What is Typography?

What is Typography? 

Typography is around us every day, in the words and text we are constantly interacting with. However, most people don’t understand the psychological effect it has in conveying a message. In virtually every piece of type you see, somebody has considered how the letters, sentences, and paragraphs look. Certain typography styles can be informative, make us feel excited, or look so cryptic as to be almost illegible. Sometimes it is done well, and other times not.
Simply put, typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written words legible and aesthetically pleasing. Originating from handwritten letterforms, typography was first established with Gutenberg’s movable type. So, what is typography in practice?

Elements of Typography

Typefaces and Fonts: Typefaces are a family of fonts (such as Helvetica Regular, Helvetica Italic, Helvetica Black and Helvetica Bold). Fonts refer to one weight or style within that family (such as Helvetica Italic).
In design, typefaces are typically divided into six types, or “font families”. There are six types:

  • Serif
  • Sans-serif
  • Monospaced
  • Cursive
  • Fantasy
  • Script

Spacing Around Letters
The empty space surrounding your letters is important to consider. Several adjustments can be made between and around letters, which are all distinct typography concepts. Typically, these are found under the advanced font settings in your word processor. 

  • Kerning: the space between individual letters
  • Tracking: the space between groups of letters
  • Leading: the space between lines of type
  • Measure: the length of lines of text
  • Alignment: placing text to the left, right, centered, or justified 

More Typography Elements
Typography is more than just picking a typeface and adjusting the white space around your lettering. There are a number of other characteristics to keep in mind when using typography in your design work.
Hyphenation: The addition of a hyphen at the end of lines can help prevent legibility issues and make adjustments look better. We usually don’t have to think about hyphenation, since it’s handled automatically in word processors and web browsers.
Rag: The edge of a block of text that is uneven is called the rag. When focusing on typography, look at your text blocks as a whole to make sure the rag is not impacting design. Sometimes, if the rag is too jagged it can be distracting and affect readability.
Checking Your Typography
Below are some simple guidelines for studying your typography and making sure it’s appropriate for your project at hand. 

  1. Choose your typeface carefully, paying attention to the font family and whether it makes sense in this context.
  2. Set up your design using placeholder text, but don’t sign off on the final design until you’ve seen the real text in the design.
  3. Pay close attention to the little details of your typography, such as the rag of your text blocks. These small details can greatly affect readability.
  4. Look at each block of text as if it had no words in it. What shapes does the text make on the page? Make sure these shapes complement the larger page design. 

Need images for your project? Shutterstock’s impressive collection of more than 70 million images can help! See what our library has to offer.

  • Was this article helpful?

Can’t find what you’re looking for?