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What type is it? A tale on typography!


What type is it? A tale on typography!

At some point, we all spend a lot of time in finding the right typeface. This article is to help you understand how different strokes, x-heights and other parts of a character sum up to create a personality to the font! If you are beginner, this article is a rich source of information and references to everything you need to know about type. And if you are already good at finding your type, then you may find a new perspective. Rules good to know, but never stick to any rules while designing, because the best designs always come from disrupting the normal, and in order to break the rules, you have to know them first. Let’s kill the suspense and get started!!

Let me take you back to the Ancient Egypt. The origins of alphabet, icons and emojis. They used Hieroglyphs (meaning — Hiero = Sacred, Glyphs = Carvings).

A picture of hieroglyphs and cuneiform

Different symbols and pictures were used to represent a word, syllable or a sound. All the alphabets we use today are a variation of one of these symbols.

The formation of word m

Mem, the water, became the Greek mu (M). The Romans kept it as M

The representation of water, was called mem. So the letter M is basically a wave. Similarly all the alphabets have a representation and as time and the geographical location changed, these symbols took various modifications.

You can find more about the other alphabets here : https://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/alphabet.html

Now that we know the origins, let us see the different styles that evolution has brought us.

Types of fonts

Before getting into the big picture, let us review the anatomy of letters

Anatomy of characters

Here comes the most awaited part. This is all fine, we understand how it works. But how do you make it work for you?

Choosing a font based on context is really hard.

  1. Find what is most popular among users, or the most commonly used fonts and Play it safe

OR

2. Take the risk and stand out!

The process

Here are some scenarios and the most suited fonts for it.

  1. For a luxury brand/Pleasurable experience
Observing fonts of luxury brands

Some observations made from some very popular brands are: High contrast strokes, Bulbous terminals, Long Ascenders, Sharp details

So when you are selecting the font for a luxury or pleasurable brand. A font with contrast strokes, bulbous terminals, and very detailed should be selected. If the purpose of the brand is to be bold, a serif font with thick strokes and minimal strokes will be a good fit.

2. For Dense text areas (content focused like — news, dictionary etc)

These fonts are for situations which demand more content, but space is not a privilege. Choose a font with shorter extenders, narrow width. Shorter extenders ensure that the extenders of one line do not run into the extenders of another line, and gives breathing space for the user’s eyes. The font size in both the cases below is the same, but the narrow width and short extenders make the text more readable.

Different fonts, same sizes/ Comparison of font x-height, extenders and width

3. Digital world

The readability of a text varies incomparably on print and screen. A font which is totally legible on a paper, could be the total opposite on a screen. So Digital fonts demand for straighter lines, minimal or zero stroke contrasts, no curves.

Less vs more readable fonts for screens / comparing the stroke contrasts

4. Gentle/sober/easing on the eyes

The characteristics of a warm and gentle character is always round. Closed apertures and large counters adds exaggeration to the character. Making it more readable at the first glance.

Features of a gentle font

5. Influential fonts

How would you imagine an influential person? Bold, straight-forward, Tall(in confidence or height) right? It’s quite similar with the fonts as well. A font with large x-heights, ball terminals and pointed serifs provide the image of a bold and confident brand. A good example of this is VOGUE.

Features of a Bold, influential font

There are a lot more examples and types that could be explored and debated on. Our journey comes to and end here. But the adventure for types goes on. A HUGE thanks to all the authors and their incredible books. Here is a list of recommendations : The Anatomy of Type, Stephen Coles , The fundamentals of typography, Gavin Ambrose and Paul Harri, Thinking with Type, Ellen Lupton.

Thanks for making it to the end, I hope you enjoyed the ride. Did you find anything interesting? Have something to share? Go ahead and say it in the comments.


What type is it? A tale on typography! was originally published in Muzli - Design Inspiration on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.