Meta Refresh 2013

The design and engineering of user interface on the web

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To Gutenberg’s Disappointment


Mrinal Wadhwa


From Gutenberg, who invented movable type, to Tschichold, who gave us the beautiful Penguin Books, typographers through history would be disappointed at how poorly we typeset our web.

Major blogs, popular applications, email services, social networks, ebook readers and many other sites where we consume long-form text, seem oblivious to simple typographic principles of rhythm, proportion and harmony laid down so eloquently by Bringhurst, over 20 years ago.

This talk will attempt to promote the value of elegant and easy to consume long-form text . It will also demonstrate how simple it is to use CSS and follow fundamental principles of good typography to make your content inviting and readable.

“The term readability doesn’t ask simply ‘can you read it?’ It asks ‘do you want to read it?’”


This talk will show how typography isn’t simply about choosing a fancy font, it’s about arranging text on a page to achieve harmony and style.

“In a world rife with unsolicited messages, typography must often draw attention to itself before it will be read. Yet in order to be read, it must relinquish the attention it has drawn. Typography with anything to say therefore aspires to a kind of statuesque transparency. Typography is to literature as musical performance is to composition: an essential act of interpretation, full of endless opportunities for insight or obtuseness.”
Robert Bringhurst

Speaker bio

I’m a Software Architect and Consultant and I’ve spent a big share of my career developing User Interfaces to Applications.

I’m a programmer and have no formal training in visual design and like most programmers, I used to believe that visual design was the domain of magical ‘designer’ beings who just knew how to make things beautiful. I’ve learnt, however, that most of visual design is built on fundamental principles of proportion, balance, rhythm, harmony etc. , with rules that are almost scientific. Rules that we programmers can learn. Of course, we will always need visual designers, experts who have an innate sense of aesthetics, and can produce mesmerizing graphics, color schemes, layouts, animations etc. and can explain how these visuals interact with the psyche of users, but, if we learn some of these fundamentals, I believe, we programmers can get much better at producing what designers demand of us.

What do you think?

Over the past year I’ve collected some excellent examples of good web typography on Pinterest, do have a look and please share other examples, that you may have built or seen, which do a similarly good job of type-setting long form text on the web.