Did you know that each little letter you're reading now was at one time meticulously drawn and crafted by a designer?

Did you know that each little letter you're reading now was at one time meticulously drawn and crafted by a designer? Someone thought through the height, the roundness and the spacing of each letter and how they work together.

Type anatomy

Because we use typefaces every day in our technology-driven culture, we take it for granted and overlook the minute details that have been well thought out and intentionally created. These typeface details include an entire anatomy with parts that include legs, spines, ears, arms and tails! (Look here for a full typeface anatomy tutorial.) 

Shopping for type can be a good thing!

This is why the best typefaces - those that have been well crafted and designed - typically aren't the free ones and need to be purchased. Some typefaces haven't been as thoughtfully considered as others, are poorly crafted, and actually can hinder your communication. Word to the wise: take special care when choosing the type to be used by your church/organization (from what's used in your logo/visual identity to what is used in printed pieces to what is used online).

And did you know? If you illegally obtain a typeface you are essentially stealing that type designer's artwork. Typefaces are like software; in order to own a typeface you must buy the license. It's strange to think of it that way, since typefaces are so ingrained in our everyday life, but each type family is a piece of art.

The terminology: type family vs. typeface vs. font

The terminology around type often gets muddled and misused. The most common misuse is calling a typeface or type family, a font. Here's the breakdown of what it all means:

  • Type Family: All of the different weights, styles and point sizes that belong to one design.
  • Typeface: A specific weight, or specific weight and style, within a specific type family.
  • Font: The specific weight, style and point size of a specific typeface.
  • Glyph: The specific weight, style, point size and letter of a specific typeface.

Simplifying Type - Terminology Breakdown

Confusion started when software applications decided to organize type choices under a menu option called "fonts." If someone asks you what your favorite font is, then just saying "Archer" would not be the correct answer. Technically, you would need to say "Archer Bold Italic, 16 pt." But, if that person asked you what your favorite type family was, "Archer" would be a correct answer.

The terminology: serifs vs. sans serifs

Another point of confusion is between serifs and sans serifs. Serifs are the small brackets on the end of a stroke. A sans serif is a letter without brackets on the end of the strokes.

Simplifying Type - Serifs & San Serifs

Tips/reminders for working with type:

  • Limit the different typefaces you use in a document. Keep it to 2 or 3, and designate each one with a different job. For example, use one for headers only, and another for body content only. This will improve the visual hierarchy which in turn helps your readers take in the information. 
  • Pick typefaces (again, a limited 2-3) for your organization to use, and use them consistently. It may feel mundane to use the same typefaces repetitively, but when you're trying to communicate you want the reader to remember the information you're giving them and know what to expect from your organization.
  • Consider the size of your text. Not everything has to be the same size, but not everything should be huge either. Pick a size for your body text, and then make your sub-headers a little larger, and then your headers the largest. I try to always keep body text between 10-12pt. Anything smaller then 10pt. (depending on the typeface) can be hard to read, and anything larger than 12pt. can feel too bulky and cumbersome.
  • Choose with an aesthetic objective in mind. Type families have personalities - some may look serious, some modern, some simple, some friendly, etc. Take notice of this when choosing your type and have a reason for your choice. And for pete's sake, don't use Papyrus or Comic Sans! They're very poorly crafted, and over-used. 

Type has a long and awesome history (which is too involved to cover in this post). If you're interested in knowing more, here are a couple great links: Thinking With Type and I Love Typography.

Our Fishhook team loves type so much, we're thinking about taking a field trip to the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum in Wisconsin! Want to join us?

Have any questions or want to know about something I didn't cover? Let me know in the comments!