A Cheat Sheet for the Novice Typographer
When discussing typography for web and print designs, technical terminology often is required for accurate communication. Below is a short list of typographic terms to get you started, as well as a few general design terms. This brief primer to the typographer’s vocabulary can help you navigate any conversation about the typography used in your designs.
1. Typeface, also known as font family, is a complete collection of all the characters in a type design, including every variation of the font style. Style variations can include italics, condensed, size, orientation, width and weight. Arial is an example of a font family.
2. Font is comprised of all of the characters in a font family for a specific set of style attributes. Multiple fonts make up a single font family. One example of a font from the Arial font family would be: Arial, size 12, bold.
3. Serif is a decorative line added to upper and lower ends of characters for embellishment.
4. Character is an individual linguistic unit, such as a letter or symbol.
5. Pixel is the smallest individual element of a picture that the human eye can detect.
6. PPI, an acronym for pixels per inch, refers to the resolution of a digital image. 72ppi is commonly referenced as the optimal web resolution, however this is not always the case for every design, or every viewing device.
7. DPI, an acronym for dots per inch, refers to the printing resolution of a printer. Typically, the higher the DPI, the better the print quality, provided the image quality is sufficient.
8. Glyph is a unique visual version of a character in a typeface.
9. Kerning is the process of selectively adjusting the horizontal space between individual letters to create legible, aesthetically pleasing text.
10. Tracking, also known as letter-spacing, uniformly adjusts the horizontal space between all characters in a group of text.
11. Leading refers to the distance between lines of type. Close leading increases the number of lines that can fit on a page, but decreases the readability of the lines of text. Loose leading results in fewer lines per page, and text that is relatively easy to read.
12. Legibility defines how easy it is to distinguish between individual characters, as well as how easy it is to read blocks of text.
13. Readability refers to the overall reading experience of text. More specifically, readability describes how enticing text is to read. Formatting and the aesthetics of the font are the two most critical factors for readability.
14. Alignment refers to the organization of text relative to the edge of a page or margin.
Four Types of Alignment:
1. Text aligned with the left margin is flush left, also known as left justified.
2. Text aligned with the right margin is flush right, also known as right justified.
3. Text that is aligned with both the right and left margins is justified.
4. Text that is equidistant from the left and right margins is centered.
For more information on typographic terms, check out the following resources:
Font Shop’s Typographer’s Glossary
Adobe’s Glossary of Typographic Terms
Creative Bloq’s Typography Terms
If you’re ready to start talking type, contact Astute Communications at: