Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Too Many Leaders

While learning to do phototypesetting, I did a tutorial that explained how to use the machine's tabs. They're quite different from typewriter tabs because they can do things like automatically fill in characters from one tab to the next. I must have had to type the tutorial text more than once, because I remember it clearly: "Leaders are lines of dots or solid rules that lead from one typeset element to another."

With that as background, I can't help pointing out the typographic problems in this table from today's Star Tribune.

Click to enlarge, and you'll see two problems.

In the right column, they forgot to include the tab that would have pushed Michele Bachmann's $1.7 million to the right side. That's just a plain old mistake or bit of carelessness.

The second error is in the design, though. In addition to using dot leaders to connect the candidates with their cash on hand, the table's creator has included a tabbed dot leader for each of the subheads, such as First District. There's no need for those dots because there's nothing to lead to on the right margin.

All the dots do is make the text harder to scan for readers who want to find each of the districts listed.

This is how it should have looked:

The white space to the right of each district name adds both visual relief and useful information to the reader.

Of course, the table would be even better if the district labels were solid black instead of gray, so that they're even easier to spot. But it's an improvement.

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