Hello and welcome! This is Typography 101 – your one stop cheat sheet for all things typography. This topic is incredibly extensive and there will be more to come. To start things off, I will teach you the basics and to understand the intricacies of the typefaces you use every day.
Typeface vs. Font
First, let’s talk about the distinction between a font and a typeface. These terms come from the origins of printed type and are used interchangeably today. However, if used correctly, they do mean different things. A typeface is a family of fonts, and a font is part of a typeface with specific dimensions associated. For example, Helvetica is a typeface. It contains a large body of fonts that vary in size, width and weight. A font would be Helvetica bold 12 pt. or Helvetic Light 24 pt. Fonts are more specific and are all part of a typeface, though today the words are used interchangeably on the regular.
Anatomy of Type
The chart below show the different terms associated with the structure of the letters themselves. These are important to know when referencing specific portions of a font that you are working with.
The style is the different treatments to the font, such as bold, italic and underlined. Regular is the style of the font without any additional treatment to it. See these examples below:
There are thousands, if not millions, of fonts and typefaces available, but the majority fall into one of these major categories.
Serif: With many classifications within serif itself, a serif font is associated with traditional typography. These typefaces have “feet” that stick off the ends, so to say. Serif fonts are used best in print, because the serifs make it easy to read by stringing the letters together. Below I outline the different styles within the serif category.
Sans Serif: Sans serif fonts are modern, sleek and diverse. These typefaces do not have the “feet” or serifs that hang off the ends of the letters. Sans serifs fonts work best
Script: Script fonts can be cursive, handwritten and elegant. These typefaces are used most often for headlines, such as on an invitation or the header on my blog. Because of the fancy and elaborate nature of script fonts, they’re not typically used for body copy because the kerning gets messy.
Decorative: Decorative fonts are fun and playful. They can be anything from cartoonish to elegant, for holidays or logos. There is a decorative styled font for just about any occasion you can think of.
Blackletter: Blackletter fonts are often hand drawn and reminiscent of the medieval era. When you look at these fonts, you imagine yourself in an old pub or classical era. Blackletter fonts work best for headlines or logos that aim to take the viewer back to an earlier era.
Let’s break it down EVEN further…
Within each of the previously mentioned classifications, there are more specific categories to further classify the typeface. Take a look at these infographics below to see the small details that differ between the fonts.