i love typography

i love typography

I love typography was born, as its creator John Boardley puts it, on the 8th of August, 2007 with the clear goal of bringing typography to the masses. And now, with over 16,000 subscribers and counting, it has undoubtedly succeeded in doing just that.

The first thing that strikes you upon entering the site is the prominent masthead, which at the time of writing is set in Le Monde Livre from the Porchez Typofonderie; a lovely typeface designed especially for legibility at large point sizes. The masthead also sets up the primary color tones for the site: a simple pallete of black, white, and red. And as we’ll see later, there’s a little more to this masthead than meets the eye.

From here on the site relies heavily on the ever popular Georgia; including links, body text, and post titles. And to balance things out, Lucida Grande is used for the bylines, subheadings, and inline blockquotes. The two typefaces mix well, and provide a pleasant balance between the serif, and sans.

what is love?

There are a lot of intriguing details that make iLT not only an excellent read, but also a joy to look at.

I particularly like the execution of post titles. The bold, center-aligned title stands out, while the date and comment count sit above; parts of which use contrasting red type that really catch your attention. The byline also sets up a nice contrast with wide letter spacing, and a soft gray color. Finally, a simple leaf ornament at the end ties it all together.

Another great feature of iLT is the changing masthead. Every post on the website has a unique image, usually set in a typeface featured in the article, or one appropriate to the topic. Some stick to the color scheme, while others take a few understandable liberties. To make things a little more fun, there are often prizes to the first reader who can correctly identify the font used.

Shifting our gaze to the right, we’ll see that iLT has even more to offer for those seeking typographical enlightenment. The sidebar contains the usual blog-related links, but it’s the secondary sidebar that will likely catch your attention, with several fonts featured for each month, it takes up more vertical space than you can shake a ruler at. Though it’s certainly not space wasted.

You might also notice the subtle use of negative space in the sidebar’s right-hand corner, where you can make out the shape of the standard feed icon, along with the feed information and subscription options.

There’s also another feature, which I imagine is often missed, and that is the menu accessible from the navigation bar at the top, labeled Typography tags & search. Once clicked, it reveals a hidden menu just below the masthead. And though it duplicates some of the content from the sidebar, I find the multi-column format is much more readable, and as such deserves a mention.

criticism

A site devoted to typography and its usage sets high expectations for design. And iLT rises bravely to this challenge. However, further exploration reveals some parts of iLT that could use just a bit more love.

Firstly, the topmost navigation bar—despite the attractive two-tone color—feels a little confusing. The items are wordy, and it’s hard to tell exactly what they do in some cases. Perhaps they could be simplified and consolidated into a smaller menu that would distract you less from the masthead below. Or even removed altogether and placed in a more prominent place in the sidebar.

Another thing I noticed was that some parts of the site were set, as I’ve mentioned, in Lucida Grande. The problem was, I didn’t have that font installed—being a PC user, and therefore in most cases I saw the alternative Tahoma, and in the case of blockquotes, the default Times New Roman since no alternative was defined (see image below). Not a deal-breaker, but a better CSS alternative would be something like Lucida Sans Unicode; a very similar font available on most Windows PCs.

The last thing that irks me is the lack of contrast in the fonts for the month sidebar. Yes, white on black is about as high contrast as you can get, but I’m referring to the name of the month. Yes, it is there. And there is more whitespace above it than the other fonts, but since it’s white like the rest, it’s hard to spot at a glance. Again, however, this is easily remedied; either by adding a small horizontal rule between months, or better yet, changing the color of the month name to a more subtle gray.

conclusion

Overall, iLT is a success; both visually, and content-wise. As it says in the footer. “Typography exists to honor content.” (quoted from The Elements of Typographic Style). And this is clearly a motto that iLT takes to heart.

Indeed, it goes without saying; I love typography — don’t you?

  1. Leon P

    I love this site - it’s one of two or three I regularly read, and the author has a warm, welcoming writing style that invites readers in regardless of their supposed expertise in areas typographical. And he puts an amazing amount of work in - most comments get a response.

    If I was to criticise the site it would pretty much solely be on the grounds of organisation. There’s too much going on on the front page, and the vague text in the navbar doesn’t really offer a route through all this information. The ‘Recent articles’ list must run to over 50 links! What I feel are important links - such as the ‘subscribe by email’ option - are somewhat lost, and there’s no search either.

    On the other hand, while I don’t normally like seeing lots of long, complete posts on a blog’s front page, the content’s so interesting that it sort of works, and creates an appropriately bookish feel to the site.

  2. Kari Pätilä

    The amount of content on the front page is indeed a bit too much. Not that it looks bad or anything like that - it just gets a bit slow. Information architecture might be the next thing to focus on. If you’re on a Mac and have Paparazzi! installed, point it towards the front page to see my point.

    I’ve never really used the any of the menus, mainly because the content is just so good that it’s hard to look away. For that reason alone, it kind of feels like the really important stuff isn’t getting as much space to breathe as it ought to.

