Typographic terminology that’s getting everyone confused

Creative Typographic terminology that’s getting everyone confused

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The world of digital design is always growing, and a shift towards great copy has lead to more companies investing in attractive content to spruce up their sites ahead of their competitors. The subject of typography however still contains a group of terms that are widely confused with one another, even causing uncertainty amongst industry professionals. This blog is aimed at helping you distinguish between your “typefaces” and your “fonts”, and preventing future communications meltdowns between you and your designers.

The term “typeface” in general describes the design of the characters within a body of text, referring to a combination of their size and style. Whether it’s in a word document, a sales pamphlet, or even a blog post, the typeface of a text can be helpful in establishing the tone the piece is aiming for.


Thanks in large part to Microsoft Word Packages released over the last twenty years, people often improperly refer to typefaces as fonts. A font, however, is rather the technology used to create the typeface. The easiest way to understand this is to think about sites like www.dafont.com, where users can download font packages and then create text with them. When doing this you’re actually downloading a piece of software that allows you to create text in a certain aesthetic style.

So if you’re unhappy with the look of a piece of text you need to change the typeface, but this might involve sourcing new fonts to produce it with.

The term “character” is normally used within the context of social media site Twitter, which limits user posts to 140 characters to ensure concision and avoid spam. In the world of typography however, a character is best described as a symbol that represents a letter. It helps to think of a letter as a certain shape that we associate with a specific sound; so when we see a line with a dot above it, we immediately think of the letter ‘i’. Even though we constantly see letters in different typefaces, we always understand that they relate to the same sound.

Characters however are usually mistakenly referred to as glyphs, again leading to confusion between designers and their clients. In its simplest form, a glyph is the specific representation of a character.

The legibility of a piece of text in the large part refers to how easy it is for someone to read; you’ve probably known someone for example who has highly illegible handwriting. In a typographic sense, however, legibility specifically refers to the design of the typeface; how legible a piece of writing is will be greatly affected by factors such as character shape, width and weight to name a few. If you find when using a specific typeface that you struggle to differentiate one letter from another, then it’s very probable that your customers will find your copy illegible.

Though often thought to be synonymous with legibility, when it comes to typography readability is a wholly different matter. Readability depends on how your copy is arranged on the page; take time to carefully consider the leading, point size, and space between individual letters and words. Well spaced type that is properly aligned and appropriately sized will make your content stand out as it is easier to consume. Conversely, bodies of text that are poorly arranged will have low readability, discouraging visitors from reading further into the site.

So if the text isn’t very legible you need to consider the typeset and the way in which it is designed, if it has low readability however you need to look at spacing and how you arrange it on the page!

So there we have it, a short and simple glossary that, if stuck to, will avoid any future confusion when you’re dealing with typographers and designers.

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