• Raphaël Freeman

Typesetting Mistakes From the Inauguration Invitation – Lessons for Every Designer



There has been a lot of talk about the inauguration of the new President, specifically about the number of people there. Personally, I think this is just a diversion about something that I find way more newsworthy and that is of course the poor typesetting of the invitation and program itself.

https://www.inaugural.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Entire%20Program.pdf

I’ve included a link to the PDF, but I will be calling out different problems.

Now where to start? So at first glance the first page seems to be fine, but looking closer, the spacing is wrong. Yes there are some nice swash italics for the capitals but the text should have been manually kerned. Yes there is even a shortcut in InDesign to do this. Well I suppose I should be grateful that they at least used InDesign to do the program.


This particular problem continues throughout the program. On page 6, however, things start to deteriorate. Although the designer used true small caps, at the bottom half of the page, the lack of typographic knowledge really shines. No less than four typographic errors. I honestly believe that it was at this point, that many people were simply put off from coming.


The designer actually started off well. The dropped capital has been done very tastefully, from there things fall apart. Let’s start with 58th. I’m not a fan of superscript, but if you are going to make your graphics look like a Word memo, then at least use the superior numbers rather than superscript. Not all fonts have superiors, but the font used here, Minion (one of my favorites) most certainly does. Now whether to set 58 in capitals or lowercase could be a debate, but the 1790s should at least be set using ranging figures.

Now a basic feature in typesetting software are ligatures. In order to enable ligatures you have to er, do absolutely nothing. They are on as default in InDesign. Somebody actually turned this off. Now I did mention four errors. The final error is more subtle. Something that I like to always turn on is optical margin alignment. Although this can create more work, the overall effect of the page is much cleaner. The designer was clearly bothered about hyphenation so turned it off causing too much space in the 2nd and 3rd lines. Turning hyphenation on as well as optical margin alignment would have solved that. Of course turning on glyph scaling would have been a better option and then hyphenation could have probably been avoided altogether.

I’m fairly sure, after the poorly set first pages, that nobody even went past page 6, but if they did and made it to page 8, on the one hand they would be treated to the title of the map set with the correct numbers. However it seems that the designer seemed to have forgotten the basic rule of dashes. Chicago Manual of Style prefers em-dashes (but no spaces on either side), but most typesetters prefer spaced en-dashes. It seems that this design has created a new style – spaced em-dashes.

Of course page 11 gets worse with rivers in the text due to the lack of glyph scaling and poor hyphenation choices but if you look closely, a couple of pages earlier on page 9, ligatures suddenly make an appearance.

But it’s not just the program. It seems that this sad state of affairs is something that is endemic in Washington as a whole as can been seen by this photo of Sean Spicer.


It seems that the new President hasn’t yet got his house in order and had to send Mr Spicer to talk about the crowds again. Although the press is speculating about why President Trump is spending so much time on this issue, it’s very clear from this photo what Trump is trying to hide. Clearly his surprise victory didn’t give him time to prepare properly but honestly, it’s there in clear sight. The kerning in the word WASHINGTON, especially between the WA, is too tight.

If you are thinking for running for President or Prime Minister of your country or perhaps you have book that needs typesetting, then please feel free get in touch with us to discuss your requirements.

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