top of page
  • YAHNO!


Updated: Aug 23, 2019

Typography is, in essence, the art and technique of arranging type. It's integril to the skills of a designer and is about much more than making the words legible. Your choice of typeface and how you it works with your layout, grid, colour scheme etc will make the difference between a good, bad and fabulous design.


Font selection

The terms 'Font' or 'Typeface' are commonly used to distinguish the various styles of letterforms in typography but their original meanings have merged and become interchangeable in contemporary usage. The term 'Font' was originally used to identify the design elements in a typeface e.g. bold, underlined, or italic.

Bold type can add an emphasis or strength to a font.

Underlined type is an effective way of emphasising the title of a document. It can also be used to call attention to an important section of text.

Italic type can also emphasise an important word or passage of text, but it tends to be used in a more informal context. Italic fonts have an animated style and are often selected for designs where there is a need to convey the illusion of speed and energy.


The term Typeface was originally used to identify a family of fonts. A typeface designates a consistent visual appearance or style which can be a "family" or related set of fonts. For example, a given typeface such as Arial may include roman, bold, and italic fonts. In the metal type era, a font also meant a specific point size, but with digital scalable outline fonts this distinction is no longer valid, as a single font may be scaled to any size.

There are two main font types: serif and sans-serif.

Serifs are the extended corners at the ends of a letter and like all good design, they evolved naturally. They originated in the stone-carved letters of the Ancient Romans. Stone masons discovered that it was technically easier to finish chiseling the ends of a letter in a slow curve. Not only did serifs look more elegant but they were also very practical as they formed a natural channel for water or rain to flow away as it cleaned dust from the corners.

Serif fonts are the most legible and are commonly used for large blocks of text. Their wide horizontal baseline emphasizes the line of text for the eye and makes reading more comfortable. Sans-serif fonts are simply fonts without serifs ('sans' means without in French).


Legibility is the measure of how quickly a font can be read. The choice of color in relation to its background can have a strong effect on the legibility of a font eg:

The choice of color in relation to its background

The choice of color in relation to its background


All typefaces are not created equal. Some are fat and wide; some are thin and narrow. So words

set in different typefaces can take up a very different amount of space on the page. The height of each character is known as its 'x-height' (quite simply because it's based on the 'x' character). When pairing different typefaces, it's generally wise to use those that share a similar x-height. The width of each character is known as the 'set width'. This spans the body of the letter, plus the space that acts as a buffer between one letterform and the next. The most common method used to measure type is the point system, which dates back to the 18th century. One point is 1/72 inch. 12 points make one pica, a unit used to measure column widths. Type sizes can also be measured in inches, millimetres, or pixels.


Leading describes the vertical space between each line of type. It's so named because, in the days of metal typesetting, strips of lead were used to separate lines of type. For legible body text that's comfortable to read, a general rule is that your leading value should be anything between 1.25 and

1.5 times greater than the font size.

Tracking and kerning

Kerning is the process of adjusting the space between characters to create a harmonious pairing.

For example, where an uppercase 'A' meets an uppercase 'V', their diagonal strokes are usually kerned so that the top left of the 'V' sits above the bottom right of the 'A'. (AVAVAVAV)

Kerning is similar to tracking, but it's not the same thing. Tracking is the process of adjusting the spacing of all characters in a word, and is applied evenly.

Scale and hierarchy

If all the type within a layout looks the same, it's difficult to know which is the most important information. Size is one key way in which typographers create hierarchy and guide their readers.

Headings are usually large,

sub-headings are smaller,

and body type is smaller still.

Size is not the only way to define hierarchy – it can also be achieved with colour, spacing and weight.

60 views0 comments


bottom of page