If you were to believe that Helvetica, Arial, Calibri, Gill Sans, and Verdana were all fonts, you’d be wrong. In fact, what many call fonts are typefaces. Fonts are variations of the typeface such as condensed, bold, italic, light, or heavy. Typography, then, is how we arrange the fonts within a typeface to be readable, legible, and pleasing when displayed.
Both fonts and typefaces can represent different ideas or feelings. A serif font such as Garamond may feel more formal than a sans serif font like the one you’re seeing in my blog post. You might be asking yourself what a serif is, and that’s ok. I’m going to suggest you take a look at this website for ALL the info on the anatomy of a typeface. If you aren’t interested in the full story, I’ve borrowed an image from the site to give you a quick overview.
Now that you know what a serif is (the little dangler off the end of a letter that makes your typeface look a little fancy), and what a sans serif is (sans = french for without so… without a serif), let’s think about other ways you can use typeface and font to get your point across. WE ALL KNOW THAT TYPING IN ALL CAPS IS YELLING. That’s a pretty basic one. Here are a more few examples of typefaces that I believe convey the ideas or feelings.
As you can see in the variations above, different typefaces can convey different things. I especially enjoyed finding the right typefaces for the word heavy. Not only did I want to find something that was bold and chunky, but in the first and third options, I picked typefaces that were vertically condensed, as if the word was stooping under its own weight. I loved the thick serifs on the bottom of Heavy #2 – as if the letters themselves were wearing cement shoes!
I have always been fascinated by typefaces. Growing up in a time when the home PC was just starting to come into popularity, I remember using a font that assigned letters from the Greek alphabet to letters in the American English alphabet to type secret messages to my friend. She would then figure out what letters corresponded to the Greek letters to decode my notes and respond in kind. Nerdy – yes. Miraculous to two 8-year-olds in the ’90s? Also yes.
While typography has always been an art in itself, using typefaces to create art and especially home decor feels like the child of the early 2000s when swirly, scripted sayings like “Live, Laugh, Love” and “Always kiss me goodnight” found their way onto walls across America. Before the rise of the dictionary-entry-turned-poster (I am guilty of owning a few of these…), there was the Type Specimen Poster.
Designed to showcase the unique visual qualities of a typeface, the Type Specimen Poster can range from a basic layout of letters, numbers, and special characters, to a more visually in-depth work of art that tells the story of a typeface. When setting out to design my own Type Specimen Poster, I chose my very favorite typeface – Futura.
Futura is clean, sleek, modern, and functional. I was not surprised to find out that it was created by a German designer to reflect the Bauhaus ideology of “function over form.” It represents the futuristic dreams of the early 20th century when adventure and discovery still felt achievable.
Futura reminds me of one part space exploration à la the Space Ship Earth ride at Epcot and one part twee functionality from its use in Wes Anderson films. Of course, I was disappointed to learn of its unfortunate adoption as the typeface of the Nazi party in the 1940s, but I will think instead of it gracing the plaque left on the moon by the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969.
In my Type Specimen Poster, I attempted to showcase the retro-futuristic vibe that the typeface now holds by tying it into a rough illustration of the face of the moon. This poster really does remind me of something you might have seen in Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World. To demonstrate the versatility of the fonts within the typeface, I used Futura Medium, Futura Light, Futura Heavy, Futura Light Italic, and Futura Bold throughout the poster.