Edited from Wikipedia

Futurism (Italian: Futurismo) was an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy in the early 20th century. It emphasized speed, technology, youth, and violence, and objects such as the car, the aeroplane, and the industrial city. It glorified modernity and aimed to liberate Italy from the weight of its past.

It was influence particularly by the art movements Precisionism, Rayonism, and Vorticism and also:

Although it was largely an Italian phenomenon, there were parallel movements in Russia, England, Belgium and elsewhere.

The Futurists practised in every medium of art, including painting, sculpture, ceramics, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, urban design, theatre, film, fashion, textiles, literature, music, architecture, and even Futurist meals.

Its key figures were the Italians Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Gino Severini, Giacomo Balla, Antonio Sant’Elia, Bruno Munari, Benedetta Cappa and Luigi Russolo, the Russians Natalia Goncharova, Velimir Khlebnikov, Igor Severyanin, David Burliuk, Aleksei Kruchenykh and Vladimir Mayakovsky, the Belgian Jules Schmalzigaug and the Portuguese Almada Negreiros.

Important Futurist works included:

See my post: Filippo Marinetti
Although Futurism became identified with Fascism, it had leftist and anti-Fascist supporters. They tended to oppose Marinetti’s artistic and political direction of the movement, and in 1924 the socialists, communists and anarchists walked out of the Milan Futurist Congress. Futurism expanded to encompass many artistic domains and ultimately included painting, sculpture, ceramics, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, theatre design, textiles, drama, literature, music and architecture.
Futurism as a coherent and organized artistic movement is now regarded as extinct, having died out in 1944 with the death of its leader Marinetti.

Nonetheless the ideals of Futurism remain as significant components of modern Western culture; the emphasis on youth, speed, power and technology finding expression in much of modern commercial cinema and culture.  A revival of sorts of the Futurist movement in theatre began in 1988 with the creation of the Neo-Futurist style in Chicago, which utilizes Futurism’s focus on speed and brevity to create a new form of immediate theatre. Currently, there are active Neo-Futurist troupes in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Montreal.

Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art is a museum in London with a collection centered around Italian futurist artists and their paintings.



Zentangle website

Anything is Possible One Stroke at a Time
At first glance, a Zentangle creation can seem intricate and complicated. But, when you learn how it is done, you realize how simple it is . . . sort of like learning the secret behind a magic trick. Then, when you create a piece of Zentangle art, you realize how fun and engrossing the process itself is.

We love presenting to a class or seminar full of people who are convinced they can’t draw the Zentangle art we show them. Then, within 15 minutes, they have easily accomplished what they thought was impossible. This is one of our favorite Zentangle moments, because then we ask, “What else do you know that you can’t do?” You can transfer that insight and experience of success and accomplishment to any life experience. Something may look complicated, but you now know that you can do it, one simple stroke at a time.

Deliberate Stroke
In our Zentangle way, you draw each stroke consciously and deliberately. We are always making “strokes” (thoughts, words, deeds) in our life. By practicing the Zentangle Method’s suggestion to make each stroke deliberate, you understand how those apparently small and insignificant “strokes” of our moment to moment lives contribute to an overall life pattern. This is another reason that we say that life is an artform and everyone is an artist. Indeed, everyone draws.

Deliberate Focus
As you make a deliberate pen stroke on your Zentangle tile without concerning yourself of what it will look like when you are done, that very act of putting your pen to paper focuses your attention in a special way. As your eye follows your pen strokes your attention shifts to a state that allows fresh thoughts, new perspectives, and creative insights to flow unhindered by anxiety or effort.

No Eraser
There is no eraser in life and there is no eraser in a Zentangle Kit. However, in creating Zentangle art (and in living life), you will discover that apparent mistakes can be foundations for new patterns and take you in unexpected and exciting new directions.

Unknown Outcomes
Unlike much art, or most activities, you start out intentionally not knowing what your Zentangle creation will look like. The Zentangle Method allows you to discover new possibilities that you might not have anticipated when you began. We can most always tell when we’ve preplanned a specific outcome when using our Zentangle Method. It almost always looks forced and stiff.

No Predetermined Solution
With no predetermined correct answer, the Zentangle method offers both a freedom and a challenge. Unlike crossword, jigsaw, or Sudoku puzzles, there is no one predetermined solution. You cannot fail to create Zentangle art. At first this freedom might be a bit unnerving, as many of us have been trained to look for the one perfect solution. Soon however, this becomes a freeing and uplifting experience as you realize you can create never-ending, ever-changing “solutions” in your Zentangle creations.

Elegance of Limits
In seeming contradiction the limits established by a Zentangle string frees up your creativity. As you use the Zentangle Method, you’ll understand.

