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11.27.12 | The Language of Typography

The art of good typography is at the core of our design process. Often, we have clients who express strong feelings about certain fonts, but cannot verbalize what it is about the lettering they love or hate. Today's blog post is a basic education in the language of typography. So the next time you see some lovely letters somewhere, you'll be able to express why you love it and impress all of your nerdy design friends! We thank Red Labor for their wisdom on words.

Image via Inspiredology

Serif font on wedding program by Hartford Prints!

Serifs are the "little wings" on the edges of type. There are two different kinds - bracketed serifs have gentle curves that lead into the character, whereas unbracketed serifs meet the character at 90-degree angles. Historically, serifs have been preferred for their elegance, as many believe they increase the readability of text by helping to move the eye across the letters.
Of course, others prefer fonts that have modern, clean lines without (sans) serifs, as they find serifs too distracting and old-fashioned.

Image via OK200

Sans serif business cards by Hartford Prints!


Literally, the height of the lowercase letter x. The character of x is what determines the height of all other lowercase letters, not including the ascenders (l, f, k) and descenders (j, y, g).

Image via Web Designer Depot

Example of x height, calling cards by Hartford Prints!

These are characters that like getting fancy! They have flourishes at the beginning and end of the character to add elegance and whimsy to the letters. They are not meant to be used all in one sentence, but rather to add a decorative element.

Image via Kate Spade

Swash characters and their fancy pants by Hartford Prints!

These are specially crafted characters that combine certain letter pairs, as you can see in the "f/i" and "c/t" pairs in the example below, from I Love Typography

"E/S" ligature on a Hartford Prints! custom shower invitations

Pronounced like sledding, leading refers to the actual pieces of lead that used to be inserted (and in the case of letterpress, still are!) to keep lines between text in place. Too much or too little leading between lines in a body of text can have a great impact on readability.

Tracking refers to amount of space between all characters, while kerning refers to the actual spaces between letter pairs. The point of kerning is to create even spaces between all characters, so an uppercase G, for example, might need to be "kerned" closer to it's letter pair to make up for the large space at the right of the letter.

Image via Outsmart 360

Leading and kerning, with thanks from Hartford Prints!

We hope you've learned a THING or TWO about the text you read every day. Now go forth and spread the typographical love!

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