    But, all in all, there’s very little reason to complain.

  3. Kevin Zak

    Very thorough review. Being a fanatic reader of Sunday Type and iLT’s other publications, I’m fairly familiar with the site. I have always been a fan of the design and I wondered how long it would take for Typesites to review it!

    I adore the masthead. Le Monde Livre is such a beautiful typeface. Every time I load a page on iLt, the logo makes me smile. It ties the design together so well.

    I couldn’t agree more with your criticism of the fonts of the month sidebar. That has irked me for some time now. As you said, it is easily remedied. It makes me wonder why it hasn’t been yet, though. I also agree with the Lucida Grans cross-platform issues; my desktop has it installed but my laptop does not, and the Times completely disrupts the flow of information in the design.

    That said, I Love Typography is a wonderful website in both design and content. Very glad that you reviewed it.

  4. inspirationbit

    That’s a great review, Hamish. I haven’t even noticed that there was no appropriate alternative for Lucida Grande. I’m sure John will add it after reading this critique. The gray shade of the month titles is a valid suggestion as well. I would actually prefer to see a two-column layout on iLT, and move the featured fonts list to the footer. I think John’s site is so loved by everyone for its content and the author, that readers scroll down to the very end so they don’t miss anything there, so a big well-crafted footer would be very appropriate for iLT, and it will make the site look more balanced.

  5. Kyle Meyer

    I’ve always loved the lack of a logo on iLT. In a sense, the giant banner has become the logo, and anything else just wouldn’t quite fit the bill. The first time I saw iLT I fell in love with the superscript and subscript treatments within the article titles – beautiful and different.

    Navigating the site beyond recent posts can be difficult, and this is probably the area that could be improved the most. There’s so much great content, but new readers won’t know the depth and quantity of it to read it all!

    All that aside, iLT is an excellent resource on the level of A List Apart, and should be regular reading for anyone serious about design on the web.

  6. Evan Meagher

    Good review. I Love Typography is a great site.

    I didn’t know about the tags and search menu. Thanks for the heads up! The people over at ITL should definitely make that more prominent.

  7. johno

    Thanks for the review and for the comments. Seeing iLT every day, it’s all too easy to overlook some of the problems with the site. Oddly enough, I hadn’t even noticed that I had not set a fallback for Lucida Grande.
    Navigation (as others point out too) is something I really need to address. In fact, I sometimes have difficulty locating older material (and I wrote it!). The element that I’m most unhappy with is the navigation above the masthead—I hate it, yet, thus far, have been unable to replace it with something more intelligible and useful. The footer is also a non-event, and is something I really must fix; need to return to Vivien’s article on that topic.
    Thanks for pointing out the headers for the monthly fonts. The alternate colour may well be a good option.

    @Kyle thanks for comparing iLT to A List Apart (I’m honoured).

    Well, you’ve all given me much to ponder—and for that I am in your collective debt.

    Oh, and just two more things:
    1. I don’t have a print style sheet (blush);
    2. Re Le Monde Livre PTF (which is indeed a truly wonderful typeface from an exceptional type designer), I’d like to say thank you to Jean François for creating it, and for making the typographic landscape in which it dwells that much more beautiful.

  8. Hamish M

    Thanks for all the great comments everyone.

    And thanks John, for your thoughts. We’re always are own worst critics, but design is an iterative process, and I’m sure that iLT will only get better as time goes by.

  9. johno

    Just to add that Mark Otto has designed an alternative menu. Also some great feedback via Twitter.
     http://www.flickr.com/photos/markdotto/2494360918/

  10. Adam Kayce

    Yep, love iLT. I was wondering when I’d see it show up here…

    I agree with what most have said in regards to the level of busyness on the home page. And, like a gallery showing, sometimes when you first walk in, you get a bit overwhelmed (just by contrast with a design-starved street scene). But then, you grow accustomed to the art-blast of the gallery, and you acclimatize to that world.

    iLT is like that for me. “Whoa, too much… wait… oh, yeah… dang, I love this.”

    Great review, great site - thanks.

  11. Benek

    The new top menu is great. Huge improvement to the one part of the site that really bugged me. Well done!

  12. Min Tran

    Very nice write-up, Hamish. I really enjoy this review. It’s alway safe to use “”Lucida Sans Unicode” because this font is pre-installed on both Windows and Mac. Nice try with the “fonts of the month” sidebar. The new navigation is a huge improvement, everything is well-aligned and more catchy now.

  13. Adam Kayce

    One question, though: How’d he get the date to show in a different CSS class? I’m just wanting to learn how to insert a span inside a php statement (assuming that’s how it’s done…).

  14. Adam Kayce

    Never mind — figured it out.

    (in case you’re curious… it’s easier not to break up the php, but simply create three php calls, and enclose one, two, or all three of them in various span classes. Then, style away.)