You always succeed when you create Zentangle art because you always create a pattern. A Zentangle creation is meant to be nonrepresentative with no up or down. Since it is not a picture of something, you have no worries about whether you can draw a hand, or a duck. You always succeed in creating a pattern in a Zentangle way.

A Zentangle tile is 3 1/2 inches (89 mm) square. A Zentangle tile is designed to be completed in one sitting. Keep some Zentangle tiles in your pocket or purse. You can finish one in as little as 15 minutes. You get an immediate sense of accomplishment by completing your work of art. Of course, you can spend as much time as you like on a tile. Time melts as you focus on and enjoy your penstrokes.

The Zentangle Method’s non-verbal language of patterns and proportions can open doors to insights which seemed locked before. Creating in a Zentangle way opens those doors, not because they were locked, but because those doors swing on non-verbal hinges. When you create in a Zentangle way you can enter a state of relaxed focus in which intuitive insights flow freely. Get inspirations, ideas and answers unhindered by expectations or worries.

High Quality
Out of respect for yourself and your craft, we always encourage people to use the best tools and materials possible. We designed our Zentangle Kit with that in mind.

Like a Japanese Tea Ceremony, when you create Zentangle art you also create a personal environment. You can use our Zentangle approach as a tool to deliberately focus your thoughts.

Gratitude is our foundation. It also informs our product design and our teaching method. Whether its appreciating the texture of these wonderful paper tiles, becoming aware of the patterned beauty around us or thankful for the opportunity to put pen to paper, we always return to gratitude.


Zentangle basics

Introduction to traditional approach.
No rulers, 0.1 pigment liner

More advanced variations

Alternative from art geek. Uses ruler, brushes and thicker marker

20 patterns Art Geek

24 patterns speed up art



What is Abstraction?

(from the Latin abs, meaning away from and trahere, meaning to draw)
is the process of taking away or removing characteristics from something in order to reduce it to a set of essential characteristics. (http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/abstraction)

Abstract Art


Abstract art uses a visual language of shape, form, color and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world.

Abstraction exists along a continuum.

  • All art is in some degree abstraction in the sense that even figurative art  is selective in what it represents.
  • Partial abstraction through obvious alterations of eg colour or form.
  • Total abstraction bears no trace of any reference to anything recognizable.


Much of the art of earlier cultures – signs and marks on pottery, textiles, and inscriptions and paintings on rock – were simple, geometric and linear forms which might have had a symbolic or decorative purpose.

In Western Art abstraction started to develop in 19th Century. Three art movements which contributed to the development of abstract art were Romanticism, Impressionism and Expressionism.


James McNeill Whistler  in his painting Nocturne in Black and Gold: The falling Rocket, (1872), placed greater emphasis on visual sensation than the depiction of objects.

John Constable, J M W Turner, Camille Corot and from them to the


Paul Cézanne had begun as an Impressionist but his aim – to make a logical construction of reality based on a view from a single point, with modulated colour in flat areas – became the basis of a new visual art, later to be developed into Cubism by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso.

Expressionist painters

Expressionists explored the bold use of paint surface, drawing distortions and exaggerations, and intense color and produced emotionally charged paintings that were reactions to and perceptions of contemporary experience; and reactions to Impressionism and other more conservative directions of late 19th-century painting. The Expressionists drastically changed the emphasis on subject matter in favor of the portrayal of psychological states of being.

Edvard Munch

James Ensor

Additionally in the late 19th century in Eastern Europe mysticism and early modernist religious philosophy as expressed by theosophist Mme. Blavatsky had a profound impact on pioneer geometric artists like Wassily Kandinsky, and Hilma af Klint. The mystical teaching of Georges Gurdjieff and P.D. Ouspensky also had an important influence on the early formations of the geometric abstract styles of Piet Mondrian and his colleagues in the early 20th century.

20th century

Post Impressionism as practiced by Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne had an enormous impact on 20th-century art and led to the advent of 20th-century abstraction. The heritage of painters like Van Gogh, Cézanne, Gauguin, and Seurat was essential for the development of modern art.

Fauvism: At the beginning of the 20th century Henri Matisse and several other young artists including the pre-cubist Georges Braque, André Derain, Raoul Dufy and Maurice de Vlaminck revolutionized the Paris art world with “wild”, multi-colored, expressive, landscapes and figure paintings that the critics called Fauvism. With his expressive use of color and his free and imaginative drawing Henri Matisse comes very close to pure abstraction in French Window at Collioure, (1914), View of Notre-Dame, (1914), and The Yellow Curtain from 1915. The raw language of color as developed by the Fauves directly influenced another pioneer of abstraction Wassily Kandinsky (see illustration).

