Typography Terminology

This week we begun to a new section of our course, WORD. This is will be a focus on the importance of word in graphic communication and how it is presented visually. As a starting point Olwen set us a little bit of homework to get to grips with some of the terminology associated with typography – we had to research a list of various type-based terminology and give an example of them. When reading the list there were examples i knew instantly such as san serif and some that i didn’t know but i tried my best to research all of them:

Serif – 

These are typefaces with a small line at the end of stokes in a letter form. These typefaces are usually referred to as “Roman” and originate from the Latin alphabet where the letter forms are inscribed or carved into stone. The stroke comes from where the chisel is hammered away form the specific character in order to begin a new one.


Old Face –

The capitals in this typeface were inspired by Roman carvings in stone while the lowercase letters were inspired by 15th century writing styles. The forms of the letters reflect the gestures of the human hand when writing as they are loosely based on calligraphic font styles.

Old Face

Transitional –

In these typefaces there is much stronger contrast between the thin an thick stokes of the characters. The characters are are much wider than old styles and have sharper serifs.


Humanist – 

Sometimes referred to as Venetian, the Humanist types appeared during the 1460s and 70s post Blackletter and Gothic. These were far easier to read than the gothic style fonts that were almost illegible a lot of the time. What specifically characterises a Humanist typeface is a sloping cross bar on the lowercase “e” and a relativity small “x-height”. They also have very little stroke variation through the individual letters and tend to be printed on pages that are quite dark compare to more traditional page colours. Nowadays these type faces are rarely used however they are still important in the design world as they are essentially the beginning formation of todays typefaces.


Script – 

Script typefaces are based upon the style of letter making in handwriting and calligraphy. They are usually split into two organisation groups including formal scripts and casual scripts. Formal scripts are based on letterforms from the 17th and 18th century and are usually generated with a quill or nib of a metal pen – these create thick and thin stokes giving a varied style throughout.  These typefaces appeared the 18th and early 19th centuries and offer a feeling a elegance and neatness. Casual scripts are less elegant and are created usually with a wet brush to give sense of freedom and less restrictive feelings given by the formal scripts. Fist appearing in the early 1950s they are now an extremely popular form of script typeface.


Roman – 

This is a 15th century serif typeface based on the European scribal manuscript style of the 1400s. The style is derived from that of inscribing letters in stone where a serif is left at the end of the strokes of the letters – the typeface is based upon pairing Roman capitals form this period and Carolingian minuscules.


Italic – 

This is where type is slanted slightly to one side (right) of the typeface as to give a sense of importance to a particular pat of the text. The style is based on calligraphic styled handwriting and applies to both upper and lower-case letters – the capitals are often converted to swash capitals rather than basic italic as to give a more obvious change to the character.


Majuscule – 

This is a form of large lettering (usually capitals) where all the characters are the same height. These date back to as early as the 13th century and key characteristics to notice are that the ascenders and descenders are almost non-existent giving the illusion of the same height between individual characters. An example below is the Book of Kells:


Minuscule – 

Essentially the opposite of the Majuscule where the type is created to be printed in extremely small yet still legible sizes. A good example is Carolingian Minuscule, a calligraphic script developed in order for the Latin Alphabet to have better legibility from 800 to approximately 1200.


Expanded – 

Were type is horizontal wider than it is vertically tall. This gives a sense of boldness to the type and is perfect for titles for action films to give a sense of importance or authority to a certian even or piece of work etc.


Condensed –

This is opposite to expanded type where the type is far taller vertically than it is wide. A perfect example for its usage here is giving information about a films production crew at the bottom of a film poster. The size and shape of the type style helps to fit lots of information on the page without crowding the space and still appear aesthetically pleasing.


Ligatures –

This I when two letters are joined together as singular character. An example that we can al related to is an ampersand (&) which actually comes from the Latin word “et” which means “and”. An ampersand is actually a combination of the Latin handwritten letters “e” and “t”.


Gothic – 

Also known as Blackletter, Gothic is a script typeface directly derived from Carolingian Minuscules. It was used to give a scary/intimidating feel to specific words written in it such as enemies or warnings – the name Gothic itself is another word for barbaric. The type face is evry daunting and is almost illegible in some cases.


Slab serif – 

These typefaces all have their stokes the exact same weight giving a sense of even flow throughout the typeface. They are also known as Egyptian serif.

Slab Serif

Clarendon – 

This is an English slab-serif typeface which is extremely poplar and recognisable world-wide. It is named after the Clarendon Press in Oxford where it as first created. It is was usually heavily for the German Empire using World War I for proclamations and are still used today specifically for road sigs in parts for the U.S.


Triangular serif – 

These are the most common forms of serif in typography and get their name simply from their shape which is slightly triangular. Times New Roman, Garamond and Palatino all use this style of serif.

Triangular Serif

Bifurcated serif – 

This is when the serif on a typeface is split into two usually in a curved fashion differing hugely from simple sans serif typefaces with flat blocky ends. These kinds of fonts are quite celebratory and are reminiscent of circus-style, music hall and have an overall sense of light-heartedness.

Bifurcated Trifurcated serif – 

These are very similar to bifurcated only rather than the serif just being split in two, there is a small spike poking out the middle of the two slopes of the serif. This creates a similar effect of light-heartedness like with the bifurcated but there is much more exaggerated feel here which increases the overall feelings of celebration and playfulness.


Fat face – 

These forms of typefaces are usually all in caps and characteristically are extremely bold. They were introduced in the 19th Century in Europe in response to the sudden flourish in discovery and invention and also due to the expansion of trade in Europe at the time. The introduction of this new type into advertising altered the appearance of advertising in this era.

Fat Face

Superior letters – 

This when a lower-case letter is placed quite high above its base line (in line with the top of a capital letter) and made much smaller than usual. This is usually done for abbreviations and dates etc such as 6th.

Superor Letters

Versals lombardic – 

These are usually highly aesthetic, decorated capital letters that appear at the beginning of manuscripts from the 11th century. These are still quite popular today and pay a large part in a lot of classic fairy tale or poetry books. Regular versals are usually decorated with image but are instead very large for detailed capital letters compare to the rest of a script.

Versals Lombardic

Didone – 

This is a form of typeface which emerged from the late 18th Century which is also referred to as “modern”. Key characteristics of the typeface include its much more modern appearance compared to the old style serifs that date back to medieval era, the straight serifs with no brackets and a sting contrast between thick and think strokes within the typeface.


Grotesque – 

Like with the slab serif these typefaces also all have the same stoke weight throughout the characters.


Geometric – 

These typefaces are made up of even strokes all with the same weight and their forms are based on circular and triangular forms to give a very mathematical style. Futura is a perfect example of this and is shown below:


Sans Serif – 

These are much more modern typefaces with very straight and blocky serifs that don’t go off the stroke of the letters and rather stay inside the shape of the latter, out of sight. This form of typography is usually used for titles rather than a body of text as they appear more clearly and easier to read than serif types.


These are much more modern typefaces with very straight and blocky serifs that don’t go off the stroke of the letters and rather stay inside the shape of the latter, out of sight. This form of typography is usually used for titles rather than a body of text as they appear more clearly and easier to read than serif types.

3 Comments on “Typography Terminology”

  1. Cameron says:

    Hello I wanted to know where I could find the font you used for your example of a Didone. I really love that particular font, and I wanted to know where I could get it, what its specific name is etc?


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