color

Black is best

In typog­ra­phy, color is a term with two mean­ings.

First, typog­ra­phers will some­times speak of a font as cre­at­ing a cer­tain color on the page—even when it’s black. Used this way, the word encap­su­lates a set of hard-to-quan­tify char­ac­ter­is­tics like dark­ness, con­trast, rhythm, and tex­ture.

The sec­ond mean­ing is the usual one— color as the oppo­site of black and white. This was once an irrel­e­vant topic, as most of us had to be sat­is­fied with mono­chrome laser print­ers. These days, color print­ers are ubiq­ui­tous and more writ­ing is deliv­ered on screen. So color has become a prac­ti­cal con­sid­er­a­tion.

  1. On a page of text, noth­ing draws the eye more pow­er­fully than a con­trast between light and dark col­ors. This is why a bold font cre­ates more empha­sis than an italic font. (See also bold or italic.)

  2. The per­ceived inten­sity of col­ored type depends not just on the color, but also on the size and weight of the font. So a thin or small font can (and should) carry a more intense color than a heavy or large font.

  3. I’m not say­ing it can never be done well, but when some­one puts col­ored type on a col­ored back­ground, I usu­ally wish they hadn’t.