Typography 101

The simplest things are the easiest to take for granted. Right? For most of us, selecting the right

The simplest things are the easiest to take for granted. Right?

For most of us, selecting the right typeface to express our ideas is not something we give a lot of thought to. We just play a random game of hit or miss, trying out different typefaces till something looks right. Sort of.

The only problem with random stuff is that they’re not replicable. Sometimes it works and (many) other times it doesn’t.

Typography might not seem to be so big a deal to you, but trust me, it goes a long way in making professional looking presentations and designs.

So what is typography? It’s the science of arranging characters to make written language that’s recognizable, readable and appealing to look at when displayed.

The picture below gives a concise explanation of typography structure:

Fonts are generally divided into three major categories: serif, san serifs and decorative.

There are three subcategories under these categories, but let’s explore these first.



Serif fonts have little ‘feet’ or lines attached at the end of their letters (those are called serifs).

The serifs are arranged to flow in the direction of the text, with the purpose of keeping  our eyes moving along from left to right as we read.

You’ll find a lot of serif font in print media because it doesn’t work so well with pixel based devices .


San-serif fonts do not have the decorative attachments at the end of their letters as serifs do.

It has a clean look allows it to fit well with digital media. It also displays well on lower resolution devices than serif.


Script fonts are made to mirror hand writing as if done with a calligraphic pen or brush and usually has varied strokes.

Script fonts appear a lot on invitations, initials, certificates. They give personality to text, but really should not be used on large bodies of text


Display fonts cut across a wide range of font types and are generally used for headlines, initials and logos.

They read better as larger sized text than small, and are basically used for emphasis.


Decorative fonts are more illustrative and nonconventional.

Decorative fonts are expressive, creative and can sometimes be classified as art.

There are thousands of different fonts available in these categories of font, however like Albert Einstein said “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination”.

When using fonts the audience or main recipient of the text should be taken into consideration as well as the medium the text would appear in.

As mentioned earlier serif fonts work better for print and san-serif for digital medium like web and applications. Decorative typefaces are good for attention grabbing but become hard to follow and distracting when they appear together in long stretches.

Figuring out how to effectively use typography is a process that takes plenty of practice and trial-and-error.

Don’t forget to have some fun in the process!

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