June 11, 2021

Design Basics | Typography | Typeface and Fonts

What’s the difference between a typeface and a font?

A typeface is a specific design of lettering, it is a collective name of a family of related fonts.

While fonts refer to the variations such as bold, regular, italic, light, condensed, expanded etc. You might have noticed when choosing fonts they have these different variations to choose from – each of these variations of the typeface is a font.

With the exception of colour, the typeface used within a design has a greater impact on the way the audience perceives the design than virtually any other individual design element. Colour, with the addition of great typography can elevate a design while bad typography can make even the best designs unusable.

The debate over what exactly is a font vs typeface is a gentle reminder that industry terminology changes gradually over time. You don’t necessarily need to know the difference unless you are a graphic designer because most of the time, both words are used interchangeably even though this is incorrect. At a technical level, however, each word has a very distinct meaning – a typeface is a particular set of glyphs that share a common design, whereas a font is a particular set of glyphs within a typeface. The confusion arose due to the prominence of digital fonts and naming conventions in operating systems, which refer to fonts rather than typefaces.

A typeface is a particular set of glyphs that share a common design whereas a font is a particular set of glyphs within a typeface.

Type Classifications

Type classification is a system used to divide typefaces into categories. This is useful for a number of reasons: to help identify then historically, to distinguish them visually and to assist in combining them in an aesthetic way.

Most typefaces can be classified into one of the five basic groups: serif, sans-serif, script, monospaced and decorative. Over the years things have become a lot more complicated in terms of classifying newer typefaces. Typographers have devised various systems to more definitively categorise typefaces which include sub-categories, etc.

Serif

In typography, a serif is a small line or stroke on the ends of a larger stroke of a letter or glyph. Their accents make reading blocks of text easier, so serif fonts are popular for body copy as well as headlines, Although this being said, serif lacks high impact in modern designs when it comes to the latter.

Examples of serif fonts:

Time New Roman
Georgia
Garamond

Sans-Serif

Sans-serif typefaces do not include any projections at the end of any stroke in its letterforms. These are primarily used for headlines due to the their solid, clean appearance and mostly in website and digital mediums. In printed text, serif is more commonly used as sans-serifs lack of accents makes blocks of text difficult to read.

Examples of sans-serif fonts:

Arial
Helvetica
Futura

Script

Script fonts are based on the natural strokes of handwriting ranging from formal to very casual. These are usually used for headlines and avoided within body copy as their smooth lines can easily overwhelm designs if too many are used.

Examples of script fonts:

Brush Script
Vivaldi
Bickham Script

Monospaced

Monospaced typefaces are generally used for displaying code and were originally used on typewriters. They can also be used for headlines and body copy.

Examples of monospaced fonts:

Courier New
Source Code Pro

Display

Display typefaces consist of both practical and novelty fonts. They vary widely in appearance and as the name suggests. They are used suitable for headlines and titles rather than body copy.

Examples of display fonts:

Curlz
Cooper Black
Broadway

Now you are in possession of a solid basic understanding of the difference between typefaces and fonts. I will expand on this further in an additional post and delve a little deeper into each of these different classifications separately to keep things simple.

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