, I think I’ll have to revisit my decisions on the hyphenation of certain words or words that lie in precarious places.

That’s it for now. What am I leaving out? Next week we’ll continue on the subject of defaults. Thanks again goes to Jordi Embodas’s Pona (my new default!) for setting the title.

Using Type: How to Justify Type

Using Type, set in FF Spinoza

Alright, you’ve read the intro on when to justify and what considerations to make when doing it, now let’s get to the how of it. First, before any documents are open in InDesign, let’s fix the default. From the Paragraph panel, select the down arrow in the top right corner, and choose Justification.

InDesign justification settings

Common Term: When typographers refer to ‘H&J,’ they’re talking about hyphenation and justification settings.

InDesign justification settings

Applying the above defaults ensures terrible justification. Twenty percentage points of variation tighter and looser than the default word spacing is simply too elastic a standard. Spaces between words will be both much too wide and far too tight as a result. Instead, vary Word Spacing by 2 or 3 percent on either side. The same goes for Letter Spacing and Glyph Scaling, though I’d keep it to a 1 or 2 percent variation.

InDesign justification settings

And yes, in case you’re wondering I did in fact just say it’s okay to squoosh type, a little. Many designers of text faces take this constraint into consideration and make their designs capable of withstanding modest scaling. But by all means, use your eyes and try it out with the real thing. Once you’ve got a representative sample of your copy set, dial these settings (Glyph Scaling tolerances) back some to see what’s working. (Update In response to one of the comments, I’ll add: If you’re creating a PDF to be read primarily on screen, fix glyph scaling to 100%.) Note that I don’t mess with the Single Word Justification since this is something that’s rarely used, but when it is, you’ll want it to perform as expected. Alright. Provided no other documents are open upon closing this dialog, the values you’ve just set are your new justification defaults.

Justified column

The sample above is justified with the above settings applied. It’s set in Font Bureau’s Benton Sans. Below is a comparison of the default justification settings, left, to the new settings, right. The text breaks at exactly the same points in both samples, which is unusual, but offers a nice apples-to-apples comparison of the subtle differences. Note especially the word spacing on the fifth lines of each.

Default justification settings, new settings

Now to touch briefly on hyphenation. Justification wouldn’t work without it, not without a tremendous copyfitting effort anyway. When words are hyphenated, they should lead the reader from the head of the word, to the waiting body at the beginning of the next line. What I mean to say by that is there’s a logical flow to it. The hyphenated word above, ef-fective, breaks after the first two letters. If it were effect-ive or effe-ctive, it wouldn’t read as well. Which begs the question, how does InDesign know where to acceptably break words? It uses a hyphenation dictionary. But how does it know what language the copy is in? Either you specify it, or it defaults based on the language from its installation setting. The way you set copy to follow the rules of a different language is by selecting the text, either at the character level, or by selecting its text frame, and from the bottom of the Character panel, setting the language. If working with text that constantly flips back and forth between languages, this means that the best way of handling it, at present, is by setting up a character style with the language applied. See Using Styles Properly. Below I adjust the settings on a piece of Spanish text set in Max Phillips’s FF Spinoza.

InDesign language settings

By the way, I recommend limiting the scope of your typesetting work to languages you currently speak and read. If you can’t spot a commonly misspelled word or catch a grammatical error, your ability to operate as a typographer (in that language) will be pretty limited.

InDesign hyphenation settings

My only advice with the above Hyphenation dialog, also accessible from the Paragraph panel, is to look at it on your own and make some conscious decisions, run some tests, etc.. Also, depending on the faces you’re working with, the Story panel’s Optical Margin Alignment setting may offer you a bit of needed latitude, and is worth a try.

InDesign story settings

Now what am I leaving out? Please let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading. Using Type is a regular series on this blog, published Thursdays.