Typography 101: History of Typography and How to Create Your Unique Letters


August 30, 2021

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Typography is an inseparable aspect of designing, no matter what type of design project that you have. It is responsible for providing the important message to the audience clearly while at the same time adding value to the visual layout. When chosen correctly, these combinations of beautifully crafted letters can enhance or ruin a design.

This article will discuss everything you need to know about typography and some necessary steps to create your unique fonts.


What is Typography?

Sumber : Oblique Design

Typography is the art of arranging letters and characters to be readable, legible, and eye-pleasing. It contains the power to strengthen a brand, making them interesting and eye-catching to the audience. That is why typography is one of many important aspects of designing.

Even at a quick look, typography can create a certain impression on the audience. Then when the typography is changed, it also changes the impression provided. Therefore, it is important to use the right fonts to create a brand personality and deliver the right messages. 


Important Terms in Letters Designing

Sumber : Youtube

Professional designers must have known the necessary terminology when it comes to typography. However, the various terms used in this letters design may be overwhelming to beginners. Here is the list of important basic terms for starters:

  • Font

It is a group of characters to display that comes in various sizes and styles. The characters are also varied from letters, numbers, and punctuations to additional symbols that can be used to create beautifully arranged words or sentences.

There are also other terms of fonts that are important to understand. They are font style (spacing between characters), font-weight (thickness of characters), and font size (number of points or pixels).

  • Font Family

Font family is the font set with the same basic design quality but different styles, weights, or sizes. For example, a Lucida font family includes several other fonts such as Lucida Casual, Lucida Bright, and many more. Font family is also known as typeface.

  • Stroke

You may have suggested that stroke simply means the lines that comprise the letters. It comes in various styles and can be either curved or straight, vertical or diagonal, closed, or open. 

  • Stem

It is still a type of stroke and is considered the basic unit of the characters’ part. If you notice the vertical stroke in character, that is what we usually called the stem. So, as you may have guessed, the lowercase m has three vertical stems while the uppercase L has one vertical stem.

  • Serif, Sans Serif, and Slab Serif

Serif is the small lines connected at the ends of strokes in symbols. Therefore, fonts with a design that contains these tiny lines or feet are considered serif fonts. Meanwhile, sans serif means without the tiny feet. It means that sans serif fonts don’t have the little feet instead of serif fonts. 

Additionally, there are also slab serifs, which are the fonts with heavily thick feet at the ends of the stroke of each character.

  • Script Typeface

The script is a typeface that resembles handwriting, which means they contain a lot of cursives. There are two types of script font families, casual and formal scripts. Casual scripts are those that resemble ordinary handwriting. Therefore, they have an informal nature. Meanwhile, formal scripts are those that resemble 16th and 17th-century handwriting. It is more formal and usually used for announcements or invitations. 

  • Blackletter

It is a type of font that was popular in the 12th to 17th centuries. These types of fonts come with varied thick and thick lines and ornate swirls at the feet. Due to its decorative nature, this type of font is more common as headlines, posters, logos, and other designs used to attract attention from the audience.

  • Cap Height and X-height

Just as its name suggests, cap height is the capital letters’ height from the base to the top of the cap. As opposed to the cap height, x-height is the lowercase letters’ height from the base to the top.

  • Point

Point in typography is the size of a font or the whole height of a text block and not the single character. That is why two font families of the same point size sometimes can look different in terms of their size.

  • Bowl

Bowl refers to the curved part of certain letters. Meanwhile, the enclosed space created by a Bowl is called a counter. For example, the uppercase B has two bowls and two counters.

  • Spine

Spine refers to the curvy main stroke of a letter. Uniquely, only one character has this feature, which is the letter ‘s’.

  • Kerning and tracking

Kerning refers to the space in between the letters in the same word. Depending on the typeface, designers sometimes need to adjust the kerning differently to create visually pleasing typography. 

Almost similar to kerning, tracking is a simple letter spacing. If kerning is the space adjustment between words and can vary depending on each case, tracking is a uniformed space adjustment of letters in the same word.

  • Leading

Leading or also known as line spacing, refers to the baseline spacing between two successive lines. The bigger the leading means the distance between baseline is also bigger.

  • Terminal 

The terminal is the term used to call a stroke end of a letter without a serif. An easy example would be the lowercase letter ‘t’. The stroke at the bottom ends without a serif and in the form of a small curve instead. That is what we called a terminal.

  • Ascender and Descender

Last but not least is the ascender and descender. Ascender is the lowercase letter part that extends above its x-height. As opposed to ascender, a descender is the lowercase letter part that extends below its x-height. 