Cubism ultimately depends upon subject matter, it became, along with Fauvism, the art movement that directly opened the door to abstraction in the 20th century. Pablo Picasso made his first cubist paintings based on Cézanne’s idea that all depiction of nature can be reduced to three solids: cube, sphere and cone. With the painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon 1907, Picasso dramatically created a new and radical picture depicting a raw and primitive brothel scene with five prostitutes, violently painted women, reminiscent of African tribal masks and his own new Cubist inventions. Analytic cubism was jointly developed by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, from about 1908 through 1912. Analytic cubism, the first clear manifestation of cubism, was followed by Synthetic cubism, practised by Braque, Picasso, Fernand Léger, Juan Gris, Albert Gleizes, Marcel Duchamp and countless other artists into the 1920s. Synthetic cubism is characterized by the introduction of different textures, surfaces, collage elements, papier collé and a large variety of merged subject matter. The collage artists like Kurt Schwitters and Man Ray and others taking the clue from Cubism were instrumental to the development of the movement called Dada.

The Italian poet Marinetti published ‘The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism’ in 1909, which inspired artists such as Carlo Carra in, Painting of Sounds, Noises and Smells and Umberto Boccioni Train in Motion, 1911, to a further stage of abstraction and profoundly influenced art movements throughout Europe.[10]

Orphism During the 1912 Salon de la Section d’Or the poet Guillaume Apollinaire named the work of several artists including Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Orphism.[11] He defined it as, the art of painting new structures out of elements that have not been borrowed from the visual sphere, but had been created entirely by the artist…it is a pure art.[12]

Since the turn of the century cultural connections between artists of the major European and American cities had become extremely active as they strove to create an art form equal to the high aspirations of modernism. Ideas were able to cross-fertilize by means of artists books, exhibitions and manifestos so that many sources were open to experimentation and discussion, and formed a basis for a diversity of modes of abstraction. The following extract from,’The World Backwards’, gives some impression of the inter-connectedness of culture at the time: ‘David Burliuk’s knowledge of modern art movements must have been extremely up-to-date, for the second Knave of Diamonds exhibition, held in January 1912 (in Moscow) included not only paintings sent from Munich, but some members of the German Die Brücke group, while from Paris came work by Robert Delaunay, Henri Matisse and Fernand Léger, as well as Picasso. During the Spring David Burliuk gave two lectures on cubism and planned a polemical publication, which the Knave of Diamonds was to finance. He went abroad in May and came back determined to rival the almanac Der Blaue Reiter which had emerged from the printers while he was in Germany’.

From 1909 to 1913 many experimental works in the search for this ‘pure art’ had been created: Francis Picabia painted Caoutchouc, 1909,[13] The Spring, 1912,[14] Dances at the Spring[15] and The Procession, Seville, 1912;[16] Wassily Kandinsky painted Untitled (First Abstract Watercolor), 1910,[17] Improvisation 21A, the Impression series, and Picture with a Circle (1911);[18] František Kupka had painted the Orphist works, Discs of Newton (Study for Fugue in Two Colors), 1912[19] and Amorpha, Fugue en deux couleurs (Fugue in Two Colors), 1912; Robert Delaunay painted a series entitled Simultaneous Windows and Formes Circulaires, Soleil n°2 (1912–13);[20] Léopold Survage created Colored Rhythm (Study for the film), 1913;[21] Piet Mondrian, painted Tableau No. 1 and Composition No. 11, 1913.[22]
Wassily Kandinsky, On White 2, 1923
And the search continued: The Rayist (Luchizm) drawings of Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov, used lines like rays of light to make a construction. Kasimir Malevich completed his first entirely abstract work, the Suprematist, ‘Black Square’, in 1915. Another of the Suprematist group’ Liubov Popova, created the Architectonic Constructions and Spatial Force Constructions between 1916 and 1921. Piet Mondrian was evolving his abstract language, of horizontal and vertical lines with rectangles of colour, between 1915 and 1919, Neo-Plasticism was the aesthetic which Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg and other in the group De Stijl intended to reshape the environment of the future.

As visual art becomes more abstract, it develops some characteristics of music: an art form which uses the abstract elements of sound and divisions of time. Wassily Kandinsky, himself a musician, was inspired by the possibility of marks and associative color resounding in the soul. The idea had been put forward by Charles Baudelaire, that all our senses respond to various stimuli but the senses are connected at a deeper aesthetic level.

Closely related to this, is the idea that art has The spiritual dimension and can transcend ‘every-day’ experience, reaching a spiritual plane. The Theosophical Society popularised the ancient wisdom of the sacred books of India and China in the early years of the century. It was in this context that Piet Mondrian, Wassily Kandinsky, Hilma af Klint and other artists working towards an ‘objectless state’ became interested in the occult as a way of creating an ‘inner’ object. The universal and timeless shapes found in geometry: the circle, square and triangle become the spatial elements in abstract art; they are, like color, fundamental systems underlying visible reality.

