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Defining Typography


Typography is the art and technique of arranging type, type design, and modifying type glyphs. Type glyphs are created and modified using a variety of illustration techniques. The arrangement of type involves the selection of typefaces, point size, line length, leading, adjusting the spaces between groups of letters and adjusting the space between pairs of letters. Typography is performed by typesetters, compositors, typographers, graphic designers, art directors, comic book artists and graffiti artists. Until the Digital Age, typography was a specialized occupation. Digitization opened up typography to new generations of visual designers and lay users.

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A glyph is an element of writing.  More precisely, a glyph is an individual mark on a written medium that contributes to the meaning of what is written.  A grapheme is made up of one or more glyphs.

In typography, a typeface is a set of one or more fonts, in one or more sizes, designed with stylistic unity, each comprising a coordinated set of glyphs.  A typeface usually comprises an alphabet of letters, numerals, and punctuation marks; it may also include ideograms and symbols, or consist entirely of them, for example, mathematical or map-making symbols.

The term typeface is frequently confused with font; the two terms had more clearly differentiated meanings before the advent of desktop publishing.  The distinction between font and typeface is that a font designates a specific member of a type family such as roman, boldface, or italic type, while typeface designates a consistent visual appearance or style which can be a family or related set of fonts.

A graphic designer is a professional within the graphic design and graphic arts industry who assembles together images, typography or motion graphics to create a piece of design.  A graphic designer creates the graphics primarily for published, printed or electronic media, such as brochures and advertising.  They are also sometimes responsible for typesetting, illustration, user interaces and web design.  A core responsibility of the designer’s job is to present information in a way that is both accessible and memorable.

Typography Primer

This excellent PDF from Adobe succinctly covers all the basic terms about typography.  It’s beautifully designed and easy to read with wonderful graphics.  Click the image to download.



It has a fantastic glossary of typographic terms all designers should be familiar with. Here are the main topics:

  • What’s in a Letter
  • Serif and Sans Serif
  • x-height
  • Measuring Type
  • Spacing
  • Typographic Color
  • Using the Right Character
  • Alignment
  • Copyfitting
  • Choosing and Using Typefaces
  • Combining Typefaces in a Publication
  • Glossary of Typographic Terms



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