The Fundamentals of Typography

Exploring The Art and Techniques of Typography

What Is Typography?

Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable, and appealing when displayed and is critically important to the work of graphic designers, content writers and content marketing professionals. The choices related to the layout, color themes and typeface will decide the difference between a good and poor design. 

Few (if any) forms of artistic expression are as widely seen and as seldom noted as the letterforms and typefaces we encounter in our everyday life.   

Why Typography Is So Important

Few things are as important in design as typography. That’s because typography is responsible for conveying the message of a piece, whether it’s a website, a brochure, or even just a simple flyer. good typography can make all the difference in whether or not your design is successful.

There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to typography. First, you want to make sure that the typeface you’re using is legible and easy to read. This is especially important if you’re working with a lot of text. Second, you want to create a hierarchy of information, so that the most important elements are given prominence through size or color. And finally, don’t be afraid to get creative with your typography! Use different fonts and sizes to add interest and contrast to your design.

When it’s done well, typography can take a design from good to great. So next time you’re working on a project, be sure to give it the attention it deserves!

A Brief History of Typography

The history of typography is long and complicated, dating all the way back to the invention of the printing press in the 15th century. The first printed books were largely hand-lettered, and it wasn’t until the mid-16th century that moveable type became widely used. The early days of typography were marked by a lack of standardization, with each printer developing his own unique style. This began to change in the 17th century, when French typographer Nicolas Jaugeon developed the first set of typographic rules. Over the next few centuries, typography continued to evolve, with new typefaces and printing techniques being developed. Today, typography is an essential part of graphic design, and there are thousands of different typefaces to choose from. With so many options available, it’s easy to find the perfect font for any project.

When it Comes to Typography, it’s All About the Font!

If you’re new to graphic design, you’ve probably wondered what the difference is between “typeface” and “font.” A Font is a specific set of typographic characters that are designed to work together. Fonts are also referred to as Typefaces

Font Choices and Typefaces

The large font in the image above is set in the following typefaces (from top to bottom) Helvetica Light, Helvetica Bold, and Brush Script MT Italic. Individual fonts are often part of Font Families that contain variations of that font- regular, bold, italic, bold italic, and others.  The most common typefaces include Arial and Helvetica. The most common fonts include Courier, Calibri, Verdana, Tahoma and Times New Roman. All typefaces come in different sizes. The height of every individual character is called x-height. 

Serif vs Sans Serif Font

Notice the little embellishments at the end of lines outlined in blue in the image below

Serif and Sans Serif Font

Serif stands for stroke or line and Sans means “without” in French.  Serif fonts have that extra stroke or decorative design on the end of letters. Whereas Sans-Serif doesn’t have any such design or stroke. Sans-serif fonts tend to have less stroke width variation than serif fonts.

They are often used to convey simplicity and modernity or minimalism.   The majority of font families fall into the categories of either Serif or Sans Serif.  Deciding which one is better depends on one’s choice or particular project and it’s requirements.

You can use Serif fonts for Logo Design or creating a Website banner or you can use Sans Serif fonts for designing magazine and newspaper. It’s totally up to you.

White Space

White space isn’t literally an empty space, it’s a powerful graphic design tool that refers to the empty space around objects or typography.

The Fundamentals of Using White Space

When used correctly, White Space creates a pleasing visual experience and can even draw attention to text. The application of white space is both art and science. Maintaining an optimum level of white space in the design composition and creating a balance will only come by experience and practice.

Just as with the empty space on a page, white space in text can help to break up a long paragraph, make a page more visually appealing, and draw attention to important information. White space can also help to create a sense of balance and harmony on a page. When used effectively, white space can make text easier to read and add visual interest to a design. However, too much white space can make a page look unfinished or unprofessional. As with any design element, it is important to use white space judiciously and with purpose. With a little practice, you will be able to create beautiful, well-balanced pages that make effective use of this important design tool.

Don’t Forget about Hierarchy!

Typography Hierarchy Example

A Hierarchy is an arrangement of items in which the items are represented as being “above”, “below”, or “at the same level as” one another.  In the world of graphic design, creating a good design can often be an elusive and complex goal. One factor that is thought to contribute to good design is visual hierarchy; visual hierarchy refers to the order in which elements of a graphic design are looked at. On a newspaper for example, the headline is likely to be looked at first because it is large and bolded, then a sub-header because it is smaller, and finally the story because it is even smaller.

Hierarchy is also an important concept in a wide variety of fields, such as philosophy, mathematics, computer science, organizational theory, systems theory, and the social sciences. Understanding the main role hierarchy plays in typography will help keep your ideas organized, so that viewers can always identify which category of information they are reading.

Combining Different Fonts

Typography Poster Design

When it comes to Combining Different Fonts (like with people) opposites tend to attract: “introverted” and “extroverted” fonts balance each other nicely when combined. When pairing fonts together, most graphic designers usually pick a typeface with similar x-height. On the other hand, the set width refers to the area of the body of the letter and the buffering space that follows. The most popular way to measure type is called the point system. One point equals 1/72 of an inch and 12 points equal one pica.

Typography Resources

Connecticut Typography Poster

If you’re interested in learning more about Typography, here are a few interesting resources related to type and hierarchy.

Fonts by Hoefler and Company

Type study: Typographic Hierarchy

Creating Exciting And Unusual Visual Hierarchies

“Typography must often draw attention to itself before it will be read. Yet in order to be read, it must relinquish the attention it has drawn.” 

Robert Bringhurst