Russian avant-garde

Many of the abstract artists in Russia became Constructivists believing that art was no longer something remote, but life itself. The artist must become a technician, learning to use the tools and materials of modern production. Art into life! was Vladimir Tatlin’s slogan, and that of all the future Constructivists. Varvara Stepanova and Alexandre Exter and others abandoned easel painting and diverted their energies to theatre design and graphic works. On the other side stood Kazimir Malevich, Anton Pevsner and Naum Gabo. They argued that art was essentially a spiritual activity; to create the individual’s place in the world, not to organise life in a practical, materialistic sense. Many of those who were hostile to the materialist production idea of art left Russia. Anton Pevsner went to France, Gabo went first to Berlin, then to England and finally to America. Kandinsky studied in Moscow then left for the Bauhaus. By the mid-1920s the revolutionary period (1917 to 1921) when artists had been free to experiment was over; and by the 1930s only socialist realism was allowed.[23]

The Bauhaus
The Bauhaus at Weimar, Germany was founded in 1919 by Walter Gropius. The philosophy underlying the teaching program was unity of all the visual and plastic arts from architecture and painting to weaving and stained glass. This philosophy had grown from the ideas of the Arts and Crafts movement in England and the Deutscher Werkbund. Among the teachers were Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Johannes Itten, Josef Albers, Anni Albers, Theo van Doesburg and László Moholy-Nagy.

In 1925 the school was moved to Dessau and, as the Nazi party gained control in 1932, The Bauhaus was closed. In 1937 an exhibition of degenerate art, ‘Entartete Kunst’ contained all types of avant-garde art disapproved of by the Nazi party. Then the exodus began: not just from the Bauhaus but from Europe in general; to Paris, London and America. Paul Klee went to Switzerland but many of the artists at the Bauhaus went to America.

Abstraction in Paris and London

During the 1930s Paris became the host to artists from Russia, Germany, Holland and other European countries affected by the rise of totalitarianism.

Sophie Tauber and Jean Arp collaborated on paintings and sculpture using organic/geometric forms.

The Polish Katarzyna Kobro applied mathematically based ideas to sculpture. The many types of abstraction now in close proximity led to attempts by artists to analyse the various conceptual and aesthetic groupings.

An exhibition by forty-six members of the Cercle et Carré group organised by Michel Seuphor contained work by the Neo-Plasticists as well as abstractionists as varied as Kandinsky, Anton Pevsner and Kurt Schwitters. Criticised by Theo van Doesburg to be too indefinite a collection he published the journal Art Concret setting out a manifesto defining an abstract art in which the line, color and surface only, are the concrete reality.

Abstraction-Création founded in 1931 as a more open group, provided a point of reference for abstract artists, as the political situation worsened in 1935, and artists again regrouped, many in London.

1935 The first exhibition of British abstract art was held in England in 1935. The following year the more international Abstract and Concrete exhibition was organised by Nicolete Gray including work by Piet Mondrian, Joan Miró, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson. Hepworth, Nicholson and Gabo moved to the St. Ives group in Cornwall to continue their ‘constructivist’ work.

America: mid-century
Main articles: Modernism, Late modernism, American Modernism and Surrealism

During the Nazi rise to power in the 1930s many artists fled Europe to the United States. By the early 1940s the main movements in modern art, expressionism, cubism, abstraction, surrealism, and dada were represented in New York: Marcel Duchamp, Fernand Léger, Piet Mondrian, Jacques Lipchitz, André Masson, Max Ernst, André Breton, were just a few of the exiled Europeans who arrived in New York.

The rich cultural influences brought by the European artists were distilled and built upon by local New York painters. The climate of freedom in New York allowed all of these influences to flourish. The art galleries that primarily had focused on European art began to notice the local art community and the work of younger American artists who had begun to mature. Certain of these artists became distinctly abstract in their mature work.

During this period Piet Mondrian’s painting Composition No. 10, 1939-1942, characterized by primary colors, white ground and black grid lines clearly defined his radical but classical approach to the rectangle and abstract art in general.

Some artists of the period defied categorization, such as Georgia O’Keeffe who, while a modernist abstractionist, was a pure maverick in that she painted highly abstract forms while not joining any specific group of the period.

Eventually American artists who were working in a great diversity of styles began to coalesce into cohesive stylistic groups. The best known group of American artists became known as the Abstract expressionists and the New York School.

Mark Rothko, born in Russia, began with strongly surrealist imagery which later dissolved into his powerful color compositions of the early 1950s. The expressionistic gesture and the act of painting itself, became of primary importance to Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline. While during the 1940s Arshile Gorky’s and Willem de Kooning’s figurative work evolved into abstraction by the end of the decade.

