Typography 101: What You Need to Know


There are a lot of things to think about when choosing a typeface for a project. What is the tone of the design? Who will be reading the final piece? What information is the most important to communicate? Using the right fonts in the right ways can really help take your design to the next level. This post will provide an introduction into the world of typography.

Type Classifications

Fonts can be broken down into 4 basic categories, serif, sans serif, display and script. Each font style has it's own properties and best uses. Serif fonts are characterized by the little feet or serifs on the letter forms. Serif fonts are generally considered to be classic, reliable and professional. The most traditional use for serif fonts is body copy in printed materials. Serif fonts have good legibility because of the varying weights in their letterforms. Sans serif fonts are named as such because they do not have serifs. Sans serif fonts are more modern, clean and stable. They are great for headlines as well as body copy on screen because they have little variation in stroke weight. Below are examples of serif and sans serif fonts.

Serif vs. Sans Serif Typefaces ~ tpisolutionsink.com
Display and script fonts are much more decorative. Display typefaces often have complex forms and personalities. They are meant for headlines and small portions of text that you really want to stand out. Script fonts can range from handwritten and casual to formal and elegant. It is better to reserve them to a few words or lines of text. Script fonts should also not be used in all caps, the connections of the letters will suffer. Below are examples of display and script typefaces.

Display vs. Script Typefaces ~ tpisolutionsink.com

Leading & Kerning

Leading and kerning are two terms you might hear when referring to typography. Leading refers to the space between lines of type in a paragraph. The readability of body copy is greatly influenced by the leading. Having too much or too little space in between lines of text can make it much more difficult to read. Kerning refers to adjusting the space between individual letters in a word. The way that letters are kerned effect the overall shape of the word and how it is read by your eye. It's especailly important to pay attention to kerning of headlines and typefaces with serifs. Below are a couple examples of leading and kerning.

Tight Leading vs. Wide Leading ~ tpisolutionsink.com

Tight Kerning vs. Wide Kerning ~ tpisolutionsink.com

Legibility & Readability

Legibility and readability are two important factors to consider when choosing a typeface and they are often confused with one another. Legibility refers to the design of the actual typeface itself. Whether it's serif or sans serif, how thick, thin or decorative its strokes are and so on. A fancy display typeface for example has less legibility than a simple serif typeface meant to be used for body copy does. Readability refers to the treatment of the typeface within a design. This is where size, color, leading, and kerning come into play. Different spacing and contrast can make all the difference. Below are examples of good and bad legibility and readability.

Less Legible vs. More Legible Typefaces ~ tpisolutionsink.com

Less Readable vs. More Readable Typefaces ~ tpisolutionsink.com

Get Creative

We hope this blog post has inspired you to try out different fonts and techniques in your nexr project. There are endless ways to use typography. Experiment with different type combinations and spacing to really make your design special. But please for the sake of my eyes and other designers everywhere, refrain from using the fonts below as much as possible.

Get creative and avoid these overused fonts! ~ tpisolutionsink.com

About The Author

Graphic Designer, Amateur Homebrewer, Iced Coffee Connoisseur, Avocado Addict