What is Typography: Introduction to Typography #1

“Type is a designer’s best friend” — Lester Beall

As designers, typography is fundamental to everything that we do. It’s important to all designers, no matter what you’re working on, to have a basic understanding of typography, where it came from and how we should be using it. This series will cover the basics of typography, starting with the most obvious question, “what is typography?”

What is typography?

Typography (noun.) the art or procedure of arranging type or processing data and printing from it.

Basically, typography is arranging text in an engaging, interesting and legible way that gets the message across most appropriately.

The difference between typography & lettering

People often confuse typography, type design and lettering, using them interchangeably when describing the same thing. Each of these terms are within the same family, but describe vastly different artforms.

“Lettering is like clay, typography is like lego.” — Mark Simonson


Typography uses existing typefaces, arranging them in a composition or layout to convey information.


Type design is creating the typefaces that we use in typography. Typefaces like Helvetica, Arial or Caslon — these fonts are made by type designers. These designers come up with the designs for the letters, how they look individually and how they look together as a word.


Lettering means to inscribe letters or writing on. Where typography and type design are created on a computer, lettering is drawn by hand. (This can still be done digitally) Lettering is often creating custom pieces of artwork from scratch where the letters are unique to that piece of work.

Typography basics should also be used in type design and lettering so that those artists and designers have a better understanding of how typefaces will be used and the conventions of letterforms.

Where is typography used?

Typography is used anywhere where text is arranged. When discussing typography, it is typically referenced in relation to magazines, newspapers, posters, brochures and books. The majority of typographic design is more related to print because that’s where it came from, however it is also highly relevant for for any digital design such as web, app, motion graphic, or social media design.

This is part one in the Introduction to Typography series. Until next time, how would you describe typography?

Hollie stands resting her hands on the white desk behind her, wearing a black t-shirt tucked into orange pants and clear glasses, and smiling into the camera.

by hollie arnett

The brand coach for creatives, hand-lettering artist for herself, and cup of tea lover forever.

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