typewriter image, basics of fonts and typefaces, colleen keith design

Basics of Fonts + Typefaces

 Reading Time: 3 minutes

Fonts, typefaces, typography…what is all that? Are they different things? Do I need to know them? These are some of the questions I get asked by my clients when it comes to type, so I figured I’d outline the basics. Biggest thing to remember is what typefaces/fonts your brand uses so that you can keep everything on brand. Using different typefaces all over your marketing won’t send a cohesive, reliable message to your market.

Be consistent with your brand’s typography and you’ll reap the benefits within your marketing. 

Now let’s break down fonts, typefaces and the basics of typography a bit…

 


 

BASICS

Typography encompasses Typefaces and Fonts.

cookie cutter image, basics of fonts and typefaces, colleen keith design

If this were a baking metaphor:

The Typeface is the cookie – texture, taste, ingredients, general appearance

The Font is the cookie cutter – shape, thickness, weight

Typography represents ALL of the cookies

Hungry yet?

It’s also good to note that these days, the terms “typeface” and “font” are used almost interchangeably. Only designers and related professionals (like print shops) use these terms properly. As a business owner, it’s ok if you use either term while discussing your brand with a supplier.

 


TYPOGRAPHY – All Cookies

Typography is the style and appearance of printed matter. The visual art of the written word. It represents how we communicate with text. All typefaces and fonts are contained under the Typography umbrella. The typefaces and fonts that you use within your brand are collectively called your Brand Typography.

 

TYPEFACES – The Cookie

A Typeface is the particular style of letters. If you open a Word doc, you’ll find lots of different Typefaces that you can use. Times, Arial, Helvetica, Georgia…these are all Typefaces. All the variations that they come in are the fonts (see below) and all the fonts together are called the Typeface (or Font) Family.

 

FONTS – The Cookie Cutter

If you open a Word doc and pick a common typeface (ie. Times or Arial), you’ll see a bunch of options or variations for that Typeface. Those options, like Regular, Bold and Italic, are the fonts for that Typeface. Arial is the TYPEFACE and Arial Bold is one FONT of the Arial Typeface Family. 

 

Starting to get it? Again, it’s not essential for a business owner, employee or team member to know this. But if you’re curious, its handy to know the difference and you can sound extra knowledgeable to your print suppliers or designers!

 


 

Let’s break down the most common styles of Typefaces.

 

SERIF

Common Serif typefaces that you probably know are Times, Georgia and Garamond. They have small decorative lines added at the ends of the letter forms, like little hands and feet. These typefaces are often used for body copy and are usually very legible. That being said, there are serif styles that are better for headlines, as well as some that are more decorative (and therefore likely less legible).

Here are some well-known brands that have serifs in their logos:

basics of fonts and typefaces, serif fonts, colleen keith design

SLAB SERIF

Slab serif (also called Square Serif or antique) is a type of serif typeface that has thick, block-like serifs.

Here are some well-known brands with slab serifs in their logos:

basics of fonts and typefaces, slab serif fonts, colleen keith design

SANS SERIF

Common Sans Serif typefaces that you probably know are Arial, Helvetica and Avenir. They don’t have any little embellishments on their letters and are more modern looking. Sans Serifs are arguably some of the most popular typefaces in use these days as they can look more modern than Serifs and they’re quite versatile. Depending on the typeface, they can be used for headlines, body copy, quotes etc.

Here are some well-known brands that have serifs in their logos:

basics of fonts and typefaces, sans serif fonts, colleen keith design

SCRIPT

While Script typefaces are quite popular these days, their names are not as widely familiar or classic. They represent the fancy, pretty styles that you see on a lot of perfume bottles, lifestyle blogs or women’s clothing brands. That being said, there’s quite a few famous brands using script typefaces for their logos.

Some examples of script typefaces in use:

basics of fonts and typefaces, script fonts, colleen keith design

HAND-WRITTEN

The name speaks for itself – these typefaces look like they’ve been hand-written. They can vary from being almost script-like to looking like a child wrote them. They’re great for adding personality and a DIY quality to brands and products. They don’t often have very big font families, but their basic characters are pretty fun to work with as they are.

Some examples of hand-written typefaces:

basics of fonts and typefaces, hand written fonts, colleen keith design

 


 

Resources 

  1. Saw a typeface that you loved somewhere, but aren’t sure which one it is? Don’t panic…There’s an app for that: WhatTheFont! from MyFonts
  2. Want to browse typefaces to purchase? You’ll find plenty of options at MyFonts, TypeKit, Font Squirrel and Fonts.com.
  3. Looking for Free fonts? Google Fonts and dafont.com are good places to start.

 


 

Want to see some typeface styles in action? Check out these projects below:

 

If you have any questions, you’re always welcome to contact me. If you’re interested in learning more about design for business, make sure to subscribe in the sidebar or footer to receive my Ask A Designer update every month.

Need a Cheatsheet to reference Typography styles?

DOWNLOAD IT HERE FOR FREE!

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