Typography Terms Every Graphic Designer Should Know
Every designer knows that the type you use has a big affect on the overall design of any project, be it a catalog, business cards, websites, or posters. Below are some important typography terms that will help you use your software correctly and to communicate effectively with printers.
A typeface is a group of characters, including letters, numbers, and punctuation, that all have the same style.
A type family consists of the variations on the typeface available to you; most type families have at least a roman form, italic, and bold. Having several options within a type family allows the designer to include several different looks while keeping some consistency within projects such as catalog printing and brochure design.
This is the regular form of the typeface. The roman form is used the most often.
The italic form usually slants to the right; in this case, the letters are specifically designed to be italic and may look a lot different from the roman form.
The bold form consists of characters with heavy lines.
The light form consists of characters with thin lines.
Many type families have fonts that are a combination of the above characteristics. For instance, they might have a bold italic or a light italic form.
Serifs are the little lines at the extreme points of letters. Serif fonts have those little lines. Times New Roman and Courier New are examples of serif fonts. Serifs help to guide the eye forward and so make print easier to read and, therefore, are good to use in projects that have a lot of type, such as with brochures.
Sans-serif fonts are font without serifs. They are often used in headlines and in headings and subheads; since sans-serif fonts slow the reader down, they can actually draw attention to significant words. Sans-serif fonts tend to be easier to read on computer screens than serif fonts, as well. Arial and Helvetica are common sans-serif fonts. Sans-serif fonts can be used for projects that do not have too much text, such as catalog printing projects, or on digital media such as websites.
Tracking is making the space between characters and groups of characters the same across the page. You can adjust tracking for only a certain group of letters or an entire line.
Kerning refers to the spacing between specific letters. For instance, the letters "f" and "t" very often look closer together than the rest of the letters in a word, so designers usually manually adjust the space in headlines where it's most noticeable.
Letterspacing is increasing or decreasing the space between characters.
The leading is the space between lines of text, also known as line-spacing.
The baseline is the line letters sit on. The tails on g's, p's, and q's drop below the baseline.
The mean line references the line height of lowercase letters without ascending stems, such as with "a" or "o." It is also called the midline.
The x-height is the height between the baseline and the mean line. It is the height of a lowercase x.
Now that you have some typography terms under your belt, you can now talk with your printer or designer like a pro. And maybe on your next catalog printing or brochure printing project, you will be able to get your ideas across much more easily.
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