Define Typography: 20 Typography Terms You Must Know

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Before we get into the nitty gritty, let's first define typography. Typography is the technique that you can use to arrange language in an organize manner.


These characteristics can be the font type, size, the way the font is spaced, and even the different types of typefaces. Typography is important in any aspect of design because it is the way that you are going to attract attention from your readers. Now, we’re in a world where everything is at our fingertips and the right use of typography in your designs will help attract and keep the interest of your target audience and viewers. This is why it’s so important to stay up to date on your typography terms. And to make your design life a little easier, we’ve created a list of typography terms that’ll help you better understand the design of typefaces, and ultimately how to select the right typeface to make your next design a great one.


Be sure to check out our article on how to choose the right cursive font for your design project by clicking here.


Let’s get started!  

01. Ampersand

Typography term Ampersand refers to the symbol that means "and"

An Ampersand is one of the most well-known typography terms you’ll use. It’s a character symbolizing “and, helpful when you’re trying to save space. It was created from the saying “and per se and”, which eventually was shortened by English speakers to ampersand.  

02. ApertureTypography term Aperture refers to the partially enclosed negative space of a character

When you are looking at letters, like an “n”, you will see that there is a space underneath the rounded arch called negative space. Aperture refers to this partially enclosed, negative space in letters such as an e, S, or a C. In the same way, an eye is the specific name for the space in a lowercase “e”.

03. Apex

Typography term Apex refers to the top of a symbol or character

The typographic term Apex refers to the top of a symbol or character where two lines or strokes meet. For example, an “A” has two strokes that form an upside down “V” at the top, and this point forms the Apex. This makes sense when you think about the fact that an Apex is defined as the peak or highest point.


04. Arm

Typography term Arm refers to a segment of any letter not attached to a vertical bar

This typographic term refers to a segment of any letter not attached to a vertical bar. Some examples of arms are the side of a "V" or the middle bar of an "E". In both of these examples you have a piece free on one side just like the top of a "T".

05. Ascender/DescenderTypography term Ascender/Descender refers to the upward or downward stroke on lowercase letters

An Ascender is the stroke going upward on lowercase letters, and this rises above the x-height of the typeface. For example, letters like h and b both have a stroke that rises above and ascends. Thus, the terminology for this is Ascender. If the Ascender is the stroke that rises above, then the Descender is the stroke that goes below the baseline.

06. Axis

Typography term Axis refers to the imaginary line that bisects a character

Many of you will be familiar with the term axis, especially since our planet revolves on one, and the same concept is applied to typefaces. An axis as an imaginary line that bisects a character from the lower and upper strokes on the axis. If you want to find the axis you have to look at the thickest part of the stroke, so parallel to the thickest stroke.

07. BaselineTypography term Baseline refers to the line on which a symbol sits

Of the typography terms this is one of the most important, and is one of the most well-known. The baseline is the line on which the symbols sit. This is an imaginary line where you rest your text, and characters like “p” or “g” will go beneath it. There are even some letters that are curved, like “o” and “c”, which will go beneath the baseline as well.

08. Font

Typography term Font describes a type of a specific text size or style

A list of typography terms would be worthless without explaining what a font is in a design. A font is described as a certain type of typeface of a specific text size and style in which it is printed. There are different sizes that you can use, so you would say that you have printed something in Helvetica 12-point font, meaning it is a size 12 and in the font Helvetica. 

09. Glyph

Typography term Glyph refers to the black and white image of a character

A character can be described by several glyphs, and this is the black and white image of a character. You have some fonts, that due to style, will have a character for “i”, for “f”, and then one for “fi” because of how it is written. The typography definition of a glyph is a symbol that represents a wider grouping of symbols for the purpose of the font.

10. HairlineTypography term Hairline refers to the thinnest line that a typeface has

Although there are many typography terms, the hairline is one of the easiest to understand because it represents the thinnest line that a typeface has. One of the best ways to remember this term is to relate it to a hairline fracture, like the thinness of a piece of hair.

11. Italics

Typography term Italics refers to the cursive style of a font

This is a familiar font feature on word, and we utilize it just as much as bold font to emphasize things within our text. The typography definition of Italics is a cursive style font that’s slanted to the right, and are specifically used to make and the text influential.

12. LowercaseTypography term Lowercase refers to the smallest version of letters

Typography terms list lowercase as the smallest version of letters in the typeface. These are the versions of letters that are not capitalized and are usually the main part of anything written. These are the letters that will primarily make up sentences and paragraphs.

13. Point Size Typography term Point Size describes the size of type

The size of type is according to the scale that 72 points equals an inch. So, if you have a 12-point type, it’s 1/6 of an inch. When you select your point size it is important because it will vary the way you text fits on the page, and you can also use larger text to draw more attention to a certain word or phrase.

14. Serif

Typography term Serif refers to the small line embellishments in the stroke of letters

The typographic definition of a serif is a small line added to the stroke of letters. These small lines assist you in being able to read text clearly because they denote individual letters. Serifs existed in Roman times and have evolved since then, probably starting originally as a chiseled stroke.

15. Spur

Typography term Spur refers to the piece that extends from a curve in a letter

This accent is a special attribute to any character, and the typographic definition of a spur is a piece that extends from a curve in a letter. The best examples of these are the top and bottom of the “C” and “S”. Spurs are smaller than serifs and beaks, which makes this one of the smallest typography terms.

16. StrokeTypography term Stroke refers to the main diagonal part of the letter

According to typography definition this stroke is a diagonal part of the letter, not to be confused with a “tail”. With a “Q”, the tail is the right piece through the bottom. A stroke is one of the most prevalent characters learned from the beginning of writing the alphabet, because the stroke makes up the largest part of the letter.

17. Tail

Typography term Tail refers to the tail of letters such as "Q" or "R"

The tail is one of the earliest typography terms you learn, but you’re probably unaware of it. When you learn to write a “Q”, one of the things you pay the most attention to is the tail. There are few letters that have tails, but “Q” and the right downward stroke of the “R” are both examples of tails.

18. Typeface Typography term Typeface refers to a set of a particular font with different sizes

According to typographic terms, typeface is a set of font in different sizes. So, you might have to showcase a font available in 12, 16, 18, 24 and so on and so forth. The criteria for typeface is the font must be a set of different sizes.

19. Type FamilyTypography term Type Family refers to a set of fonts like one another

A Type Family, in the typographic world, is a set of fonts like one another. For example, you might use Helvetica, Helvetica Italic, and Helvetica Bold. Although these are all under the same name, they look different from the other styles.

20. X-heightTypography term X-height defines the height of lowercase letters and effects readability

X-height may be one of the most important typography terms, because it defines the height of lowercase letters, but does not include extenders. The baseline is the imaginary line that the letters sit on, and the x-height is relative to the letter x on the baseline. X-height will determine how easy it is to read your content.


Now It’s Your Turn To Create Some Awesome Typography!


Typography is one of the most important aspects of design, and to create better pieces you have to understand the characters that you use. The font, and the way it’s displayed, will be the first thing to attract attention from readers. Utilize the above information to ensure that your designs make the best use of typography, and you will be surprised how much more successful and beautiful your designs are.


If you need a helping hand crafting your own cursive lettering or designing a brilliant logo concept, houses thousands of the best graphic designers worldwide. Simply post a project, and you'll receive bids within minutes!



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Gönderildi 7 Aralık, 2016

Cassie Puah

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Part of the content team here at Freelancer to write, edit and SEO-proof our content. Outside of work, I love myself a little gaming and tennis here and there.

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