Setting type for a PDF: Is it print? Or is it web?

James Deux's picture

Hello all,

I have encountered a rather interesting dilemma. I am creating a yearbook which will be distributed as a PDF. So a yearPDF... if you will.

My design team and I are in the process of determining typography. Right now, we're confused about the realm we are dealing with. Is web or print typography best suited for a PDF, which will be laid out like a book? Web typography seemed like the obviously answer to this question. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that no, this production is not the same as a website or app; that it will have infinitely more information and allow for greater control and viewing on the part of the user. I also realized that there's nothing stopping our peers from taking this thing to FedEx Office one night and just getting it printed for their own sentimental amusement. So really... the question and its answer aren't so obvious.

Any thoughts or opinions?

JamesM's picture

You'll want it to look great whether it's viewed on a monitor or printed. If it's a long document, I doubt if most folks will print all of it, but some might, and many folks will certainly print portions of it, especially if they want their friends to autograph it and write comments.

You might want to consider a landscape orientation for the pages (the long dimension is the width), as it will fit the proportions of monitors better, and will also still work fine when printed.

Keep in mind that some laser/ink jet printers will not print to the paper's edge, so don't put headlines or anything else important too close to the page's edges. Also leave extra room on the edges that may end up bound.

If it's a long document full of photos and graphics, you may run into the problem of the PDF's file size becoming huge, so keep that in mind when designing the piece.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

PHP can output PDF's. I. Haven't had a chance to play with it, so I have no idea what it can or can't do, but for large repeating tasks it sure sounds worthwhile investigating.

JamesM's picture

I would suggest laying out the pages in Adobe InDesign, if you have access to it and know how to use it.

It's the program that most professional graphic designers use for page layout. It gives you a great deal of typographic and layout control, it works well with Adobe PhotoShop and Adobe Illustrator (in fact you can import native Photoshop and Illustrator files directly into your InDesign layout), and InDesign has the built-in ability to easily export your pages as a multipage PDF with complete control over image quality, resolution, etc.

James Deux's picture

Thank you all for the advice! @JamesM coincidentally, my co-lead brought up this same concern. We are laying the book out by page, but exporting by spreads so the organization will be like a book, but the presentation will be screen-friendly.

That said: Any thought anyone on the typeface selection? I am leaning towards using typefaces which are screen-friendly.


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