Script typefaces are emotional, lyrical, even passionate
communicators. They enhance the written word.
Scripts have a soul and a heart. Words set in script
are perfect examples of things that are greater than
the sum of their parts.
Perhaps the most expressive of all letter styles,
scripts can project a mood, create a sense of the era
in which they were first written, and reflect the tools
used to create them. The rotund strength of a typeface
like Forte has a very different personality from
the passionate Bendigo, and both of these are distinct
from the elegant Young Baroque.
Pretty—but not simple
The first thing to remember when working with
scripts is that they are harder to read than serif or
sans serif typefaces. We are not as familiar with
their character shapes as we are with those in more
traditional typeface designs. This slows down the
reading process … and can affect document comprehension
and information retention. Studies have
also shown that blocks of script copy are not inviting
to the reader. While scripts stand out, they also
tend to create a busy visual texture that is subtly
off-putting to readers. To thrive, scripts should be
employed in an environment where ease of reading
is maximized. Here are six tips to ensure your scripts
are well maintained.
1. Use with care in text.
Make lines of text in a script typeface more engaging
by setting copy in narrow columns. That way
the eye does not have to travel far to catch everything
on a line. Adding a little extra space between
lines of copy will also make the copy more inviting
and help the reading process by reducing the chance
of “doubling” (reading the same line twice). Scripts
should also be set large. Their x-heights are usually
quite small, which means that most are difficult
to read below 14 or 18 point. A good script rule of
thumb: When in doubt, go bigger.
2. Be brief in display environments.
Be brief when using a script typeface to set headlines
or other large copy. Script faces are not that much
easier to read in large sizes than they are small.
Headlines, subheads, pull quotes, and other blocks
of large script type should normally be kept to about
six words. Very long words are also not as easy to
read in a script typeface as are short words.
3. Don’t mix scripts.
There is a typographic tenet that cautions against
using two sans serif typefaces in the same document.
Without going into a lot of design theory,
the basic principle is that there will not be enough
contrast between the two faces. Script designs are
also included in this “no mix” category—but for a
different reason. Trying to mix two script typefaces
in a single document is like herding cats. Because of
their strong design personalities, each design wants
to go its own way and make its own statement. The
result of mixing scripts is almost always typographic
competition and chaos.
4. Avoid kerning, letterspacing.
Another important rule about using script typefaces
is to keep your fingers off the “spacing knob.” Don’t
kern or letterspace script characters. Script typefaces
mimic their handwritten brethren. The individual
characters flow into each other, creating a continuous
ribbon of typographic communication.
Connecting scripts—those with strokes that
connect one letter to the next—are designed to flow
across the page as if the copy were written by a practiced
hand. Even calligraphic or spontaneous nonconnecting
scripts should run smoothly across the
page. Kerning and letterspacing script typefaces does
nothing to enhance their beauty, readability, or communication
5. Take care with capitals.
Never set all-cap copy in a script typeface. Why?
First, because script caps are designed to fit snugly
next to lowercase characters. If set together, they
will become entangled with the next character,
creating a typographic jumble. Yes, you could letterspace
the capitals … but this would only give you
a string of fancy, difficult-to-read letters. There is a
place, however, where script caps can work on their
own: They make wonderful initial letters to introduce
a paragraph or block of copy.
6. Use scripts sparingly.
Because they are so engaging, it’s easy to overuse
scripts. They should be put into service only when
appropriate to the situation and message. Parts lists,
quarterly reports, lengthy brochures, and the like are
not the place to show off your collection of script
fonts. Slide presentations and signage are also environments
where scripts can actually impede understanding
and should especially be avoided.
While there are literally
script typefaces to
choose from and they
can be as varied as
flowers in a garden,
most can be divided
into four basic groups:
Blackletter. The following page offers examples of each.