What Is Typography And Why Does It Matter

Thinking back to my college days, I remember enrolling in a typography class and saying to myself, “what in the world is this class about? It cannot possibly be an entire semester of studying fonts!” What I came to discover is that even in a semester long class, we barely touched the surface of typography.

According to dictionary.com, typography is the art or process of printing with type. Bringing the definition up to speed with the digital world – typography is the art or process of using typefaces to communicate (not just in print). In times past typography was most closely associated with newspapers, books, and other informative sources. As graphic design expanded, so did the possibilities of typography; it has evolved into not only a means of simply creating lines of text, but into an artistic expression and communication tool.

Just like color, typography is a crucial design element that can evoke emotions, portray images, and stimulate responses: everything from happiness to anger or athleticism to elegance. It is of the utmost importance to embrace typography to ensure clear communication.

Let’s review the basics.

Leading

The space between lines of text and will contribute the most to the readability of your text

Typography Leading Example

Measure

The width of your text. To long can create confusion and be visually distracting while too short creates more line breaks and can decrease the readability of your text.

Typography Measure Example

Text Alignment

The standard for alignment will vary depending on your medium and intended voice. Usually websites use a flush right while newspapers are more likely to use a justified alignment.

Typography Alignment Example

Font

With thousands of fonts available and the ability to create your own font, the options are endless. Consider the intended purpose of your design and find a suitable font. Different fonts evoke different emotions so they should be taken into careful contemplation. For example, Victorian cursive fonts usually associate well with elegance while simple lined fonts usually associate with a modern feel.

Typography Fonts Example

Color

Like font, color is important in creating the right tone of voice. Hues of red can indicated warning, excitement, passion, or energy while shades of purple indicate wisdom, sophistication, or celebration (more color meanings can be found here).

Keep in mind that what I outlined are general rules and what I listed as “bad” may be exactly what you need to use in order to communicate your point to your audience. For example, if you are communicate something regarding a crowded space it might be better to decrease your leading. Typography is a fluid art form and rules can be bent (or even broken) if your message will be better received.

As you strive to master the art of typography, it is helpful to have a toolbox of resources to help you. Jacob at Six Revisions has created a great list of tools that will help you take your typography to the next level! What other tidbits of information have you picked up about typography? I’d love to hear your insight!