Type Scales for Mobile and Web Design. A Comprehensive Guide

Ever confused type scales for mobile and web design, typefaces, and fonts? If you’re a self-taught designer like me, they might have become one of those things that you feel like everyone knows apart from you. Yeah, just like that Andy meme from Parks and Rec.

But panic not, because if I was able to figure it out, you will too. Read on and go show off your newfound typeface knowledge to all your snobby graphic design friends.

Written by Javi

Published: 07/03/2024


What is a type scale for mobile and web?

The best way to explain a type scale for mobile and web design is as an organisation system.

It helps you makes sense of font sizes and organise them in a way that will make sense to readers as well. A good type scale ensures a consistent hierarchy in typography across various parts of a website, whether viewed on mobile or desktop. A well-defined type scale is essential for creating beautiful user interfaces with a high level of accessibility for mobile and web design.

With this in mind, let’s see how we can create a strong type scale for mobile and web design projects.


What Base Font Size should I use for my website’s Type Scale?

The base font size of a type scale is the foundation of your type scale. In essence, it’s the default size you use for a regular body of text. By using the base font size you can determine the size of other text elements, like headings and subheadings. Selecting a suitable base font size is crucial for maintaining good readability and ensuring the layout looks good.

As designers, we should always choose a base font size that is comfortable for users to read. The most common base font sizes for mobile and website design range from 16px to 18px. There are always exceptions to the rule and sometimes design requirements may affect the recommended base font size range.

Once you determine the base font size, it’s time to establish the size of the other text elements in the type scale for mobile and desktop. The ratio ensures that the relationship between different font sizes looks good and maintains a strong hierarchy within the design.

What Are Scale Ratios in the Context of Type Scale for Mobile and Web Design?

Scale ratios in type scale are all about proportions. Remember saying you’ll never use maths in real life? You were pretty much right, I wouldn’t really call this high mathematics and we all have calculators.

With type scales, proportions help you understand the relationship between different font sizes. These ratios are consistently applied across various text elements, like headings and subheadings, to create a harmonious and visually pleasing hierarchy within a design.

The choice of a scale ratio is a key decision in establishing a type scale for mobile and web design. Designers often use specific ratios to determine the size of text elements relative to the base font size. Some commonly used scale ratios include:

  • Golden Ratio (φ): Approximately 1:1.618
  • Major Second: 1:1.125
  • Minor Third: 1:1.2
  • Major Third: 1:1.25

For example, if you have a base font size of 16 pixels and you’re using a golden ratio scale, the next level of heading might be 16 * 1.618 = 25.888 pixels. Subsequent sizes are calculated in the same way, maintaining the chosen ratio.

Scale ratios help create a consistent and aesthetically pleasing progression of font sizes throughout a design, ensuring that headings and other text elements are appropriately sized relative to each other. You can choose a ratio based on your preferences and the design principles that best suit your project.

How to Make Sure Your Type Scale Works Well on Mobile and Other Devices?

A clear type scale for mobile and web design is essential for accessibility and aesthetics. Part of any type scale is ensuring that font sizes adapt and change based on the device or screen size where content is viewed.

The goal is to ensure that text remains legible and visually appealing across a variety of screen sizes and resolutions, from small mobile devices to large desktop monitors. Here are key considerations for implementing responsive font sizes in CSS:

Viewport Units

In CSS, several methods ensure consistency when using a type scale for mobile or desktop design. One of these methods is using Viewport Units.

Relative units like viewport units (vw, vh, vmin, vmax) in CSS set font sizes based on the percentage of the viewport width, height, or the smaller or larger dimension. This allows fonts to scale proportionally with the screen size.


Media Queries

Employ CSS media queries to adjust font sizes at specific breakpoints, ensuring readability on different devices. For example, you might increase font sizes for larger screens and decrease them for smaller screens.


Fluid Typography

Implement fluid typography techniques where font sizes are defined using relative units, and they smoothly adjust as the viewport size changes.


Viewport-Relative Sizing

Use CSS properties like font-size: min(max(), ) to set font sizes within a range based on the viewport dimensions.


Responsive font sizes aim to enhance user experience by ensuring that text remains readable and aesthetically pleasing across a diverse range of devices and screen sizes. This approach contributes to a more flexible and adaptive design that accommodates varying user needs on different platforms.

How Do Spacing and Margins Affect a Type Scale for Mobile and Web Design?

Line Spacing (Leading)

This refers to the vertical space between lines of text. Proper line spacing ensures readability and prevents text from appearing crammed or too spread out.

Letter Spacing (Tracking)

Tracking refers to the horizontal space between individual characters. Adjusting letter spacing can impact the overall readability and aesthetics of the text.

