Essential Typography Terms that any designer need to know

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Typography Terms

This list of typography terms covers everything you need to know about fonts, from alternates to Xheight.

Typography is an essential aspect of design. Typography is the single most important aspect of design. It communicates the design’s message clearly and easily. A designer’s choice of fonts can have a significant impact on the readability, legibility, aesthetics, and overall design effectiveness. Typography can be the difference between success and failure in a design.

Although designers have a good understanding of typeface terminology, it can be overwhelming for beginners to understand all aspects of typography. While it is great to appreciate the aesthetic qualities of fonts, understanding the science behind typography can help you appreciate them even more. Let’s take a look at Typography Terms to make design more accessible and explain some of the obscure design terminology.



Let’s begin with the obvious: typography. Font and typography are often used interchangeably by many people, even non-designers. However, there is a significant difference. Typography is the art or technique of arranging type. Type refers to the letters and characters you see in printed material, online and offline. A font is something like Times New Roman. Typography is more than how letters and characters look. It’s also about the science behind how these letters and characters are laid out, which can affect readability and legibility. Design fails to convey its central message if it lacks effective typography.



Fonts are often associated with Times New Roman, Zurich Calligraphic, and Verdana. A font is a group of characters you can print in a particular size or style. These characters can include letters, numbers and punctuation. There are many characteristics that make a font unique, such as:


Font style

A combination of fonts with different sizes, strokes, presence or absence serifs, height ratios of uppercase and lowcase characters, and size of upper- and lower stroke elements. Garniture is a group of fonts with the same typeface and keys, in the same style and design. Garnatures fall into two main categories: sans serif and without serif.


Font weight

The thickness of characters’ strokes within a font.

Font size

A font’s digital height is represented by the number of pixels or points it has.


Font density

Font density is a general term that refers to the width of a font. It is determined by the ratio of each letter’s width to its height. The density fonts can be divided into three categories: narrow, normal, and wide. The format of the middle letter H (H) determines the font’s density. The ratio of its width and height.


Font types

Straight type is a typeface where the main strokes of most letters are perpendicular with their bottom lines. Russian direct type has all lowercase letters having the same stroke as the uppercase letters, except for seven or eight. This page uses the typeface as an example of a direct font.

A hand-drawn font that can be used in any shape is called handwritten font. It is also a typeface which imitates handwritten letters. There is a distinction between calligraphic and cursive fonts. These fonts are easy to read, clear and legible and can be beautiful.


Font lines (lines of the line)

Font lines are imaginary horizontal straight parallel lines which pass through certain strokes in certain letters that have been arranged in a particular order. The font line (or bottom line) is the line where all letters of lowercase and uppercase appear to be with their lower parts (not counting the dangling strokes).


What’s a letter?

A letter is a sign that identifies each sound of speech. These are the names of the graphic elements in a letter:

  1. Basic strokes are strokes that make up the foundation of a letter. Direct type uses vertical strokes, while italic and slanted type use similar vertical strokes.
  2. Connecting strokes — horizontal, oblique ( I ) and straight ( H ) strokes that connect to the main strokes. In most fonts they’re thinner than the main strokes.
  3. Although they are not connecting strokes, auxiliary strokes can be used in place of them. For example, thin strokes in the letters A and X.
  4. Slashes (serifs and underlashes, serifs), horizontal strokes that emphasize the strokes of the letter below or above; they are available in different thicknesses and shapes.




A font family is another name for a typeface. Typefaces refer to the design of fonts that we actually use. It is a collection of specific fonts for all letters and punctuation.


Type system

Type systems, also known as super families, are a collection of type families that are coordinated and work in perfect harmony. You can have them sans-serif companions, text-and-display cuts, or any other combination. A type system or superfamily has many families. They share the same character architecture, proportions and weights.



Two closely related terms are the ascender and the descender. The ascender refers to the uppercase portion of a letter that extends beyond its x-height, while the descender refers to the portion that falls below its baseline. The ascender is the letter portion that is taller than the height x. It is helpful to consider the descender the lowest or longest point in a lowercase letter.



Slanted type is a (mostly) slanted style that takes its basic shapes form stylized handwriting and is often narrower than its roman counterpart. Italics are often used to emphasize text. These are most common in serif designs. However, obliques were originally associated with sans serifs.



The distance between adjacent letters or characters is called approach. If the aprosh has equal spacing, it is called tracking. However, if it changes between two characters or less, it is called kerning.



A symbol that is part of the complete character set of a typeface. It may be a number, a letter, or a punctuation mark.



A stroke added at the end of the main horizontal and vertical strokes of a letterform. When serif typeface is used in print format, it is considered the most legible. Times New Roman and Georgia are two common serif options. Serif conveys impressions that are professional, established, and traditional.


Slab Serifs

While we are on the subject of serifs we should also discuss slab Serifs. These fonts have thick serifs at each letter’s strokes. These fonts were popular in the 19 th century when they were first invented. These typefaces were used primarily in typewriters. Many monospaced fonts for computers that use slab serifs still preserve the legacy of slab serifs. There are many slab serifs available in our marketplace.


Sans Serif

Sans serif is the opposite of serif. Sans serif, which is the opposite of serif, balances things out. French for “without”, the word sans serif means a font that doesn’t have the tiny feet or lines at either the end of its strokes or letters. A sans serif font is simpler, less decorative, and more straightforward than a serif.



