We’re so inundated with text on a daily basis that we often don’t appreciate that there’s an entire discipline of design devoted to it. In fact, typography is essential for helping us navigate the world. While it goes largely unnoticed, when it’s not done well, that can be problematic. Typography is key to achieving style and legibility of text. It can affect the readability of important public signage, or perfecting the layout of a resumé. It’s also an art-form that helps convey an atmosphere, a sense of importance (or not), which makes it a valuable asset in both branding and marketing.
In this article, we’ll explain what typography is, cover some important terminology, identify best practices for designers, and finally, outline how Picsart can help you achieve your typographic goals.
What is Typography?
Typographic design is the culmination of centuries of human trial and error, from early handwriting to printing and now digitization. In graphic design, typography is the art of organizing letters and text so that they’ll be legible and aesthetically pleasing. It consists of everything from creating and designing new fonts, to deciding how those fonts will be laid out. Imagine, for example, if everything you read was in Times New Roman? That would be boring!
For an area of design devoted to words and communication, it’s pretty ironic that the world of typography seems to have a language of its own. A lot of its terminology can be overwhelming to newcomers. To help you learn the lingo, we’ve put together a list of top typography terms.
Top Typography Terms
Font Versus Typeface
Though these two terms are often used interchangeably in today’s digital world, their distinction is important. A typeface is the visual design of the letterforms and it consists of multiple variations. The variations are what we call fonts. In short, a typeface is a family of fonts, like Helvetica, for example, which can have an overwhelming amount of styles — from light to bold and regular to italic. These elements combine to create specific effects.
Character Versus Glyph
These two terms are also often confused. While a character refers to the symbol that represents a letter, a glyph is a higher-level concept. It’s a little abstract — philosophical, even — but it is the essence of a specific letter. Like, what is it exactly that makes an ‘a’ an ‘a’? There are features unique to all ‘a’s that allow us to decipher it. The glyph is the minimum agreed-upon set of symbols we require to recognize and read an ‘a’.
This term came about in the days of early printing when typesetters used strips of lead to separate the lines of type. Though all that’s done by computers now, it still refers to the space or distance between each line of text. There are many programs that allow you to adjust the leading just by typing in a value. It’s generally agreed upon by designers that, for text to be most legible, leading should be between 1.25 to 1.5 times larger than the font size. But if you’re wanting to achieve a more clustered effect or you are running out of space, you may choose to ignore this.
Serif Versus Sans Serif
We’ve covered the origins of these two terms in previous posts, but in short, serif refers to typefaces whose characters bear short, decorative strokes at the end of a letter’s stem (called serifs) as a defining feature. One shining example of this is Times New Roman. Conversely, Sans serif refers to families of fonts that do not use serifs, like Arial or Helvetica.
Typography Best Practices for Designers
Establishing logical hierarchies is one of the most important functions of type. Clearly distinguished font sizes and selections establish a logical content order within your design. Type helps readers identify the priority order for reading and understanding. You can’t communicate effectively without it.
Get on the Grid
Grids allow us to achieve a level of precision in design, and nowhere is that more key than in typography. By establishing and sticking to a grid system, you create a structure. This means you can create a sense of logic and harmony, but when you wish to conjure an element of surprise, all you have to do is deviate from the grid. A grid approach can be as basic as setting a baseline and following it with all text across the page. That makes a world of difference, particularly in the world of publishing.
Contrast to Pair Fonts
Pairing typefaces is one of the biggest challenges designers face when laying a page out. It can be hard to get right, but contrast is everything. If your header typeface is sans serif, you’ll want to choose a serif for your body text. If your header is bold, you’ll want your body text to be light.
Don’t Overdo It
Try to achieve harmony above all, and choose your battles wisely about what information you want to make pop.
Typography Anatomy Tips
Here’s a list of major anatomical features that you’ll soon be able to recognize and name on your own.
Strokes are the main components of any character. They can be straight-line segments or curved.
The main stroke running in upright letters is called the stem. Examples of stems include the main stroke in a lowercase ‘k,’ or the strokes that make up the two sides of an ‘A’ are also stems. But strokes can also be slanted, like in the case of ‘Z’. If the stroke is rounded, as in a lowercase ‘c’, then it’s either open or closed.
This is the horizontal stroke in a character that connects one stem to another is called the bar. In a capital ‘A’, for example, the bar runs from one slanted stem to the next.
There are a number of imaginary lines in typography, which designers use to help create characters that are clean and uniform in proportion. Think back to school when you were learning to perfect your handwriting. You practiced letters on lined paper. The baseline is the line that the bottom curve of the lowercase letter ‘a’ falls on.
There are letters with strokes that fall below the baseline. These strokes are called descenders. One example is the hook descending from a lowercase ‘g’.
Refers to the maximum height of a capital letter. Though there are some letters that overshoot beyond the cap height, like the point on a capital ‘A’.
This is the line we place smack dab in between the baseline and the cap height.
This refers to strokes that exceed the x-height. An example is the upper stroke that makes up the lowercase letter ‘h’.
This is the end of any stroke which is not a serif. Think for example, of the stray stroke on a lowercase ‘e’, or the top of a lowercase ‘f’. Terminals can be finial, which are curved or tapered, or ball, which is circular.
Create Typographic Designs With Picsart
There are hundreds of unique typefaces in the Picsart Text Editor. So you can have a lot of fun with typography. Use these tutorials to experiment with new types and fonts, and see if you can identify some of the principles we’ve discussed above, using them to enhance your designs.
1. Open the Desktop Editor and click on New Project.
2. Choose your canvas size from the options available.
3. Click on the Text tool and add a heading, placing it on the canvas wherever you want.
4. Input your text and choose a suitable font.
5. Click on the Color Picker and choose a color for your text.
6. And that’s it. You can of course make further edits and graphic adjustments, or add more text in different fonts if required. But once you’re done with your edit, click on the Export button and download your work.
1. Open the Picsart app on your mobile device and tap on the plus sign (+) to start a new project.
2. Scroll down to the Color Backgrounds section and tap on the blank canvas option.
3. Tap on the Text icon at the bottom of your screen.
4. Input your text and choose the orientation (left, middle, or right). Tap on the checkmark at the top right and place the text anywhere on your image.
5. You’ll see a number of font options at the bottom. Scroll through and select your desired font.
6. After selecting the font, you can edit the text color, opacity, shadow, etc.
7. Make any further edits here, such as bending the text or adding extra graphic details to finish off.
8. Tap on the Next icon to confirm all edits.
9. Save your work or post it to the Picsart creative community.
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