Yesterday morning I switched on my car radio to NPR to hear the trailing sentences of the latest story, “…the overall branding will stay the same, this includes the colors and fonts.” I realized I had caught the very end of their discussion about the merger between United & Continental airlines. But the billion dollar deal isn’t what interested me; it was one word they used drew a red flag in my designer oriented mind.

Font.

This simple four-letter word is arguably the biggest misnomer in the field of design today. As a LA graphic design company, Urban Geko, feels obligated to educate our clients and the public about design tools and knowledge we’ve acquired over the years. This includes the use of proper terminology. Often times, people use the word “font” to reference the stylistic unity they see in characters when they should actually be using the word “typeface.” These two words are often used interchangeably by people who are not aware of the difference between them. But have no fear, today’s blog will give a brief lesson on the differences between typefaces and fonts!

With the widespread use of the word “font” both in everyday discussion and software programs it’s not a surprise that people carry on the misuse of the word. Check out this Word formatting palette that can be seen in most MAC OS X operating systems:

The word “Font” is the main heading over both the typeface and font settings which thus makes its meaning ambiguous. Even under the Adobe Illustrator program the same type of palette is listed as “Character.”

Sometimes, I even find myself using the term “font” just so that clients understand what I’m referring to. If I say “typeface” they usually just have a blank stare on their face. Now, let’s get down to business and determine what exactly are the differences between a font and a typeface.

Typeface

This refers to a type family or what you know as the common names you get to choose from when you’re typing up a document. Any written text you see in a magazine, billboard, computer screen or just about anywhere has its own typeface. Type families usually consists of alphabets, numerals and punctuation marks. Type designers and typographers today can design typefaces through programs such as Font Lab in which they begin by forming individual letters. Check out these typeface examples that are commonly used today:

Font

Font, on the other hand, refers to a specific member of a type family such as bold, italic, light or condensed. It also previously encapsulated specific point sizes, but since software programs today allow typefaces to be scaled to virtually any size, that categorization has become obsolete. If one were to imagine this terminology in terms of a real family name, the last name “Smith” would be the typeface and the kids Sally, John and Peter would be the different fonts. All under the same family name, but each with unique characteristics of their own. Check out the different fonts under the Helvetica Neue typeface:

Now that you have a better understanding of the differences between a typeface and font you can proudly use the terms correctly in your daily design discourse. Our California graphic design company encourages the recognition of design as a powerful medium used to effectively communicate messages. However, we cannot expect the field to be recognized properly if we do not first begin by speaking about it correctly.

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