Designer Lingo 101: Typography

While most of design might feel like a big hairy beast, typography is something we're all probably familiar with. We get to choose our fonts on a daily basis as we set up email signatures, write documents, and put together invitations for birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries.

You may already be familiar with a lot of these terms, but just don't know exactly what they mean. Or, you've been noticing these concepts in action but haven't known a word to describe it. Here's hoping your type-talk becomes even more productive!


These fonts have little feet on each letter. Since the very first typefaces were created with serifs, these fonts tend to attribute a sense of tradition, formality, or maturity to a design.


sans serif

These fonts don't have little feet on each letter! This type that you're reading right now is set in a sans-serif font. Sans-serif fonts caused major hubbub in the design world when they were first introduced. They can lend a design a look that's cleaner, more modern, and simpler. They are usually easier to read on web and mobile interfaces.

Sans Serif.png


The measure and the process of manipulating the space between two individual letters. 



The overall measure of spacing between all letters in a line or body of text. Letter-spacing is most often seen in online text formatting, whereas print design programs will use the term "tracking."

Letter Spacing.png


The spacing between two lines of text.


The height of the lowercase X in a font. Fonts with a taller x-height are usually easier to read and appear larger overall.


The part of a letter that extends above the x-height.


The part of a letter that extends below the baseline.


These are characters or symbols that make up a typeset. Glyphs can be anything from letters to numbers to symbols. A single letter might have multiple glyphs to choose from in a font.


Swashes are seen most in script fonts. They're ornamental flourishes coming off a letter. Letters with multiple glyph options are usually made because they have different swashes as well.

glyph swash.png

Coming up next week: Designer Lingo 101 - Color