This imaginary straight line runs along the bottom of straight characters, without considering dangles or bottom outlines. The text characters are placed on the base line and the lower outline elements “hang” from the bottom.


Midline or Mean Line

Line where lowercase letters are not ascending.



It was originally the block that held each metal character, but in digital type it is an imaginary area that surrounds each character in the font. The body’s height is equal to the point size. Its width is the letterform and its sidebearings.



The stem is a type or stroke that represents the basic unit for a character’s parts. The stem is the main stroke and vertical stroke of a letter. Three stems are found in lowercase letters like “m” — each running vertically.


Script Typeface

The script font families look very similar to handwriting. When fonts have fluid strokes of cursive, you know that you are looking at script. Today’s scripts are more common in trade and display printing. They are also scalable which means that the letters in scripts can be automatically strung together for digital printing. This allows users to copy handwriting and is easier than manually selecting which characters should follow each other in words. Scripts can be divided into two types:

  • Casual scripts – These are handwritten in casual style.
  • Formal scripts – These look just like handwriting straight from 16 the and 17 the centuries. They also have more elaborate designs that can be used for fancy invitations or announcements.


Case sensitive

A number of punctuation marks such as brackets, hyphens and slashes are placed at the same position. center on the x height of lowercase letters. Fonts that use case-sensitive punctuation have slightly raised alternates for these characters, which are centered at the cap height (the capital’s height).


Delta hinting

TrueType fonts can have instructions added to them. They will display well at any screen size. Delta hinting is not available for PostScript fonts and does not affect printing. Most fonts don’t include delta hints due to the time it takes to create them. Although delta hinting can be time-consuming and costly, it makes TrueType fonts of high quality.



This measurement is used to determine the font size. One point is equal to 1/72 inch. When a letter is called 24-point, it means that the entire height of the text block is being used to indicate the letter, and not just the character.


Expert set

Font that has special characters such as small caps and fractions, ligatures, extra accents and glyphs. TrueType and PostScript fonts can only support a small number of characters, so some characters aren’t used as often will be found in expert fonts. OpenType fonts can hold thousands of glyphs. This means that one font can contain all this information plus additional scripts.



Blackletter was a popular script in Western Europe between the 12 th and the 17 th centuries. Blackletter, also known as Gothic Script, Textura and Gothic Miniscule is characterized not only by its thin strokes but also the intricate swirls on its serifs. This script is very difficult to read and easy to understand because of its emphasis on detail.



The x height is the basic height of a lowercase alphabet, referring specifically to the letter “x”. It excludes ascenders or descenders which are the lowercase letters that extend beyond the x and those that fall below their baseline.



Hybrid figures

Hybrid figures can be described as a middle ground between lining and oldstyle figures. They are smaller than capital letters, have the same body size, but some parts extend slightly upwards or downwards. Hybrid figures are usually tabular.

Characters are designed so that they all have the same width. This ignores their normal proportions. Wide characters are unusually narrow in design. While narrow characters have lots white space on both sides, they have a wide range of widths. This allows you to easily set columns of text or tables in accounting, programming code, and other areas.



The spine is perhaps the most unusual typography term because it’s only used for one character: the letter “s”. It’s the main stroke of the letter, which is basically a complete, squiggly curve.



Kerning refers to the process of changing the spacing between letters in a font. However, it is only possible for specific letters. Kerning, in other words, allows for different levels of space between letters within a word. However, it is limited to specific and individual letters. If the typographer is trying to achieve an artistic final appearance, the space between letters can be adjusted depending on what typeface they use.


Oldstyle figures

Different numbers have different heights. Some align to the baseline and some are below. Oldstyle figures work well with lowercase letters. Oldstyle figures help to keep numbers from being too prominent and disrupting the flow of the typography.



Tracking is the term used by typographers to describe simple letter spacing. It is different from kerning in that it makes consistent adjustments among all spaces within the same word. Tracking, however, makes these adjustments uniformly. Kerning makes adjustments on a case by case basis.




This term was originally shorthand for “picture element”. A pixel refers to a single point that is rectangular in a larger graphic image made up of many points. Because the computer monitor can display pictures, it is divided into millions upon millions of pixels that are arranged in columns and rows. Because pixels are so close together, they seem connected from a distance.



Leading is another important term in typography. It refers to the spacing between successive lines of text. This term was originally used to describe typesetting by hand in the early days. It is still being used today in digital printing with programs like Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress.


Proportional figures

In their total character width, proportional figures differ from tabular figures. They are spaced so that they fit together more like letters. The figure 1 has a narrower width than the number 6. These figures look more uniform because they are easier to read than the number 6. They can’t be used to create tabular matter. You can line or use an oldstyle to represent proportional figures.



You can purchase fonts individually or in volumes. However, packages and volumes offer the best value for money and performance. Font volumes are a group of fonts sold together as one unit. It can be part of a typefamily, a font family or a collection that is stylistically or thematically related.



The area occupied by a character, plus its left and right sides. This space can be measured in many ways. In some software, and hand-drawn artwork, it may be expressed as a measurement in millimeters. In other software, and in many typesetting devices it may be expressed relative units.

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