The term typography is applied to the arrangement, appearance and style of the letters, numbers, and symbols created by the process. Type design is a closely related craft, sometimes considered by specialists part of typography; most typographers do not design
typefaces, and some type designers do not consider themselves typographers. Typography also may be used as a decorative device, unrelated to communication of information. The design of typefaces has developed alongside the development of typesetting systems.
Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable and appealing when displayed.
The arrangement of type involves selecting specific typefaces, point size, line length, line-spacing (leading), letter-spacing (tracking), and adjusting the space within letters pairs (kerning).
Typography is the work of typesetters, compositors, typographers, graphic designers, art directors, manga artists, comic book artists, web designers, graffiti artists, and now—anyone who arranges words, letters, numbers, and symbols for publication – from clerical workers and newsletter writers to anyone self-publishing materials.
When typography is on point, words become images.
As the capability to create typography has become ubiquitous, the application of principles and best practices developed over generations of skilled workers and professionals has diminished.
Ironically, at a time when scientific techniques can support the proven traditions (e.g. greater legibility with the use of serifs, upper and lower case, contrast, etc.) through understanding the limitations of human vision, typography often encountered may fail to achieve its principle objective, effective communication.
Principles of craft
Legibility is primarily the concern of the typeface designer, to ensure that each individual character or glyph is unambiguous and distinguishable from all other characters in the typeface. In part, legibility also is an aspect of concern for the typographer to assure selection of a typeface with appropriate clarity of design for the intended use at the intended size.
Selection of case, upper, called also capitals, or lower, severely influences the legibility of typography because using all-caps or upper case letters, significantly reduces legibility.
Legibility refers to perception and readability refers to comprehension understanding the meaning. Good typographers and graphic designers aim to achieve excellence in both. Some commonly agreed findings of legibility research include:
- Text set in lower case is more legible than text set all in upper case: capitals or all-caps.
- Extenders – ascenders, descenders and other projecting parts – increase salience or prominence.
- Regular upright type – roman type – is found to be more legible than italic type.
Studies of both legibility and readability have examined a wide range of factors including type size and type design. For example, comparing serif vs. sans-serif type, roman type vs. oblique type, and italic type, line length, line spacing, color contrast, the design of right-hand edge (for example, justification, straight right hand edge) vs. ragged right, and whether text is hyphenated.
A legible typeface can become unreadable through poor setting and placement, just as a less legible typeface can be made more readable through good design.