Do You Know What a Font Is?

typeface: an artistic design for letterforms

A typeface represents a consistent visual appearance for letterforms. A typeface might be produced as a single font, or a family of various weights and styles. The Garamond Premier Pro typeface is depicted above.

font: the complete character set of one weight and style of a typeface

In the beginning, type was made of metal or wood, and fonts were crafted in various sizes. Digital fonts are scalable to almost any size. There are no larger fonts and smaller fonts; each one is just a single set of outlines in a computer file. Garamond Bold Italic is a font.

type: a block of typeset or printed characters

The attributes of type are

  • font (e.g., Centaur Roman or Futura Bold Condensed)
  • size (measured in points)
  • leading (also measured in points, see below)
  • line width (measured in picas; 12 points = 1 pica)
  • justification (e.g., flush left, ragged right)
  • color (like size, color is independent of the font; there are no “red fonts” or “blue fonts”)
  • other options such as letterspacing, wordspacing, kerning

On the web, type is measured in pixels.

leading: the linespacing of a block of type

Leading (pronounced ledding) is measured in points, from the baseline of one line of type to the baseline of the next. Originally, leading was made from a thin strip of lead that could be inserted between lines of type.

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