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Old 03-20-2005, 02:18 PM   #1
marlene
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Default Formatting various levels of subheads

I'm working on a project -- a 60-page paper, text only, two colors, 8.5 x 11. In addition to the main heads (chapter titles), there are three levels of subheads.

Text is serif. I've made the main heads sans serif, 18 pt, bold, color.

First level of subheads are 14 pt sans serif bold italic, color. I don't like them being italic.

Second level subheads are serif, bold italic, black, two points larger than the text.

Third level subheads are serif, bold, black, a half-point larger than the text.

All heads/subheads are u/lc.

I do not like the way I'm doing the subheads, but don't know if there some guidelines I could be following for subhead formatting.

My current formatting is particularly unsatisfactory because some of the third level subhead text is italicized (they were italic in the original Word file), so they might be confused with second level subheads.

Any suggestions? Should all of the heads/subheads be in the sans serif font. Should they all be in the second color?

mxh
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Old 03-20-2005, 03:44 PM   #2
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Marlene:

Don't take much notice of my opinion—I'm a bit old fashioned—, but I'd make all three levels of subheading the same typeface as the text, but bold. I'd make the chapter heading sans, but a bit bigger than 18 pt (perhaps up to 24 pt), and I hope the colour is a nice red. The lowest level of subheading needn't be larger than the text (or don't you think the readers won't notice the bold?), and then the other two levels can differ from it in 2 pt or preferably 3 pt steps. None of the subheadings need be in colour, nor should they.

   
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Old 03-20-2005, 07:00 PM   #3
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Michael,

The client does want all heads/subs to be sans serif (it's a branding issue). And they did want the first level subheads in color, since the publication is so drab otherwise -- all text and no frills.

But I'll upsize the chapter heads as you suggested (no red, though, we're using a nice blue-green) and make some adjustments in the subheads.

The lowest-level subheads are half a point larger than the regular text, because the bold text just seems to look a bit smaller than plain text. I suppose it's an optical delusion.

mxh
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Old 03-21-2005, 11:21 AM   #4
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I don't have the book at hand, but I dimly recall that Bringhurst's book contains a sample page with about seven levels of subheads, done two different ways.
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Old 03-21-2005, 08:13 PM   #5
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I don't have Bringhurst's book, or anyone else's. Yet. I need to get me to a bookstore.

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Old 03-22-2005, 07:25 AM   #6
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Marlene:

'I don't have Bringhurst's book'

He does make a number of suggestions for headings & subheadings, but they mostly rely on the use of small capitals and italic. Probably a lot of designers wouldn't think of s.c. these days, but of course it used to be very common. Perhaps you could start a new wave by using s.c.

   
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Old 03-22-2005, 09:24 PM   #7
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Michael,

Hmmm. I don't think I've ever used small caps in a project for this client. I've already sent them a proof of this job, though, so unless they squawk about the current subhead formatting, I probably won't change anything.

Maybe next time I'll have more time for experimentation. This was a rush job, so I didn't have much time from receiving the Word doc (and seeing all those levels of subheads) to sending out a first proof.

mxh
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Old 03-22-2005, 11:58 AM   #8
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no hard fast rules marlene. and not every subhead needs to be in a different style either. sometimes just a different placement etc. will work just as well.

going to the newstand can be a good way to learn how others deal with this issue. i'm a fan of the current art director of new york magazine. his typog is traditional AND quirky (good quirky, not bad quirky).
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Old 03-22-2005, 03:52 PM   #9
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Coming from a traditional art school background, and having designed many marketing pieces, textbooks, and other kinds myself, I would offer you a couple of tips:

Keep it simple. Most people will not know or care if they are in subhead style two or three. You are designing for a more subliminal location understanding.

Never change more than one design element: Font, or size, or color, or placement, or bullet, or location. Never more than one!

Go to a bookstore or library, and check out Britannica, or good college text books. Papers are usually even simpler.

Simple is ALWAYS better.

Modern trends say

Don’t:

Underline

Italicize, unless you are designing a scientific text, or are placing captions or credits on illustrations

Do:

Use white space, or text out-dented into margins

San serif for all heads

Keep levels to an absolute minimum. More than four is more confusing than helpful.



But then the exceptions are sometimes the most elegant!


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Old 03-22-2005, 05:21 PM   #10
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'Sans serif for all heads'

That's traditional? Pull the other leg—it's got bells on it.

   
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