What is Leading in Graphic Design?

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Leading, pronounced “ledding”, is a typography term that refers to the space between lines of text and is often measured in pixels. It is also referenced by many word processors as “line spacing” or “line height” which may or may not implement it the same. These programs measure line spacing as a ratio of the default line height. They often compute leading as the width between one baseline of type to the next.

Leading goes back to manual typesetting days, where pieces of lead were used to separate lines of type. The leading was considered the distance between each line, or the span of the lead. Leading was important because it helped improve readability in printed materials.

Leading is a quick and easy way to make text look better. Narrow leading can look cramped and will be harder for audiences to read. Too generous of leading can also make reading difficult and distracting by disrupting text flow with large gaps between lines of type.

Just the right amount of leading can allow brochures, magazines, or newspaper articles to be easier to read. Correct spacing puts less strain on the reader’s eyes, keeping the audience engaged longer. A common line space setting in many word processors is 1.2 to 1.3.

Black text on a white background is the most readable color combination. When using colors other than this, increase the leading and use a lighter weight of the chosen typeface to improve legibility. For headlines, using tighter leading can help create hierarchy in a print or web design.

Testing leading heights is a great idea too! This can be done simply by printing out two or three sample leading heights and timing your sample audience to see which is one is read by the audience the quickest.

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