Design Glossary

What is Typography?

August 31, 2023 by

As you read a book, browse a website, or even glance at a billboard, you may not realize the impact that typography has on your experience.

Typography, the art, and technique of arranging type, plays a crucial role in how we communicate and interpret information in a visual world.

From conveying emotion to establishing brand identity, typography is a powerful tool that can have a significant impact on how we perceive and interact with the world around us.

In this article, we’ll explore what typography is, why it’s important, and the five key reasons that make it an essential aspect of modern communication. So, let’s dive in and discover the power of typography.

We’ll be covering the following topics (click on a bullet point to jump to that section):

Table of Contents

What is Typography?

Typography definition is the art of writing text in such a way that it appeals to the viewers. It includes the various font styles, character spacing, line spacing, and size of the text.

Typography can make the text more visually appealing, easier to read, and engaging for readers.

While the right content is a cornerstone in marketing, typography gives the text an appeal that provides the initial hook for your ad, blog, brochure, etc.

The design may not seem like an important step when you consider writing, but anything that looks great, is easy to read, and is legible is bound to engage a reader more than just bland text.

typography example

Typography Examples

If you look into the typography meaning, you will understand that typefaces are an excellent tool to make your content visually appealing to your audience.

There are six types of typefaces you can use for your text.

Reading this, you might be thinking that there are hundreds of fonts out there so why are we saying there are only six types?

It’s because typeface and font are different.

The typeface is a family of fonts, e.g., Serifs, while a font is a member of a particular typeface family, e.g., Blacker Pro belongs to the Serifs typeface.

1. Serifs

Serifs are a popular typeface for print because the letters are clear and evenly spaced.

The letters have a decorative aspect, but they only work with screen media if the resolution is high because they appear hard to read otherwise. They work well with print media.

Serif also has a few subtypes such as the Old Style (Goudy Old Style), Modern Serifs (Didot and Bodoni), and transitional (a mix of Old Style and Modern Serifs, e.g., Baskerville).

Some typical Serif fonts are Times New Roman and Palatino.

serif font

2. Sans Serifs

San Serifs have no decorative aspect, and the letters have even thickness.

Since the characters aren’t as distinct as in Serifs, San Serif works better for online content than print content.

It’s still used in caption writing in print publications, and common Sans Serifs fonts are Helvetica, Geneva, Lucida Grande, and Ariel.

Sans Serif typography
sans serif

3. Slab Serifs

They look similar to Serifs, but the letters have even thickness, and the edges are squared.

Moreover, letters tend to take more space than Serifs and Sans Serifs, but they work with online and print media.

You can use them when you want to make a big statement because they give off a solemn vibe.

Some Slab Serifs fonts are Courier, Copperplate, and American Typewriter.

Slab Serifs
slab serifs

4. Script

The script is divided into formal, casual, handwriting, calligraphic, and black letters. Most of the script fonts are close to handwriting.

The formal script includes fonts like Bickham script that have elegantly joined letters, while casual script appears like they were made with a brush e.g., Bianca.

Calligraphic scripts, like Ballerino Mirror, are similar to calligraphy by hand.

Similarly, blackletter is a formal script that is similar to calligraphy but has stronger stroke contrast, e.g., Goudy Text.

Script typography
script font

5. Monospaced

Monospaced is a good font for programmers because all the letters take up an equal amount of space horizontally.

A few monospaced fonts are Monaco, Courier, and PT Mono.

You can use them in quote blocks to emphasize the words.

Monospaced typography
monospaced font

6. Display

A modern typeface, display fonts are creative, and some are even strange or unlike other typefaces.

The thickness of the strokes is different, and some fonts are more legible, but their legibility depends on how you use them.

Each font in this typeface has a unique personality and is a great choice to use for a brand, e.g., Calkduster, Papyrus, Marker Felt, and Herculaneum.

What is the Origin of Typography?

Typography dates back to the Middle Ages when manuscripts were handwritten.

However, the printing press replaced manuscripts and books in the 15th Century when Johannes Gutenberg invented the first-ever mobile printing press.

It was a revolution in typography’s history, and the first font, blackletter, was used by Gutenberg. It was big, bold, and dark but wasn’t legible.

Around the same time, in 1470, Nicolas Jenson put forward a Roman font, which was easier to read and became popular quickly. Then, in 1501, the Italics entered the game, courtesy of Aldus Manutius.

Time passed through the 16th Century, and it brought the Serifs Old Style, Transitional Serifs, and Modern Serifs.

Then, the Slab Serifs or Egyptian font came along in 1815. The Serifs were on a winning streak, but in 1816, William Caslon IV decided to break tradition and brought out the Sans Serif – a without Serifs typeface.

In the 18th Century, typography developed a lot, and numerous typefaces like Kennerly, Copperplate Gothic, and Helvetica emerged during this era.

In modern times, there are many typography typefaces to choose from, and the list keeps growing!

Why is Typography Important?

Typography meaning makes it clear why typography is necessary.

