Typography is the art of designing and arranging printed type. It started as a craft in the 15th century with the invention of the printing press and has gradually evolved into an art form in its own right with modern digital technologies offering unprecedented creative possibilities.
Fonts and Typefaces
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.
'Century' is a typeface. The fonts above are all members of the 'Century' family. Their height is measured in points - the standard unit for printed text. There are about 72 points to one inch.
Although the above fonts are all the same height, note how their width varies according to their style. Some fonts are more suited to fitting into a confined area of a design, while others like to spread themselves out.
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). They are also sometimes called Gothic fonts.