Creative & Design

A Comprehensive Guide to Typography Terms

Aug 4, 2022

Find definitions for important typography terms in this comprehensive guide and understand the different types of typography elements.

Laurenzo OvereeGuest Contributor
A Comprehensive Guide to Typography Terms

As a small-business owner, the presentation of text significantly affects how your leads and customers perceive your content and determines their attention level as they engage with your brand. Quality typography provides a seamless visual that reinforces your underlying message to match your company’s style and personality. For instance, you might apply typography with a fun and energetic vibe for your athletic apparel brand so you can win the attention of a younger demographic.

Due to the ease of scrolling and swiping between content in this digital age, a carefully prepared typography might prove to be the strategic difference that appeals to viewers at a glance and has them stay longer on your content. Let’s take a closer look at what typography is and how it can help you.

What is typography?

Typography refers to the overall visual representation of text as it appears across various mediums, including computer screens, paper, or billboards. People have applied typography since the earliest days of writing for promoting ideas and rallying action, as evidenced by elements, such as the historical obeli mark that evolved into the modern symbol for division.

When content developers engage in the typography process for your branding efforts, they dive deeper than font preferences and focus on other aesthetic elements, such as a displayed character's height, weight, orientation, and size.

Unpacking typography

Typography comprises multiple artistic components that shape the effectiveness of the displayed text. Slight tweaks to each element could result in significant changes in the overall presentation of your branding campaigns and their effect on target readers.

Typography characters

Characters represent the individual segments of text displayed to your readers. These may appear as alphabets, numerals, or unique symbols, such as quotation marks. You might occasionally find glyph characters that represent a character, often with accents and other modifications to the typeface. Stringing characters together form a script, and typography presents the script in a specific way to stimulate the desired reader responses.

Distinguishing font from typeface

Contrary to common belief, typefaces and fonts are not interchangeable terms. Graphic designers sometimes refer to typefaces as font families, which categorize the appearance of characters. On the other hand, font is a subcategory within a typeface, each with varying weights and styles of the core design.

Classifying typography

Typography offers thousands of typeface and font selections, each expressing a different mood or theme, including romantic, fun, formal, and casual styles. Applying a suitable style can enhance your script's appearance and improve the content's effectiveness.

Serif typefaces

Serif typefaces feature additional typography strokes at the end of their letterforms. The style usually evokes a feeling of integrity and tradition.


An example of Modernista, a serif typeface (Source)

Popular serif typefaces include slab serifs, where the strokes may appear as thick as the letterforms, and Didone, or modern serifs, with short-form content that promotes elegance and luxury.

Sans-serif typefaces

Unlike serif typefaces, sans-serif lacks letterform extensions and complements minimalist and modernized content.


An example of sans-serif typefaces (Source)

These polished typefaces suit long-form writing due to their high legibility. Examples of sans-serif typefaces include Geometric, which feature symmetrical shapes, and Grotesque fonts known for their emboldened designs.

Decorative typefaces

Typographing experts developed fancy typefaces such as Circus Freak Font or Vintage Style Font for crafting attention-grabbing headers and subheaders positioned at the top of a brand’s landing page. These typefaces feature exaggerated flourishes and an unconventional aesthetic that make them unsuitable for regular content.

Script typefaces mimic handwritten scripts, offering different kinds of penmanship. They work particularly well when conveying a message with a personalized touch.

Additional considerations for typography

There are many other things that go into creating visually pleasing typography. Below, we’ve listed two for you to keep in mind when creating your brand’s content.

Text alignment

The text alignment of your typography determines how it appears to your audience as they view your content. Messy placements may throw your readers off, and they may stop reading before reaching the end of your content.

  • Center placements: These placements appear in the middle of a page, providing a balanced perspective that offers readers a clear and legible reading experience. This placement keeps the right and left portions irregularly aligned.

  • Left placements: Most content creators keep their text aligned to the left by default due to the natural reading movement of the eyes, from left to the right.

  • Right placements: It is common to avoid the right text alignments due to their counterintuitive appearance, which could compromise the reading experience. However, some scenarios exist where the right alignment can enhance the content, such as supporting a visual element.

  • Justified placements: The justified placement balances the left and right segments of the page, resulting in neater paragraphs. However, the unusual spaces between each word might not provide the most comfortable reading experience. Content creators usually apply justified alignments when condensing a wall of text into a column, such as the content for newspaper articles.

Spacing matters

The spacing between scripts also affects the overall reading experience, giving your readers the time and comfort to process the presented information. Leading refers to the spacing between two baselines (the imaginary horizontal line that holds most of the characters in a font) in a body of text.

Tracking involves the spacing between characters among text groups and helps you maintain an even appearance for each line. Your content's tracking space is inversely proportional to a script's typeface density. Kerning relates to the distance between individual characters, which affects the content's readability.

Other useful typography references

Typography fulfills a utilitarian purpose and comprises intricate elements influencing the reading experience. These components include:

  • Minuscule: A lowercase letter.

  • Majuscule: An uppercase letter.

  • Beak: A decorative stroke at the end of a serif font.

  • Swash: An exaggerated segment of a character that provides a “fancy” touch.

  • X-height/corpus height: The distance between a baseline and the height of lowercase letters.

  • Ascender: The portion of a lowercase letter that extends beyond the x-height.

  • Descender: The portion of a lowercase letter that extends below the baseline.

  • Cap line: An imaginary line that marks the height of capital letters.

  • Typography bowl: The curved portion of a character that encloses the circular parts of characters such b, d, and o.

Applying typography for content success

A comprehensive understanding of typography allows you to define the type of visual style that will emphasize your brand's image and retain reader attention that inspires the desired action, such as following up on your content’s call-to-action.

GetApp offers a diverse inventory of advanced graphic design software that lets you conveniently optimize typography that will connect with your audience by enhancing your most valuable written content with highly engaging visuals.

About the author

Laurenzo Overee

Guest Contributor
Laurenzo has a profound love for writing and entertains readers on interesting and useful subjects by taking them through the corridors of language.
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