The Calculated Creative

Typography Terms and Fundamentals

Typography involves making decisions about fonts, styles, alignment, spacing, color, and contrast to make text appealing and easy to read.

Typography refers to the art and technique of arranging typefaces and formatting written language.

Typography involves choosing fonts, adjusting spacing, alignment, color, and other elements to make text easy to read and appealing.

Here are some common typography terms:


  • Serif fonts - Serif fonts have small ornamentations or lines at the ends of each letter. The serifs create a sense of formality and elegance. Popular serif fonts include Times New Roman, Garamond, and Georgia. Serif fonts are generally considered easier to read in printed material with long passages of text.
  • Sans-serif fonts - Sans-serif fonts have clean lines without any decorative serifs at the ends. This creates a modern, minimalist look. Common sans-serif fonts are Arial, Helvetica, Calibri, and Verdana. Sans-serif fonts are frequently used for headlines and on the web because they have a crisp, contemporary appearance.
  • Monospaced fonts - In a monospaced or fixed-width font, every character occupies exactly the same amount of horizontal space. This allows for alignment in tables, forms, and coding. Examples of monospaced fonts include Courier, Consolas, and Monaco. Monospaced fonts create a structured, orderly look.

Font Styles

  • Italics - Italicized text is a cursive, slanted style used for emphasis within a passage. Italics also differentiate titles of works like books, films, and artwork.
  • Bold - Bold text has thicker, darker letters, creating emphasis through a heavier font weight. Bold highlights key words and phrases that need attention.
  • ALL CAPS - Writing in all capital letters puts more emphasis on a word or phrase than italics or bold. ALL CAPS are often used for legal disclaimers or warnings to make them stand out. Too much ALL CAPS text can seem like shouting.

Alignment & Spacing

  • Flush left - In flush left alignment, text lines up evenly along the left margin but has a ragged right edge. This is the standard for most bodies of text because it is easy to read in English.
  • Justified - Fully justified text has even spacing and straight edges along both left and right margins. Justification can help create a formal, polished look, but too much space between words can reduce readability.
  • Line spacing - Line spacing, or leading, adjusts the vertical space between lines of text. Wider line spacing improves readability and avoids a dense, cluttered look.
  • Kerning - Kerning adjusts the space between individual letter pairs like AV or Tr. With proper kerning, the letters look evenly spaced.
  • Tracking - Tracking controls the overall space between all letters across a block of text. Wider tracking can improve readability for blocks of all caps text.

Color & Contrast

  • Font color - Font color options include standard black text or shades like gray. Colored text like red headings adds visual interest but is best used sparingly.
  • Background color - The background behind text impacts legibility. Dark text on a light background provides high contrast. Light text on dark backgrounds reduces eye strain.
  • Contrast - Contrast between font and background colors affects readability. High contrast is easy to read. Insufficient contrast strains the eyes. Sufficient contrast is especially important for accessibility.

The Takeaway

Typography involves making decisions about fonts, styles, alignment, spacing, color, and contrast to make text appealing and easy to read.

Careful typography makes a difference in the aesthetics, readability, and accessibility of any document containing written text.

Considering basic typography principles allows designers to optimize text for both form and function.

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