Top and Bottom Margins

These are the vertical spaces at the top and bottom of a block of text. Proper margins prevent the text from feeling crowded against other elements or the edges of the page.

Left and Right Margins

These are the horizontal spaces on the left and right sides of a block of text. Margins provide a visual frame for the text and contribute to the overall balance of the design.

Appropriate spacing and margins contribute to the overall readability and aesthetics of a type scale. Too little spacing might result in a cluttered and hard-to-read design, while excessive spacing can make the text appear disjointed. Balancing these elements is essential for creating a harmonious and visually pleasing typographic layout.

Design Hierarchy and Its Effect on a Type Scale for Mobile and Web

Hierarchy in the context of type scales means organising and prioritising different text elements based on their visual importance. Establishing a clear typographic hierarchy is the best way to guide readers through content, emphasise key information, and create a visually pleasing design.

Let’s look into some of the key aspects of typographic hierarchy within a type scale:

Heading Levels

1. Different levels of headings (H1, H2, H3, etc.) within a document or webpage are often styled differently to indicate their hierarchical relationship.

2. Larger font sizes, bold styles, or distinct colours may be used for higher-level headings to make them stand out.

Font Weight and Style

Varying the weight (boldness) and style (italic, underline) of text can help establish a hierarchy. For instance, using bold for headings and regular for body text creates a clear distinction.

Size Gradation

1. In a type scale for mobile and web design, font sizes adjust to reflect the importance of the content. Headings are typically larger than subheadings, which in turn, are larger than body text.

2. Consistent and incremental size differences contribute to a logical flow and make it easier for readers to navigate through the content.

Colour Contrast

Using colour can also contribute to typographic hierarchy. Important elements or headings may be presented in a colour that contrasts with the background or other text, drawing attention.

These techniques help designers create a hierarchy that guides readers through the content and ensures that the most important information is easily identified. Establishing a clear typographic hierarchy is fundamental for effective communication and user engagement.

Web Accessibility and Type Scales

Type scale is vital for web accessibility as it directly influences the readability and usability of content for a diverse range of users, including those with disabilities. Here are key reasons why type scale plays a crucial role in web accessibility:

Readability for All Users

A well-designed type scale ensures that text is legible and readable for users with varying levels of visual abilities. This includes users with low vision, colour blindness, or other visual impairments. Proper font size, contrast, and spacing contribute to text clarity.

Scaling for Visual Impairments

Users with visual impairments may rely on screen magnification or text enlargement features in their browsers or assistive technologies. Using a responsive type scale that allows for flexible text scaling ensures that content remains readable when magnified.

Contrast and Visibility

Adequate contrast between text and background is crucial for users with low vision or colour blindness. A well-defined type scale helps maintain appropriate contrast ratios, ensuring that text is legible for all users.

Cognitive Accessibility

Individuals with cognitive disabilities may benefit from clear and consistent typography. A well-organised type scale, along with appropriate spacing and hierarchy, can enhance comprehension and make it easier for users with cognitive challenges to process information.

Navigation and Screen Readers

Screen reader users rely on text-to-speech technology to navigate and understand web content. Semantic markup, proper heading structures within the type scale, and consistent styling contribute to a more meaningful and understandable experience for users relying on assistive technologies.

Avoiding Reading Fatigue

Excessive or insufficient spacing, inappropriate font choices, or poor typographic hierarchy can contribute to reading fatigue, making it challenging for users to consume and understand content. A well-balanced type scale helps maintain a comfortable reading experience.

Responsive Design

A responsive type scale is essential for accommodating users on various devices with different screen sizes. Ensuring that text remains readable and appropriately styled across devices contributes to a more inclusive web experience.

Compliance with Accessibility Standards

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) provide specific recommendations for text accessibility, including font size, contrast ratios, and proper markup. Adhering to these guidelines ensures that a website meets recognised standards for accessibility.

By prioritising a well-designed type scale, web designers and developers contribute to a more accessible and inclusive digital environment. This approach acknowledges the diverse needs of users and aims to make web content usable for everyone, regardless of their abilities or disabilities.

Mastering type scales for your mobile or website design project is more than a skill. It’s a journey toward creating designs that resonate with users. From high contrast to responsive scales, understanding the nuances of each type empowers designers to make informed choices. Experiment with the concepts provided to elevate your skills, and let your designs speak volumes.

And, most importantly, don’t forget to use the bragging rights you’ve just earned by reading this and tell everyone how much you know about type scales.

Useful Type Scale for mobile and web design resources

Type Scale Calculator

Navigate the intricate world of type scales with ease using a Type Scale Calculator. These tools streamlines the process, allowing you to experiment with different scales effortlessly. Here are some of our favourite:

1. Fluid Typescale Calculator

2. Spencer Mortensen’s website

3. Baseline.io