Typography Style Guide

Good typography is an integral part of the Wesleyan brand. We pay careful attention to the overall hierarchy, attributes of font, font size/thickness, kerning (how close together the letters are), leading (spacing between lines), spacing (before and after each paragraph), and margins.

Step 1: Define the Hierarchy

We make the overall organization of a print piece or website as simple and easy to understand as possible. We try to limit font categories to Head, Subhead, and body, with sparing additions.

Step 2: Fonts

In general, we choose one san-serif font for all heads and call-out treatments (web and print) and one serif font for body copy in print and on the web.

Fonts must be taken from the following list:

  • San-Serif: Replica Font Family (Helvetica or Arial may be substituted) 
  • Serif: Copernicus Font Family (Georgia may be substituted) 

Light, medium, semi bold, bold, extra bold, heavy and italic versions are used as necessary. Specific choices are driven by the mood of the piece and how well fonts go together.

Font Size

Hierarchy comes first when thinking about typography. In general, items higher in the hierarchy should be assigned a larger size. However, sometimes a smaller bold san-serif will carry more weight than a larger serif font.

A good rule of thumb for body type is to start with 10 or 11 pt and try not to go any larger than 12 pt or any smaller than 9 pt. Captions and other small type items can be as small as 6 pt (we use a bold san-serif here). Different fonts create different impressions of size, so we don’t rely on numbers alone to choose the size.

Step 3: Space


Kerning–the spacing between letters–is an important tool for good typography. Tightly kerned type allows for more words to appear on a page while, at the same time, using a larger, more readable font. Conversely, loosely kerned type allows for fewer words to appear in a space without looking silly or resorting to ridiculously large type. Kerning is also a helpful tool in controlling widows and orphans.

It is important to remember that differently kerned type can drastically change the feel of a piece.

As a rule of thumb, we keep kerning between -3 and +3. More drastic kerning should be applied with care.


Leading–the spacing between lines of type–is another underused typographic tool. Like kerning, using reduced leading will allow more words to fit onto the page and bigger leading will allow for fewer words to appear in a space without looking silly. Leading can also be tweaked slightly to force type to fit in a specified area – allowing for a more consistent look throughout a publication.

It is important to remember that different leading can drastically change the feel of a piece.

As a rule of thumb, we start leading at a point and 1/2 to 2 points larger than your type.

Before and After Spacing (In a Paragraph)

Hierarchy shouldn't’t be determined through size and thickness of fonts alone. We use the spacing before and after each paragraph to advantage. The higher up an element is in the hierarchy, the more space we allow before it (think different levels of heads here).

On the other hand, we do not necessarily use space below headings. Using no space below a heading is a good way to establish ownership. In other words, make sure the reader knows to which head a particular paragraph belongs.

Allow enough space between paragraphs that the reader knows when a paragraph begins and ends. As a general rule, we do not use indentations to differentiate between paragraphs. A good place to start is to use the same size as leading as the space between paragraphs.

We keep spacing consistent throughout the piece (as with the rest of type specs). This allows the reader to know what level each element is without consciously thinking about it.

Step 4: Margins and Column Specifications

We are generous with margins and white space. Just because there is room on a page doesn't’t mean it should be filled. Pages that have more space on top and on the outside seem inviting and open.

In general, we keep columns between 24–56 characters. If they columns are very narrow, they should be flush left/rag right rather than justified otherwise. This helps to keep rivers–awkward word spacing–to a minimum.

We Look for:

  • Hierarchy. Is the hierarchy clearly understandable? Is it consistent through the entire piece?
  • Contrast. Hierarchy is defined through contrast and control of white space.
  • Consistent formatting throughout the publication. Making the best use of styles is the best way to ensure consistency.
  • Sparing use of bolds and italics. When everything is highlighted, nothing is highlighted.
  • There are very few good reasons for making type both bold and italic
  • In general, use bolds or lights, as opposed to italics, for headings.
  • Headlines and subheads (decks) should never be justified, nor should they contain hyphens.
  • For more than one head category, we use different versions of the san-serif along with size and spacing to create hierarchy.
  • Different capitalization techniques also come in handy here. This is one place where all caps or small caps is appropriate (keep it out of body text).
  • Beware of widows and orphans. We use paragraph attributes, kerning, leading, or soft-returns to eliminate these.
  • A bold san-serif is a good choice for captions or other small units of type.


← return to Style Guide Index