A Lazy Sequence

The small­est vis­i­ble increments

Last week I linked to Butterick’s Practical Typography. Over the weekend I tweaked my stylesheets for this site based on a number of suggestions made within the book. The entirety of my changes are covered within the chapters on headings and point sizes, but the concepts covered in maxims of page layout summarise what I learnt during the process.

My key take-away is this: consistency is the backbone of good design, but it’s the variations that make it come alive. The art of it is finding the smallest variance you can get away with to create contrast with the consistency. Butterick's maxims sum this up:

Make ad­just­ments with the small­est vis­i­ble increments.

Typography thrives on fine de­tails. The difference be­tween not enough and too much can be small.

For example, Butterick states that on the web we tend to overuse large headings. In trying out his suggestions I discovered that I had indeed been overemphasising headings here, and that reducing the contrast with the body copy resolved a number of quirks I had been struggling with: pages with many headings – such as archives or the home page – felt disjointed and stressed. Previously my headings were bold, all-caps, and two to three times larger than the body copy. The largest headings are now 1.5 times the body; still larger than Butterick's suggestions, but as great a change as I am currently comfortable with.