Both geometric abstraction and lyrical abstraction are often totally abstract. Among the very numerous art movements that embody partial abstraction would be for instance fauvism in which color is conspicuously and deliberately altered vis-a-vis reality, and cubism, which blatantly alters the forms of the real life entities depicted.[3][4]

st-Impressionists they were instrumental to the advent of abstraction in the 20th century.

Abstraction in the 21st century

Main articles: Abstract expressionism, Color field, Lyrical abstraction, Post-painterly abstraction, Sculpture and Minimal art

A commonly held idea is that pluralism characterizes art at the beginning of the 21st century. There is no consensus, nor need there be, as to a representative style of the age. There is an anything goes attitude that prevails; an “everything going on”, and consequently “nothing going on” syndrome; this creates an aesthetic traffic jam with no firm and clear direction and with every lane on the artistic superhighway filled to capacity. Consequently magnificent and important works of art continue to be made albeit in a wide variety of styles and aesthetic temperaments, the marketplace being left to judge merit.

Digital art, computer art, internet art, hard-edge painting, geometric abstraction, appropriation, hyperrealism, photorealism, expressionism, minimalism, lyrical abstraction, pop art, op art, abstract expressionism, color field painting, monochrome painting, neo-expressionism, collage, decollage, intermedia, assemblage, digital painting, postmodern art, neo-Dada painting, shaped canvas painting, environmental mural painting, graffiti, figure painting, landscape painting, portrait painting, are a few continuing and current directions at the beginning of the 21st century.

Into the 21st century abstraction remains very much in view, its main themes: the transcendental, the contemplative and the timeless are exempified by Barnett Newman, John McLaughlin, and Agnes Martin as well as younger living artists. Art as Object as seen in the Minimalist sculpture of Donald Judd and the paintings of Frank Stella are still seen today in newer permutations. The poetic, Lyrical Abstraction and the sensuous use of color seen in the work of painters as diverse as Robert Motherwell, Patrick Heron, Kenneth Noland, Sam Francis, Cy Twombly, Richard Diebenkorn, Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, among others.

There was a resurgence after the war and into the 1950s of the figurative, as neo-Dada, fluxus, happening, conceptual art, neo-expressionism, installation art, performance art, video art and pop art have come to signify the age of consumerism. The distinction between abstract and figurative art has, over the last twenty years, become less defined leaving a wider range of ideas for all artists.


One socio-historical explanation that has been offered for the growing prevalence of the abstract in modern art – an explanation linked to the name of Theodor W. Adorno – is that such abstraction is a response to, and a reflection of, the growing abstraction of social relations in industrial society.[31]

Frederic Jameson similarly sees modernist abstraction as a function of the abstract power of money, equating all things equally as exchange-values.[32] The social content of abstract art is then precisely the abstract nature of social existence – legal formalities, bureaucratic impersonalisation, information/power – in the world of late modernity.[33]

Post-Jungians by contrast would see the quantum theories with their disintegration of conventional ideas of form and matter as underlying the divorce of the concrete and the abstract in modern art.[34]

Vertical spacing: linespacing, alignment and justification

Linespacing or Leading /ˈlɛdɪŋ/ refers to the distance between the baselines of successive lines of type.

Alignment or range, is the setting of text flow or image placement relative to a page, column (measure), table cell or tab.

Justification refers to the degree to which the spaces between words, and, to a lesser extent, between glyphs or letters, are stretched or compressed to align both the left and right ends of each line of text.

Linespacing or leading

Leading /ˈlɛdɪŋ/ refers to the distance between the baselines of successive lines of type. The term originated in the days of hand-typesetting, when slugs or strips of lead of appropriate thickness were inserted into the forms to increase the vertical distance between set lines of lead type. This increased legibility.

The term ‘leading’ is still used in modern page layout software such as QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign. In consumer-oriented word processing software like Microsoft, this is usually referred to as “line spacing” or “interline spacing.”

The aim is to clearly separate ascenders and descenders of subsequent lines. Without adding so much leading that the eye has difficulty moving from one line to the next. The leading may be increased to align the bottom line of text on a page in a process known as feathering, carding, or vertical justification.

Unlike traditional lettersetting, digital typesetting can easily insert leading of any thickness. Auto-leading is conventionally set at 120% of type size or 2pt greater. However the optimum amount of leading for readability depends on the typeface, and particularly the length of ascenders and descenders. Many typefaces will benefit from increasing the leading slightly.


Alignment or range, is the setting of text flow or image placement relative to a page, column (measure), table cell or tab. The type alignment setting is sometimes referred to as text alignment, text justification or type justification.