Classifications of Letters

Sumber : Creative Bits

Typefaces are categorized into several groups to make designing easier. Here is the basic classification:

  • Serifs

Just as explained in the previous section, serif fonts are those which designs contain small feet. Some of the examples include Garamond, Baskerville, Bodoni, and so on.

  • Sans-serif

As opposed to serif, this one doesn’t have little foot extensions. Some of the examples are Helvetica and Gill sans.

  • Script

This font is flexible and comes with various stroke widths, and resembles handwriting. The examples include Shelly, Bistro Script, and so on.

  • Blackletter

This one tends to be heavy and bold and highly used in the renaissance era. One example is Fraktur.

  • Decorative

Last but not least is the decorative font family, which is more decorative and does not fit in other font categories. Due to its decorative nature, the fonts in this group are often used in posters, headlines, and many other designs.

In addition to the type classification above, font families can also be classified based on their periods and art style. Here is the classification:

  • Humanist

Humanist refers to typefaces that are from the renaissance period or around the 15th and 16th centuries. It resembles calligraphy and has a flexible hand movement stroke. Some of the examples include Centaur, Sabon, and Gill Sans.

  • Transitional

It is a transition from the old humanist style to a more modern typeface. Transitional is part of the baroque era, and some of the examples are Times Roman, Baskerville, and Helvetica.

  • Modern

Last but not least are the modern letterforms from around the 18th and 19th centuries or part of the enlightenment era. It has a more abstract design and offers a radical shift from the transitional typeface. Some of the examples include Futura and Bodoni.


How to Create Unique Fonts

Sumber : Youtube

Designing a typeface is different from other design processes; therefore, designers often don’t know where to begin when they want to design fonts. As a beginner, here are some basic rules on how to create unique fonts.

  • Learn all the basic steps

You may think that typography is all about practice. However, the truth is more complex than that since it is more of an art and science combination. The composition includes accurate measurements, specifications, and vocabulary, which must be considered when designing a typeface.

By understanding the basic rules by heart, you can break and adjust them to create a unique font. Therefore, it is important to step back and learn everything about the art before actually creating the typeface.

  • Pay attention to font communication

There is a psychology behind certain typefaces, and it is important to understand them. Knowing this will help you connect to your audience more and not make your typeface just another font. 

  • Understand how kerning works

As explained before, kerning is how you adjust the space between letters in the same word. It is important to understand how it works to avoid sloppy typeface. It is a fine-tuning space so that your typeface will look more streamlined, unified as well as harmonious.

  • Create a brief

You need to have purpose and vision in designing a typeface so the final products can fit with the style and purpose intended. Of course, you can always start with purely expressive fonts. However, if you design for a client, this type of method will rarely suit the needs and will make you have to re-work your fonts. 

When you are creating a brief, consider how will the fonts be used, whether it is for personal or professional use, what makes it different from every other font, and so on. Having a clear view of the purpose of your fonts will help you design the fonts easily. 

  • Make a choice

At the beginning of the process, you will have to make a lot of choices. You have to decide various things such as whether your fonts will be sans-serif or serif, will be geometric or resembles handwriting, and so on. 

  • Drawing by hand

You can start designing by drawing by hand first to create a more flexible curve or form. Once you know how the curves will be, you can digitize them with your computer. Refine the sample you create by matching the important features such as terminals and strokes.

  • Create control characters

Control characters are the few characters you use to help you set the style and tone of your typeface. Start with these control characters, and then move on to other characters to create a harmonious font set. 

The control characters used are usually ‘n’ and ‘o’ for lowercase and ‘H’ and ‘O’ for uppercase. However, ‘s’ is a bit tricky, so it is usually left for later. 

  • Draw the letters

Once you create control characters and draw the rest of the letters, you can move to your computer and draw them. You can use any software available both online and offline. However, if you are new to some of the software, it may take time to be familiar with the software and design with ease.


3 Cool Fonts for Your Inspiration

Sumber : Befonts

We have talked about typography, the important terms used, classification, as well as quick guidelines on how to create your unique font. Now, let’s see some examples of cool fonts for your inspiration to create your typeface.

  • Addington CF

It is a beautiful and practical font that will help you to create a stunning design. It combines light calligraphy style and traditional serif, making it versatile enough for various purposes.

  • Diana Webber

Diana Webber offers two font types of SVG script and serif that can be used bot combined or separately. It is perfect for creating logos, invitations, or headlines.

  • Kohm

Kohm is a vintage font with a unique rough texture. It offers various characters from letters, numbers and punctuations.

Now you know everything about typography and how to create it. While it may take some time to familiarize yourself with all the terms, rules, and techniques to master typography, it doesn’t mean that it is impossible to do. So, start your font creating today!

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