Design

A Quick Introduction to Typography

A Quick Introduction to Typography
Leah Camps
20th May 2022

Typography is literally defined as ‘ the design, or selection, of letter forms to be organized into words and sentences to be disposed in blocks of type as printing upon a page.’ (Britannica) In modern times, we also refer to typography that will be used in digital formats. The art of typography includes so many different principles and terminology that it can get a bit confusing, so we’ve put together this article to help anyone get started with creating beautiful typography design.

 

Why is typography important?

The goal of any typography is really to create understandable, meaningful designs of letter forms that create an impact on the reader. But if the viewer can’t read the finished word, the whole project is pointless. Any professional graphic designer will constantly be reviewing how well the design communicates clearly to their audience, and that’s where typography plays a really important role.

The terms and principles we discuss in this article have been used throughout history to create some of the most powerful pieces of graphic design, and they’re used every day to make sure we can understand clearly any written word. Take the font this blog is written in for example, or the clear bold signs you’ll see above the motorway letting you know the directions to your destination. Typography is one of the fundamental aspects of great design work, so it’s important to have a good understanding of the subject for both designers and marketers alike. Let’s have a closer look at some important typography terms…

Leading

What is leading in typography? Simply put, leading (pronounced LED-ing) is the space left in between lines of type. Interestingly, it’s thought that the term leading became popular in the 18th century when literal lead strips were used between different lines of type. So, if you’re wondering why we say it LED-ing, rather than LEAD-ing, that’s why!

It’s a really important part of typography to consider because it helps you to achieve more specific goals of a design. Usually, the more space in between lines of type, the more room the type has and the easier it feels to read. The type feels somehow lighter, whereas type that has less space between lines can feel slightly more challenging to view. To understand leading more, you’ll need to know that it’s measured from baseline to baseline. If you imagine that each line of type is actually resting on a line, that would be the baseline. Take a look below for an example…

 

Example of leading

 

Whether it’s for a landing page design or a social media post, leading should be considered carefully to make sure that the final design is easy for a viewer to understand and so that the copy is truly legible.

Kerning

Kerning refers to the space left in between individual characters in type. Kerning is different to tracking, in that tracking means the equal distances applied to every character in a word, whereas kerning is space applied to individual characters. Is kerning important? In short, kerning is a very vital to make sure that words are legible and carry the desired effect of a design. For example, a word with tighter kerning could be much harder to read, whereas the right amount of space makes it much more understandable to a reader.

Example of Kerning

You might play around with more extreme kerning when creating particular font designs, or in assets like logos where text might need to fit to an exact measurement in 0rder to balance out a design.

Font weight

Very simply, font weight is a term used to describe how thick or thin the characters in a font are. The heavier the font weight, the thicker the font stroke will be. Altering font weight is another method designers use to achieve highly effective communication. For example without even realising, you will take in the heaviest weight type first followed by the lighter type, which is why designers use font weight to help establish a clear visual hierarchy on a page. The lighter the font weight, the less bold it is and less attention will be drawn to it.

 

Serif vs Sans Serif

The chances are that you’ve heard of sans and sans serif fonts in the past, but what is the difference between them and when should you use them? A serif simply describes the stroke that extend off a larger stroke in a character. Examples of serif fonts include Times New Roman and Georgia. Sans Serif fonts include fonts like Arial and Helvetica. Sans Serif just describes a font without serifs, so they will not have the extending strokes in any characters.

This way of classifying fonts makes it easier to find exactly what you are looking for. Traditionally, Serif fonts are used more for print and longer form content as it is argued that those fonts are easier to read. Sans serif fonts logically take up less room as they don’t have any stroke extensions, so they are good for displaying direct, clear information where there is less room in a design. Of course, each individual design will need careful consideration as to the desired effect the font should have.