There are four basic typographic alignments:

  • flush left—the text is aligned along the left margin or gutter, also known as left-aligned or ragged right;
  • flush right—the text is aligned along the right margin or gutter, also known as right-aligned or ragged left;
  • centered—text is aligned to neither the left nor right margin; there is an even gap on each side of each line.
  • justified—text is aligned along the left margin, and letter- and word-spacing is adjusted so that the text falls flush with both margins, also known as fully justified or full justification;

Note that alignment does not change the direction in which text is read; however text direction may determine the most commonly used alignment for that script.

Flush left
In English and most European languages where words are read left-to-right, text is usually aligned “flush left”, meaning that the text of a paragraph is aligned on the left-hand side with the right-hand side ragged. This is the default style of text alignment on the World Wide Web for left-to-right text Quotations are often indented.

Flush right
In other languages that read text right-to-left, such as Arabic and Hebrew, text is commonly aligned “flush right”. Additionally, flush-right alignment is used to set off special text in English, such as attributions to authors of quotes printed in books and magazines, and is often used when formatting tables of data.

Centered text
Text can also be “centered”, or symmetrically aligned along an axis in the middle of a column. This is often used for the title of a work, and for poems and songs. As with flush-right alignment, centered text is often used to present data in tables. Centered text is considered less readable for a body of text made up of multiple lines because the ragged starting edges make it difficult for the reader to track from one line to the next.


A common type of text alignment in print media is “justification”, where the spaces between words, and, to a lesser extent, between glyphs or letters, are stretched or compressed to align both the left and right ends of each line of text. Lines in which the spaces have been stretched beyond their normal width are called loose lines, while those whose spaces have been compressed are called tight lines.

Some modern typesetting programs offer four justification options:

  • left justify
  • right justify
  • center justify
  • full justify.

These variants specify whether the last line is flushed left, flushed right, centered or fully justified (spread over the whole column width). In programs that do not offer this extra functionality, justify is equal to left justify.

It is customary to treat the last line of a justified paragraph separately by left or right aligning it, depending on the language direction.

People with dyslexia (particularly Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome) find that justification helps with cognitive understanding. Judicious hyphenation is also reported to be beneficial for dyslexics.

Justification has been the preferred setting of type in many Western languages through the history of movable type. This is due to the classic Western manuscript book page being built of a column or two columns, which is considered to look “best” if it is even-margined on the left and right. The classical Western column did not rigorously justify, but came as close as feasible when the skill of the penman and the character of the manuscript permitted. Historically, both scribal and typesetting traditions took advantage of abbreviations (sigla), ligatures, and swash to help maintain the rhythm and colour of a justified line.

The use of movable type solidified this preference from a technological point of view. It was much easier to handle and make amendations to large amounts of type that had words or syllables at the ends of lines than it was to respace the ends of lines.

Its use has only waned somewhat since the middle of the 20th century through the advocacy of the typographer Jan Tschichold’s book Asymmetric Typography and the freer typographic treatment of the Bauhaus, Dada, and Russian constructivist movements.

Continuous casting typesetting systems such as the Linotype were able to reduce the jaggedness of the right-hand sides of adjacent lines of flush left composition by inserting self-adjusting space bands between words to evenly distribute white space, taking excessive space that would have occurred at the end of the line and redistributing it between words. This feature, known as “ragged right”, was available in traditional dedicated typesetting systems but is absent from most if not all desktop publishing systems. Graphic designers and typesetters using desktop systems adjust word and letter spacing, or “tracking”, on a manual line-by-line basis to achieve the same effect.

Some modern desktop publishing programs, such as Adobe InDesign, evaluate the effects of all the different possible line-break choices on the entire paragraph, to choose the one that creates the least variance from the ideal spacing while justifying the lines (so as to reduce rivers), and gives the least uneven edge when set with a ragged margin.

Justification sometimes leads to typographic anomalies. One example: when justification is used in narrow columns, exceptionally large spaces appear between only two or three words (creating what is called a loose line). A second example occurs when the spaces between words line up approximately above one another in several loose lines, a distracting river of white space may appear. Rivers appear in right-aligned, left-aligned and centered settings too, but are more likely to flow in justified text due to extra word spacing. Since there is no added white space built into a typical full stop (period), other than that above the full stop itself, full stops only marginally contribute to the river effect.

