Font vs Typeface: Understanding the Typography Terminology

Understanding the ins and outs of typography and appropriate font usage can be confusing at best and exhausting at worst. Not only must you learn the terms of this field, but you also need to become familiar with when it’s appropriate to use one term over another.

Specifically, two of the most common terms regarding typography that are interchanged are font and typeface. Unfortunately, this casual interchange between the two has created immense confusion for those who aren’t expert typographers and has resulted in the immense misuse of each term. As such, a new movement is forming to educate others about these two terms so the misuse can finally be put to bed and all in the typography world can once again be at peace.

Understanding Fonts

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A font can be understood as a collection of letters, symbols or numbers such as bold, roman, or italic characters. A font is what you actually use in your designs while a typeface is what you see. The word font actually derives from words fount or foundry from the olden days when letters were cast out of molten metal.

The Basics of Typefaces


A typeface is the way a font collection appears, or what you see. Popular typefaces include Arial and Times New Roman. A professional who designs typefaces has traditionally been called a typographer. However, with the rise of desktop publishing, the title of this professional has transformed into font developer.

The drawback of this title transformation to font developer is that it only adds to the font and typeface confusion. This may mean that another title transformation may need to occur to reduce the overall confusion in the typography world.

Popular Typeface Options

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The following are a few examples of current popular typefaces. Each typeface collection may include such font options as bold, italic, or roman.

  • Quicksand – The Quicksand typeface collection is a popular sans serif option that features ultra-thin characters. However, the entire collection includes bold, extra-bold, and other font options.
  • Museo Sans – The Museo Sans typeface collection is another sans serif option. This collection only includes normal and italic font categories.
  • Birra – The Birra typeface is a thick, sans serif collection. This typeface features chunky, extra-black lettering. This typeface doesn’t include additional font options such as italic.
  • Lane – Lane is an extra thin typeface collection featuring sans serif characters. The three font options featured in this collection are narrow, upper, and posh.
  • Adelle – This final typeface example is the slab Adelle collection. Within the Adelle typeface collection are bold and extra-bold font options.

Now that you understand the differences between fonts and typefaces, it’s on your shoulders to spread this new knowledge throughout the design world. The next time you hear a fellow designer interchanging fonts and typefaces in their conversations, gently inform them of the differences between the two and ask them to join the movement. While it may seem like an immense responsibility, just remember, it’s for the betterment of designers worldwide.

Sonia Mansfield is the content editor for PsPrint and editor of PsPrint Design Blog. She likes to write, do yoga and make nerdy “Star Wars” and “Simpsons” references. PsPrint is an online commercial printing company specializing in brochure printing. You can follow PsPrint on Twitter @PsPrint


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  • I love typography and fontfaces…I want to make this type of design, but how 🙁

    • play with characters in photoshop or any graphic software

  • In typography, a typeface is a set of one or more fonts, in one or more sizes, designed with stylistic unity, each comprising a coordinated set of glyphs. For example: 8-point Caslon Italic is one font, and 10-point Caslon Regular is another.

    Historically, fonts came in specific sizes determining the size of characters, and in quantities of sorts or number of each letter provided.

    A typeface usually comprises an alphabet of letters, numerals, and punctuation marks; it may also include ideograms and symbols, or consist entirely of them, for example, mathematical or map-making symbols.

    • very well said, thanks for those great info mate

      • You’re welcome, .. this is the way I learned it, .. long, long time ago! Cheers & Ciao ..

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