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  • Serena Kramer

Typeface vs. Font: What's the Difference?

Updated: Apr 15, 2023

Are you curious about the subtle nuances between a typeface and a font? Typography is a significant part of any project, so knowing the difference between a typeface and a font can help you communicate effectively with other designers, printers, and clients.


Example of Blackletter Calligraphy in the Biblia Latina Vol. 1, fol. 1r, Epistle of St. Jerome
Example of Blackletter in the Biblia Latina Vol. 1, fol. 1r, Epistle of St. Jerome / From the University of Texas at Austin

Quick Fun Fact


The first commercial typeface styles were based on Blackletter calligraphy, which has dramatic thick and thin strokes, complex shapes, and ornamentation. Prior to the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440, Blackletter calligraphy was handwritten on manuscripts created by monks in 12th-century Europe. This inspired Gutenberg to print the Gutenberg Bible, one of the first books printed in Europe in Blackletter type.


As you can probably notice, the readability of this is quite difficult in a large body of text. This also took up a considerable amount of space. In 1470, Nicolas Jenson would create a simpler letterform, which we now refer to as the first Roman typeface.



 

What is a typeface?


A typeface is a collection of characters that share a similar design. A few examples of typefaces include Times New Roman, Helvetica, or Arial. Each typeface usually includes various styles, such as bold, italic, and regular.


What is a font?


A font refers to a specific weight, size, and style of a typeface. So, for example, Times New Roman 12pt Regular is a specific font, while Times New Roman is the typeface.


To put it another way


A typeface is like a family of related designs, and a font is a specific member of that family with its own size, weight, and style. A typeface is like when you have a family reunion, and everyone is wearing matching t-shirts that say “The Smiths” but in different sizes and colors. They might look different, but they’re all still part of the same family.


Here's an example


Arial is a typeface, and Arial 12pt Bold is a font within that typeface. Another example would be the typeface Garamond, which includes various fonts such as Garamond Regular, Garamond Italic, and Garamond Bold.



When choosing a font for a document or project, you're really choosing a specific size, weight, and style within a larger typeface family.


It’s like choosing the most appropriate pair of shoes to go with your outfit. Wearing the right shoe in the right size and weight will undoubtedly impact the final look.


By understanding how different typefaces and fonts affect readability, legibility, and an overall aesthetic of your designs, you can make better design decisions.





 

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