Both of these problems are reduced by the addition of hyphenation. With older typesetting systems and WYSIWYG word processors, this was at one time done manually, where the compositor or author added hyphenation on a case-by-case basis. Currently, most typesetting systems (also called layout programs) and modern word processors hyphenate automatically by using a hyphenation algorithm. Professional typesetting programs almost always provide for the further use of an exception dictionary, in part because no algorithm hyphenates all words correctly, and in part because different publishers will follow different dictionaries. Different publishers may also have different rules about permissible hyphenation. Most publishers follow a basic system such as the Chicago Manual of Style or Oxford style, but will overlay their own “house style,” which further restrict permissible hyphenation.
At one time, common word-processing software adjusted only the spacing between words, which was a source of this problem. Modern word processing packages, and professional publishing software, significantly reduce the rivers effect through adjusting the spacing between characters as well as using more advanced

Horizontal spacing: linelength, kerning and tracking

Linelength or measure refers to the length of a line of text (caps, lowercase and numerals.

Tracking or letter-spacing refers to a consistent and uniform degree of increase (or sometimes decrease) of space between letters to affect overall density and texture in a line or block of text.

Kerning (less commonly mortising) is the process of adjusting the spacing between individual characters in a proportional font, usually to achieve a visually pleasing result.


Linelength significantly affects readability. The eye tires if a line requires more than 3 or 4 saccadic eye movements. Each movement is able to take in and recognise the meaning of around 3 words at once. This means lines should ideally not be more than 9-12 words long.

However optimum line length is also relative to each design, and often determined by other factors than readability alone. In this case other ways of increasing readibility should be used eg changing linespacing or contrast and careful consideration of typespace.

Tracking or letterspacing

The amount of letter-spacing in text can affect legibility.

  • As reading with phonetic writing systems is based in part on context, and with unfamiliar words, on phonetic pronunciation, recognition of individual characters can be aided by slightly increased letter-spacing.
  • Tight letter-spacing, particularly in small text sizes, can diminish legibility.
  • The addition of minimal letter-spacing can often increase the legibility and readability.

Added whitespace around the characters allows the individual characters to emerge and be recognized more quickly. But addition of space to the point that individual letters become isolated rather than simply easily identifiable destroys legibility and readability.

The amount of letter-spacing can also affect how text is perceived and emotional response.

  • Tight default letter-spacing, or negative letter-spacing can trigger a cultural association that tight letter-spacing is associated with advertising and therefore more subjective – the equivalent of a fast-talking car salesman.
  • The increase of letter-spacing in text has a cultural association of a more objective typographic voice.

Until the advent of phototypesetting, the term “letterspacing” referred strictly to the adding of space between the individual letters of words set in metal type.

The amount of added spacing always had to be the same between each character, in increments of a minimum of ½ point. Fixed spaces include:

  •  em-space:  the same width as the current point size
  • en-space:  half the current point size
  • a hair space
  • thin space
  • wordspace.

Letterspacing as such was expensive, involving the hand insertion of copper (½ pt.), brass (1 pt.), and printer’s “lead” (2 pt.) spaces between individual pieces of type or between matrices on linecasting machines such as the Ludlow Typograph and the Linotype. As such, it was studiously avoided by compositors, as adding nothing more than time to an already laborious task.The only exceptions were in advertising type or, in book work, in very short phrases in capitals or small capitals, to keep the phrases from being too visually black compared to the rest of the typographic composition.

Historically, personal computer based applications like Microsoft Word, Adobe Illustrator, QuarkXPress, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Photoshop, and Wordperfect, use differing, non-standard systems of adding or subtracting letter-spacing. What is common to most systems is that the default setting of letter-spacing or tracking is zero, using the widths (and kerning information) built into the font itself. Although digital type sets tighter on average than metal type, this is primarily a function of design decisions in the fonts, and the more ready availability of kerning, rather than any design choice inherent in the technology.

Letter-spacing adjustments are frequently used in news design. The speed with which pages must be built on deadline does not usually leave time to rewrite paragraphs that end in split words or that create orphans or widows. Letter-spacing is increased or decreased by modest (usually unnoticeable) amounts to fix these unattractive situations.

Kerning or mortising

The source of the word kern is from the French word carne, meaning “projecting angle, quill of a pen”. The French term originated from the Latin cardo, cardinis, meaning “hinge”.

In a well-kerned font, the two-dimensional blank spaces between each pair of characters all have similar area.

Which letters need to be kerned depends on which languages the font is to be used with. Since some combinations of letters are not used in normal words in any language, kerning these is not necessary. Non-proportional (monospaced) fonts do not use kerning, since their characters always have the same spacing.

In metal typesetting, kerning was labour-intensive and expensive because the matrices had to be physically modified. It was therefore only employed on letter combinations which needed it the most, such as VA or AV. A corner was notched to a consistent height on one or both sides of a letter-piece. Such notched pieces were only set against one another, not against unnotched ones, which had straight sides. The corner allowed for a character’s features to reach into the area normally taken up by the next character. For example, the top bar of a T or the right diagonal stroke of the V could hang over the bottom left corner of an A. Having a consistently shaped corner cut out allowed for using fewer pieces of type to make up all possible kerning pairs. For example, a T and V piece with kerning on the right would match the same A piece with a matching kerning indention on the left.

