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Intro To Typography - It’s About Making Content Stylish

Posted by on in Artwork and Design

When it comes to typography, it’s all about style, or more accurately, it’s about making content stylish. The subtle differences in typographic components convey volumes. Decisions you make in terms of typography have enormous impact on customers, even if they don’t know it. Don’t gloss over typography. It’s as important  as every other part of your design. Here’s a quick look at some fundamentals of typography.


What is Typography?

Like the Force, information surrounds us, binds us, and moves through us. Content, data, ads, entertainment all vie for your attention at every turn. Most media includes some sort of text, and you can’t have text without a font, unless it’s handwriting. Consider typography to be the handwriting of typed words.

Typography is concerned with the intricate components of fonts, of which there are many.

The Basics

Unless you want to win a nerd war with your graphic design friends, you really don’t need to know everything about typography, but some basics are good for guiding the typography of your designs, wherever they are printed.

The first thing you need to know is the difference between font and typeface. Font is the most basic typographic descriptor. Names like Times New Roman, Helvetica, and Arial are familiar font names. Every font comes in different typefaces, which are equally familiar. Bold and italic are the two most common typefaces.

The next distinction is the serif. Some fonts, like Constantia, employ serifs, which are thicker stems of letters with narrower finishing strokes, or the ends of the letters. Other fonts, like Arial use uniform stems and finishing strokes throughout each character and are often described as sans serif, French for “without serif.”

Now things get complicated. Every character is broken down into pieces like descenders, ascenders, arms, and counters to describe the anatomy of the typography (true industry terminology). Here are a few more terms, in glossary form:

  • Glyphs – The characters within a font.
  • Kerning – The spacing between characters. Not to be confused with tracking.
  • Tracking – The spacing between groups of characters (words, sometimes numbers).
  • Alignment – All the characters are aligned based on one side of the character, or the middle of it. You’re looking at left aligned text right now. It just makes sense as you read from left to right. Different alignment, say center alignment, changes the overall appearance of the text, very slightly. All the minute changes typography add up to make big impressions in the reader.
  • Widows and Orphans – When words get hung out to dry on their own at the end of a line (widow) or the beginning of a page or column (orphan), typography people get really angry. It looks sloppy to them. Changing the kerning, tracking, or just editing the text is the solution.


Why it Matters

Whether or not you acknowledge it, you form opinions about content based on its presentation. Your audience is, too.  Here’s a famous example of poor choice of fonts

Comic Sans Fortune 500 Company

What kind of message are you trying to get across? What does a font say about your message? Take a closer look at the fonts you like and identify the parts you like. There are other fonts like it out there. Thousands of them. There is one to suit your needs.

The best way to play around with different fonts and typefaces is in your word processor. If you hit the limits of what your software offers, start looking around online. The options are overwhelming. Here’s a list of a few sites which offer a plethora of free fonts.

If you want to really get your hands dirty, there are more design tools available for font design than you can shake a stick at. At this point, there is really no excuse to not have your typography as dialed as your design.

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