CalArts: Funds. of Graphic Design-W2: 2.5 Typefaces, Fonts and Type Families

When you first start to work with type, one of the things that can be the most daunting is choosing a typeface. There’s so many typefaces out there, it can be quite overwhelming.

How do you know which one to choose? 
How do you know the good ones from the bad ones?, 
or how do you know which one might be right for a certain job?

And that’s what we’re going to look at. We’re gonna look at how do you choose a typeface.


Let’s start by clarifying just what a typeface is.

We all think we know what a typeface is.
It’s that thing that we recognize the shape of when we see it.
We see these shapes, and we think oh, that’s very familiar. 
We know that typeface, it’s Times New Roman.

For most typefaces, you’d use the regular or Roman version. 
This means that the strokes are straight and non-italic, and it’s an average weight, not too heavy and not too light.

Type family

Each typeface is normally part of a larger type family. 
A simple family is made up of

  • the regular or Roman,
  • a bolder version,
  • an italic version for emphasis,
  • and bold italic version.

And this makes up a simple type family.

One thing that often causes a little confusion is the difference between a typeface and a font.

Often in computer programs, the typeface is described as a font, but the two terms actually aren’t synonymous. 
So let’s take a look at the difference between a font and a typeface.

The difference between a font and a typeface.

A typeface is what we’ve already looked at. 
So that’s one style within a type family.

So here we can see Times Italic is a typeface. 
Times Roman is a typeface. 
Times Bold is a typeface. 
And it doesn’t matter what size you set that typeface in it’s still going to be the same typeface, Times Roman.

When used correctly, the term font actually applies to both the typeface and the size that it’s set in.

So for instance, 
72 point Times Roman would be a totally different font than 36 point Times Roman, 
even though they would be the same typeface.

And this terminology is from the days of metal type, when type would be cast on a certain size body, and the type would actually be redrawn, depending on the size that it was going to be reproduced at.

So actually, 72 point Times Roman would look slightly different from 36 point Times Roman. 
And so it would be a different font because the letter forms would be adjusted to print at a certain size. 
And that’s no longer the case with digital typography, where everything is scaled up and scaled down very evenly. So we really now have changed the way that we use the term font, and the two become relatively interchangeable. 
But if you ever get stuck or get confused, it’s always safer just to save typeface.

When choosing a typeface, it can help you to start up by asking yourself some of the larger typographic questions.

Should I use a Serif, or a Sans Serif?

And what’s the difference between the two anyway? Well we can take a look at that right now.

Serifs basically, at the end of their strokes

they have areas that stick out beyond the end of the stroke. 
And these were often originally came from chisel สิ่ว marks when letters were carved into stone.

But they also became decorative and exist in many different forms.

One of the functions of the Serif is to actually accentuate เน้นย้ำ ทำให้เด่น the baseline 
and this sometimes helps the letters be easier to read in long text.

In contrast, Sans Serifs have no serifs at all.

You can see that the strokes are actually truncated ตัดยอด at their terminals ปลาย, they’re cut off flat.

This gives a very clean, modern look.

And while we’ve been trained to read Serifs perhaps a little bit easier than Sans Serifs, we’re so accustomed to it now that you can really read both of them with the same speed and legibility.

So one of the deciding factors is often just how the type looks and feels.

A Serif obviously feels a little bit old more old fashioned, a little bit more classical
Whereas a Sans Serif can feel more modern and cleaner, more geometric as well.

So we’ve broken down the categories into Serif and Sans Serif, two major categories. But let’s break them down a little bit further and see what happens after that. Let’s start by looking at how the Serif typefaces break down