It helps in brand awareness, attracts readers to your ads, social media, website, etc., and helps you build influence.

There are more reasons why typography is so important in your marketing strategy.

1. Attract Attention

To make a phrase or a word stand out, you can use typography to make your message more impactful.

You can make the main word or phrase bold, give it a different font to make it stand out, or increase its size.

typography attract attention
typography can attract attention

2. Gives an Identity to Your Brand

When you consistently use particular typography for your brand’s content, your viewers will begin to link that font style with your brand.

nike typography
typography gives identity to brand

It will make your brand more credible and will make you stand out through your different styles.

This fact especially holds for logo designs and typefaces.

A consistent design and text style will garner more attention and influence rather than changing your logo design every so often.

3. Shows Your Brand’s Personality

A simple piece of text with no styling or graphic design is plain, bland, and shows no personality.

With the right typography, you can convey your brand’s personality to the audience.

You can use appropriate fonts and styles if you want to make your brand appear fun and playful, serious, elegant, or mysterious.

Many font styles can match your brand’s personality, and you can use typography to bring your brand to life.

4. Sets the Right Mood & Tone

When we see something, it always affects our moods and feelings.

Typography mood
typography can set mood and tone

Good typography will convey what your tone is without any words.

The style, font type, and size are an efficient way to set the tone of your content without outright explaining what that tone should be.

If your website/brand is in the horror niche, a Chiller font or MS Gothic will convey the content type without you having to say anything.

However, if it’s a lifestyle blog with a playful edge, a handwritten script like Allura Regular is the way to go.

5. Defines the Information Hierarchy

Informational hierarchy means dividing the text according to its importance into title heading, subheading, and body.

You can create an informational hierarchy if you use different size fonts in the text — a large size for the title, a smaller one for the subheadings, and an even smaller one for the body.

typography information hierarchy
typography can create information hierarchy

To differentiate between the title, subheadings, and text body, you can also use a different typeface/font for them.

You can also use only two different fonts in the entire content – one for the heading and one for the body.

For example, you can use Copperplate Gothic Bold for the headings and Helvetica Condensed for the body.

You can use two fonts from the same family, e.g., you can pair Bebas Neue Bold with Bebas Neue Light, or you can pair two fonts that contrast each other such as pairing Slab Serif with a Handwriting font.

To further explore the importance of typography, we recommend this TED Talk by Mia Cinelli:

Some Typography/Typeface Terms to Know

Before going into typeface classification, you need to understand a few terms related to typography and typeface and how they make certain typefaces better than others.

1. Leading

Leading is the space between the lines of the content text, and it makes the text easy to read, and the default spacing is usually fine.

2. Tracking

Tracking is the space between the letters or the characters is called tracking or character spacing. The character spacing is good when they aren’t too far apart or mashed together.

3. Kerning

Similar to tracking, kerning is the distance between particular characters or spacing in one word. It’s a bit different because every word has different spacing, depending on its length.

How to Choose the Correct Typography?

You now know the different types of typefaces out there but how to choose the typography for you?

Ask yourself a few questions about your brand to understand its personality.

Is your brand playful? Serious? Or confident? Each instance requires a different type of typeface.

For a serious brand, try using fonts from the Slab Serifs family.

Handwriting or calligraphy fonts work great for fun, casual, and playful brands, while all caps show confidence.

For humorous brands/content, you can use fonts like Mohr Rounded or Forte, and Chiller is the top font for horror niche content.

Aside from personality, the font should be legible and look appealing visually and give the content character.

Another tip, don’t use too many fonts in cone content, you can use 1 to 2 different types of fonts in one blog/content.

Try not to use fonts that are too similar, like Sans Serifs with Slab Serifs, instead try to use contrast fonts that complement each other, e.g., Anton Font (Sans Serifs) with Damion Font (casual script).

You need to pick a font or fonts that work with your media, for example, Sans Serifs would work great online and even in print, but Serifs fonts work better online.

You need to consider your media.

Also, the fonts used should be web-friendly, and you should be able to use them on any browser.

To further explore which font to use, we recommend this video by Satori Graphics:

Typography is needed to make your brand or content stand out and get traffic to your site.

Typography has a long history, and it went through a lot from the 14th to the 18th Century to get to where it is today.

The typeface of your brand should match the personality of your brand, be easy to read, and look nice.

Is typography the same as graphic design?

Typography is a subset of graphic design that specifically focuses on the art and technique of arranging type. While graphic design may encompass a broader range of visual elements and techniques, typography is a critical component of effective graphic design.

What makes a good typography?

Good typography is characterized by legibility, readability, and effective use of typography to convey meaning and emotion. It also involves careful attention to typeface selection, spacing, hierarchy, and other design elements that work together to create a cohesive and impactful visual message.

What should you avoid in typography?

In typography, it’s important to avoid using too many fonts, excessive use of decorative elements or effects, and poor spacing or alignment. These mistakes can make the text difficult to read, distract from the message, and detract from the overall design.