What Is Typography?

Typography is described as the strategies people use to present written text in a pleasing way.

Written by Matthew Urwin
Published on Dec. 16, 2021
What Is Typography?
Image: Shutterstock / Built In
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Trent Victor | Aug 11, 2022

Creative teams focus on typography to determine the right font for maintaining a brand’s image, catering to a diverse audience and serving other purposes. In addition, companies now rely on tokens to speed up the designer-to-developer process and ensure consistent typography is incorporated across all elements in their design plan.

What is the anatomy of typography?

  • Typography includes many details that guide the creation of characters, influencing which fonts are chosen for certain situations.

A typeface includes a group of glyphs, meaning an alphabet, its numerals, sizes, width and additional elements. Each of these differences in typeface creates a font. To ensure teams produce readable typefaces, creatives need to understand the various elements of a typeface and how they interact: 

  • Baseline - imaginary horizontal line that most characters rest on 

  • Cap height - imaginary horizontal line that marks the tops of capital letters

  • Crossbar - stroke connecting two lines in capital “A” and “H”  

  • Serif - finishing touches at the ends of letters in some typefaces

  • Mean line -  imaginary horizontal line marking the tops of lowercase letters

  • Bowl - rounded curve creating negative space in a letter, such as in “e,” “D” and “o” 

  • Descender - bottom part of a lowercase letter that goes below a typeface’s baseline, such as in “j” and “p”

  • Counter - negative space, which occurs in closed letters like “A” and open letters like “G” 

  • Stem - the main vertical or diagonal lines in letters, such as “H” and “W” 

  • Tittle - the dot above lowercase “j” and “i” 

  • Terminal - endpoint of a stroke or stem that has no serif 

  • Ascender - extension that goes above the mean line in lowercase letters like “b” and “f” 

  • Leg - lower angled strokes in letters like “K,” “R” and “Q” 

  • Ligature - combining two characters to create another character 

  • X-height - vertical height of a lowercase “x,” which covers the distance between the baseline and mean line of lowercase letters

These typographic parts help mold the appearance of characters, informing how different typefaces are ideal for specific contexts. For example, a product manager resume may feature more standard typefaces like Times New Roman. However, creatives can enjoy a greater degree of freedom when designing written content for a company brand logo. 

What is the importance of typography in a design?

  • When it comes to a clean and compelling visual design, typography becomes an essential piece for creatives to consider.

The last thing companies want is for users to stumble through their websites, so teams need to set a typography strategy. Applying bold and italic characters can help people pick out subheaders from headers, and so on. Plus, choosing a typeface with open characters and an appropriately sized font leads to increased accessibility

Besides creating a smoother user experience, typography can also improve brand recognition. Many SaaS businesses have taken the hint, blending thoughtful typefaces with attractive color schemes. By selecting the perfect typography components, companies can develop crisp, consistent brands that leave positive impressions on consumers. 

What is the difference between font and typography?

  • Fonts and typographies are organized in a hierarchy, with fonts existing as a smaller part of a typeface.

To understand the difference between typography and fonts, it’s crucial to note the distinction between fonts and typefaces. If typefaces refer to a larger collection of glyphs, then fonts are the different versions of a typeface. These versions come about due to changes in font size, font weight and other factors. While Arial is a typeface, 12-point Arial and bolded Arial are examples of fonts. 

These details may seem minor, but they present a challenge for developers who require a convenient programming font. Instead of viewing typography and fonts as separate parts, professionals must combine them to create easy-to-read text. Working with these interconnected elements enables designers to craft visually pleasing typography that meets the expectations of digital audiences.

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