ESTIMATED READING TIME: 4 MINUTES
Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make language most appealing to recognition. The key to great typography is legibility and readability. Typefaces, or what are commonly refer to as 'fonts' have been changing and evolving ever since Johannes Gutenberg (1395-1468) revolutionized the printing world during the renaissance with the first ever moveable type (replacing the old world hand-scribed writing).
Gutenberg and his contemporaries ushered in a new era of mass communication which forever changed the landscape of information exchange.
From the original 'serif' fonts which were modelled after the old world hand scripts, to the industrial revolution era 'slab serif's created in Britain, and eventually to today's modern 'sans-serif' fonts- typefaces changed gradually over time to become more readable, legible, or to fit bigger sizes for various advertising applications such as posters and billboards. Advertisers were continually seeking to create new typefaces that would stand out from the crowd and attract new audiences.
A font is the actual method by which a typeface is delivered. Typeface is the word used when describing how the type looks- it's design. We refer to typefaces on computers as fonts, but the words are often used interchangeably.
How do you choose a font? Do you want to convey elegance? Maybe an old-style serif font. Do you want to convey fortitude and reliability? Maybe a bold modern sans-serif font. But is it really that simple? You may occasionally get lucky picking the first font that pleases your eye, but there is a time and place for each type and it's face.
Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? Is 'ugly' subjective? There are some unwritten rules in typography such as: stay away from overused decorative fonts… they're illegible and unreadable. Don't use the same typeface for every piece of info on your poster- pick two typefaces and pair them up- but wait! Don't pair a serif typeface with another serif typeface, choose a sans-serif to compliment a serif.
These 'rules' are like any other rule, and occasionally are meant to be broken. Each design situation calls for different tools- as long as you stick to the fundamental "alignment, proximity, repetition and contrast" tenants of design- you will be set. As we said, typography all boils down to legibility and readability.
Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of Choosing the Right Font where we will explore font-pairing, hierarchy and more.
Check out Project Gutenberg - the first free e-book system named after the father of typography himself, Johannes Gutenberg.