Typography tutorial: Terms, tips and tricks

Posted by 09 December 2018

01. Font vs typeface
A font is a set of printable or displayable text characters in a specific style, known as a typeface. Today, the terms ‘font’ and ‘typeface’ are used interchangeably, but they are historically different. In brief, a typeface is the design – it’s what you see; a font is how that design is delivered – it’s what you use.
Tip: The typeface should reflect content. Stick to one typeface or font family to create harmony in a design, and use italic, bold, and other styles to add hierarchy.

02. Size
A font can be applied in all different sizes and can be used to differentiate create visual hierarchy.
Tip: Vary the size and weight of the fonts used for the heading, sub-heading and body copy. For example, a larger font size for the heading will amplify the focal message.
Trick: Use the golden ratio to determine the proportions of the font size used for the heading, sub-heading and body copy.

03. Weight
A font’s weight determines how thick or thin characters are displayed.
Tip: Narrow, thin fonts are a good way to create contrast between a heading and body text, but be aware that they can be difficult to read on small body text because of how faint they can look.

04. Ascender
The ascender is the vertical stem that extends above the mean line of a font. In other words, the taller part of a lowercase letter or the upper portion of an uppercase letter.
Trick: Place smaller, introduction or supportive text in this landing space.

05. Descender
The descender is the portion of the letter that extends below the baseline of a font.
Trick: Place subheadings or less important text in this space. Or add a tagline or embellishment.

06. Serif
A serif is a typeface with small decorative edges at the ends of the letters. They have a more traditional and sophisticated look.
Tip: Use serif typefaces for long copy, as they are easy to read.

07. Sans Serif
A sans serif is a geometric typeface with no decorative details, additional strokes or spurs at the end of the letters. They have a more modern, minimalist look.
Tips: Sans serif typefaces are great for titles.

08. Script
A script font mimics the stroke of a paintbrush, often linking letters together. Applying a script can add a certain edge to your design.
Tip: Script typefaces create a dynamic and interesting pairing when combined with a sans serif.

09. Baseline
The baseline is the line on which most letters sit and below which descenders extend.
Trick: Add a line of text along the baseline corresponding to the line above.

10. Tracking (or letter spacing)
Tracking is adjusting the space between letters throughout an entire word.
Trick: Elongate shorter words and fill empty space by increasing letter spacing, creating flush lines between headings and subheadings.