What is Typography?

Typography is the art and craft of arranging type. It’s critically important to the work of graphic designer, content writers and marketing professionals. The choices related to the layout, color scheme and typeface will decide the difference between a good and poor design.

define typography

Remember the line-height CSS property; a good rule of thumb is line spacing that’s at least 140% of your text size.


The Basic Elements

Many people mistakenly think that typography is only about font and color, but there is much more to it than meets the eye. First, typeface refer to the name of the text style. The most common typefaces include Arial and Helvetica. Second, fonts refer to the specific typeface style, width and height. The most common fonts include Courier, Calibri, Verdana, Tahoma and Times New Roman. All typefaces come in different sizes. The height of every individual character is called x-height. When pairing fonts together, most graphic designers usually pick a typeface with similar x-height. On the other hand, the set width refers to the area of the body of the letter and the buffering space that follows. The most popular way to measure type is called the point system. One point equals 1/72 of an inch and 12 points equal one pica.

The Advanced Elements

Leading describes the vertical space between each line of words. The leading value refers to the measured distance between one line of text and the line directly above or below. Most publishers select a leading value that is greater than the font size, which is usually 1.25 to 1.5 times the size of the font. Tracking is the space between text characters, which is also referred to as letter spacing. Kerning is like tracking, but only refers to the space in between letters and characters. The line length refers to the standard length of text that runs from left to right and is adjusted through the page’s margins. Hierarchy values guide the reader through making headers large, sub-headings smaller and body types smallest. Size defines the hierarchy value and is accomplished through color, spacing and dimensions.

Why It’s Important

There are benefits to using the right kind of typeface. First, it attracts the reader’s attention and conveys a certain mood or feeling. This influences the reader’s concentration, interest level and willingness to continue reading. Second, visually appealing presentation fonts facilitate communication and audience engagement. From a technical viewpoint, different font and type sizes are used to establish content importance and functions, such as using separate typefaces for headers, paragraphs and bullet points. When it comes to graphic design, the right typefaces helps to create harmony, continuity and simplicity. Finally, for companies and organizations that regularly communicate with the public, the typeface establishes and builds brand recognition.

Online Marketing

Research clearly shows that the right typefaces drive the best results when it comes to content marketing. According to usabilitynews.org, research shows that people subconsciously prefer fonts like Arial, Verdana and Comic Sans. Research also shows that the selection of the font will directly impact the reader’s reaction to and perception of the article. This information is extremely useful to marketing professionals who design content and graphics. Business professionals always say that content is king, but they do not realize that their specific typeface may result in the article being regarded as a joker. Because of this, online marketers often collaborate with graphic design professionals to carefully select the right typeface that harmonizes with the content and overall visual presentation.

How Typography Is Presented on Materials and Screens

Another important aspect about typography to consider is how it is displayed on the printed material or screen. There are three types of alignment for typography, and they are left-aligned, right-aligned and center-aligned. Left alignment refers to keeping text aligned at the left margin, right alignment keeps the end of the line of text flush with the right margin, and center alignment evenly distributes the characters on either side of an imaginary middle line. In the English language, left-aligned materials are the most common type of arrangement. In Hebrew, right-aligned materials are the standard. Many people find center-aligned typography frustrating because it involves extra spaces between some words.

Paragraph Spacing

Paragraph spacing is an important aspect of typography. When a person is reading printed materials or text on a screen, space between paragraphs shows that a new idea is to be introduced. It gives the eyes a visual break. Space between paragraphs also makes text more readable on a smartphone or another device with a small screen. The minimum space between paragraphs should be between 0.75x and 1.25x of the type size.

Space Between Lines

Typography also considers the amount of space between lines. If lines of text do not have enough space, tall letters will get crowded between the letters in the line above them. This would make text too difficult to read. For example, a lowercase “y” has a tail that could intersect with any uppercase letter if there is not enough space between lines of text. The minimum amount of space between any two lines of text in the same paragraph is proportional to the size of the type. If the type size is 14, the line height should be at least 20dp. It is also important to keep in mind that too much space between lines could frustrate the reader, so getting the spacing just right is important to the accessibility of the materials.

Line Length

Line length is an aspect of typography that is important to the view a person gets on their smartphone. If the line length is too short, part of their screen will be blank. There will be more total lines of text, which will force the user to scroll more in order to access all of the content. If the line length is too long, it will either get cut off or wrap around in a way that leaves blank space at the end of the line. Both will frustrate readers. For mobile-friendly typography, lines should be 40 to 60 characters long. For text that will be read on a desktop computer, 120 characters is an ideal length for a line.

Space Around Numbers and Columns

When numbers are arranged in columns, it is necessary to consider the spacing. The number “1” is not as wide as the number “8.” If one number has a lot of 1s in it, and another number has many 8s in it, the latter will be much wider than the former. This could be difficult for a person to track on any type of device. Typography includes ensuring that there is enough space between individual digits of a long number and that the numbers use tabular spacing. Tabular spacing keeps the numbers aligned properly in a column.

Letter Spacing

Some letters are wide, including “m” and “w,” while some are narrow, such as “i” and “l.” In different fonts, letter width can vary. This makes typography tricky. When the font is small, looser spacing is a good choice. More space between the letters of a word makes it easier to tell the difference between each letter. On the other hand, some fonts use monospace. This means that all letters are allocated the same amount of space, regardless of their size. This results in a wide letter, such as “M” getting compressed. A narrower letter, such as “J,” will look normal.

Special Fonts

Some typography is best reserved for displays or attracting attention, rather than for the entirety of an article. There are also special fonts that are easier to read when they are displayed in a large size. Fonts that fit into both of these categories include Shrickland, Chewy and Faster One.

Unconventional Fonts

Some fonts are unconventional in their look and the emotions they deliver. When used sparingly, these fonts focus the reader’s attention. Many of these fonts resemble handwriting or historical typefaces. Some fonts that fall into these categories include handwriting, script and black letter.


In typography, a Serif is a small projection that comes off a stroke. It is usually located at the beginning or ending of a stroke. There are four categories of Serif fonts, including old-style, transitional, slab and neoclassical. Each of these categories has its own type of projection, slant and level of contrast between thick, thin, vertical and circular strokes in a letter.

Sans Serif

Sans Serif fonts deserve a special mention when discussing typography. The “sans” refers to the French word that means “without.” A Sans Serif font is one without special contrast between strokes. There are three categories of Sans Serif fonts. They are grotesque, humanist and geometric. Grotesque Sans Serif fonts have low contrast between vertical and horizontal strokes. Humanist Sans Serif fonts feature medium contrast between thick and thin strokes and slanted strokes. Geometric Sans Serif fonts have low contrast between thick and thin strokes, circular strokes and vertical areas.

System Fonts

System fonts are a common way that people interact with typography on modern devices. These fonts are native to the device, and many of them are proprietary designs. For example, the Android operating system uses Roboto. Apple’s iOS uses its proprietary San Francisco font. System fonts have wide support, and there is no licensing cost for developers who make apps that incorporate the font. Because these fonts are so widely used on the devices, people may not notice that they are not to be found anywhere else.

Related Resource: Top 10 Graduate Degrees in Visual Arts

Whether creating a homework report, a personal blog or a company website, the typography will influence how the readers experience the content. Typography adds visual interest and appeal to printed materials. By using the principles of typography, you make the letters and numbers legible, readable, appealing and useful to the viewer, you are helping convey information that might not otherwise be accessible to a person.

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