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What is Typography?

Typography 101

Jk. Well, kind of.

I get a lot of questions about what exactly “graphic design” is. One essential piece of graphic design is a thing called “typography”. Some sort of typography (whether good or bad) is evident in every piece of graphic design.

Typography can be beautiful, and typography can be ugly.

TYPE IS IMPORTANT. The right typeface can encourage people to read your message. The wrong typeface or bad typography can make your message go unread.

Type is your personality on paper.’s definition is this:

Typography is the design and use of typefaces as a means of communication. It is considered to have begun with Gutenberg and the development of moveable type. But typography has its roots in handwritten letterforms. Typography encompasses everything from calligraphy through digital type and type on Web pages. It also includes type designers who create new letterforms as well as designers and calligraphers who use the letters as part of their designs.

Typography uses typefaces and the whitespace around and through them to create a whole design.


Let me show you some examples.



(This is one of my pieces that was collaboratively created while I was studying typography at UT. The cursive type was stitched (by a sweet, sweet class guest) onto a sewn piece that I had previously made.) This is a very “artsy” and ethereal use of typography, as it does not have any direct meaning. You can think of it as an abstract painting with text.

The same goes for these examples:


Now, this is an example of a piece where the typography is meant to be read, and needs to be read, for some purpose.


See the difference?

They are all examples of typography, but sometimes text is used as artwork, and just to look pretty, and in most cases, it’s used for informational purposes.

In all cases, typography needs to fit the intended “feeling” of the piece and the objective.

Is your message light and airy?

or is it sophisticated and serious?


Make sure your typeface fits the feel you are trying to achieve. And please don’t use papyrus or comic sans, for the love of my sanity. :)

P.S. This is another great resource on this topic.