Typography and Footnotes


I want to start by explaining that I am tone deaf (sorry for the mixed metaphor here) about text online. There are some cases that are obvious, such as web pages WITH ONLY CAPITAL LETTERS or WiTh TeXt AlTeRnAtIvElY In CaPiTaLs AnD lOwEr CaSe. Nevertheless, one sentence from the beginning of chapter 12 of Williams and Tollett left me a little worried: “if the type on your screen looks particularly terrible when you’re surfing the web, it might be your fault” (245). I am still asking myself what terrible means. I wonder if I can truly notice when text has bad typography outside of situations when text is illegible. At least our readings gave me some basic rules that I can follow for good results.

In Typography Matters by Erin Kissane, there are these helpful hints: “the basics of online typography: legible fonts are good, CSS is essential, and relative font sizing is tricky” along with “well formed punctuation” a few lines down. These categories are more specific than the word terrible. What is interesting is that she mentions CSS, which has more to do with code than the text itself. Clearly, the benefit of using CSS is that the code is more organized and easier to understand and manipulate than without CSS.

The upshot of that last point is that ultimately, if one wants to have good typography in one’s design, one should know something about code. In this course, it’s even more difficult, because we are actually building sites. That means we need to have a strong understanding of code by the time we finish the class. Even though that is a big challenge for me, I welcome it.


The readings on footnotes were the most interesting for me this week. This is because I have always been obsessed with proper documentation of what I write and read, and I find the connection between authors and texts fascinating. The Himmelfarb article has a nice statement about what a footnote should do: “[footnotes] are meant to permit the reader – the scholarly as well as the lay reader – to check the author’s sources, facts, inferences and generalizations, and to do so as easily as possible.” Yet, going from her complaint about the loss of footnotes to Dr. Petrik’s description of the different kinds of footnotes shows that providing references for documents on the Web is much more complicated than I expected.

I disagree with a statement at the end of Jenny Bader’s article about the decline of originality. I am uncomfortable with such broad statements. I do not feel like I have a wide enough perspective on the web to agree or disagree with her. Even if the web has spawned a craze of indexes of links, such indexes are not necessarily unoriginal. Bader herself admits that such collections can be creative like collages, if done correctly. I would like to know more about footnoting creatively. That means I need to play around with the methods on which Dr. Petrik comments in her article.

Explore posts in the same categories: Code, Design

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