Fontface Vs. Typeface
I am commonly asked questions related to fonts, usually by web masters or aspiring designers who are hoping to find out the name of a specific lettering from a poster, advertising campaign or similar. Sharing this kind of information is one of the perks of the Internet. It gives us wider access to materials and resources we might have otherwise struggled to acquire. That is why I personally love the challenge of finding out the answers to these queries.
But sometimes all I want to do is make a simple correction, one that I thought we should address as today’s topic: fontface vs. typeface. Believe it or not, there is a difference between the two. It is one of the most commonly misunderstood designing concepts, and I find even professionals using the wrong term. Typeface is a lettering that is used in the initial concepts. Font is used for the final product.
In Simple Words…
When you see lettering like Gill Sans or Papyrus you are seeing an example of typeface. They were made by designers who specialize (at least some of the time) in type. While this used to be a complicated and time consuming process, software programs such as Fontographer have made it much simpler. There is also the older way of drawing and them scanning the individual letters in, before uploading them to an application made for creating typeface.
On the other hand, fonts make the printing of typeface possible. Produced by type foundries, they are sometimes made by the same designers that create the type, but in the end they are two different things with two very separate functions.
A simple explanation is that they are each tools. The typeface is the lettering itself, which is designed under a certain banner. For example, Baskerville is the actual type that was created by a man of the same name. It is a specific kind of lettering that bears a unique design type.
The Line Is Being Blurred
Over the last several years there have been expansions on this type. For example, there is a Latin 1 form of the typeface. This is the font, the final lettering that is used for the end of the a project. It is the slight change in the design that gives it specifications beyond the original look.
I know that it isn’t that important. Surely, most people will know what you are referring to when you use the term “font” over “typeface”. After all, the latter sounds more like a command than a tool. But for typographers, graphic designers and artists, these little details make all the difference in showing your true level of expertise.
If you are still confused (which is very possible), there was an explanation given by Heofler & Frere-Jones that I think was the clearest and most direct. They look back at the days of metal type, and explain that a typeface was the design for the alphabet that was used as a standard under a title (so, for example, Gill Sans).
The font was the “manifestation” of that alphabet that would be ordered in batches. So, using Gill Sans as an example once again, the font would be an 18 point MT. In this case the size and the “MT” specification would be the fonts of the original type.