An alternative is to have ligatures for common glyph combinations, such as the French L’, or the combinations ff, fi and ffi.
a kern in that sense could only bring letters closer together (negative spacing), though of course it was possible to add space between letters. With the arrival of digital fonts, it became much easier to kern many glyph combinations. Digital kerning can go in either direction – closer or further apart.

Kerning is usually applied to letter pairs as a number by which the default character spacing should be increased or decreased. Reducing the default character spacing is widely used to fit capital letters such as T, V, W, and Y closer to some other capital letters on either side, especially A, and to some lower case letters on the right side, such as the combinations Ta, Te, and To. It is also used to fit a period (full stop) or a comma closer to these and to F and P, as well as to the lower case letters r, v, w, and y. Some other combinations that often use kerning are FA, LT, and LY. Increased character width is used mainly in conjunction with punctuation symbols (for example, the lower case letter f followed by right parenthesis or quotation mark) and accented letters.

Some typographic programs provide an autokerning feature. Autokerning simply takes into account a predefined list of common kerning pairs, and if the outlines of two consecutive glyphs are spaced too far apart, makes a kerning entry. Autokerning is especially useful for kerning multi-language fonts. However, it is rarely a sufficient alternative for manual kerning, as some characters may appear to an algorithmic comparison to be spaced very closely together, but to a human reader might appear to be spaced too far apart, especially when the only part of a glyph that is ‘too close’ is a diacritic sign.

The OpenType format permits group-based kerning, which facilitates kerning for fonts that have a large number of glyphs. Instead of specifying the kerning for ‘Va’ and ‘Vá’ separately, all diacritics with the base letter ‘a’ are placed into a group and the kerning between V and this group is specified. At the same time it is possible to add exceptions, e.g. for ‘Vā’, to the group. Group-based kerning is supported in nearly all modern office and desktop publishing applications.

Readability and legibility

Readability is concerned with comprehension: the ease in which text can be read and understood. It refers to entire words, sentences, and paragraphs.

Legibility is concerned with perception: the degree to which individual characters or letters (glyphs) in text are understandable or recognizable as distinct from each other based on appearance.


Various factors to measure readability have been used, such as “speed of perception,” “perceptibility at a distance,” “perceptibility in peripheral vision,” “visibility,” “the reflex blink technique,” “rate of work” (e.g., speed of reading), “eye movements,” and “fatigue in reading.”

Readability is influenced by:

  • typeface and legibility
  • point size and contrast
  • column spacing: generous vertical space separates lines of text, making it easier for the eye to distinguish one line from the next, or previous line.
  • column width and line length
  •  alignment (design of column edge),justification, and hyphenation
  • vertical spacing: linespacing and primary and secondary leading: is it too tight or too loose?
  • horizontal spacing: kerning, tracking or letter spacing and word spacing
  • colour contrast between type and background. Contrast, without dazzling brightness, has also been found to be important, with black on yellow/cream being most effective.
  • hierarchy contrast and predictability between different elements on the page

The saccadic rhythm of eye movement is important for readability—in particular, the ability to take in (i.e., recognise the meaning of groups of) around three words at once and the physiognomy of the eye, which means the eye tires if the line required more than 3 or 4 of these saccadic jumps. More than this is found to introduce strain and errors in reading (e.g. Doubling). Proper fonts for people with reading difficulties such as dyslexia, have continued to be subjects of debate.


Legibility is usually measured through speed of reading, with comprehension scores used to check for effectiveness (that is, not a rushed or careless read). The typeface chosen should be read without effort. This is a key issue in typeface design to ensure that each individual character or glyph is unambiguous and distinguishable from all other characters in the font. Legibility includes factors such as:

  • x-height
  • character shapes
  • stroke contrast
  • size of its counters
  • serifs or lack thereof

Some commonly agreed findings of legibility research include:

  • Text set in lower case is more legible than text set all in upper case (capitals), presumably because lower case letter structures and word shapes are more distinctive.
  • In general typefaces that are true to the basic letterforms are more legible than typefaces that have been condensed, expanded, embellished, or abstracted.
  • Regular upright type (roman type) is found to be more legible than italic type.
  • The upper portions of letters play a stronger part than the lower portions in the recognition process.
  • Extenders (ascenders, descenders and other projecting parts) increase salience (prominence).
  • Positive images (e.g. black on white) are easier to read than negative or reversed (e.g. white on black). However even this commonly accepted practice has some exceptions, for example in some cases of disability.