What is Typography?

Typography (Greek: typos “form”, graphein “to write”) is:

the art and technique of setting written subject matter in type and arranging that type in physical or digital form to make written language most appealing to learning and recognition.

Many books on typography take a narrow Western perspective looking, apart from an overview of development of alphabets (See History of the Alphabet). In this project I focus on these Western traditions. But other cultures have a rich traditions of calligraphy with vibrant contemporary innovations, including printed typography. I begin to look at these in Assignment 4 (See Islamic Calligraphy ) and this is an important area where I would like to research in future, building on my academic study of linguistics and Asian languages and my interest in Japanese and Chinese traditions.


Type: the name of the individual metal letters used in letterpress printing.

Font: characters in a given typeface – all the uppercase and lowercase letters, punctuation, numbers and symbols in different point sizes.

Typeface: group of fonts of related design eg italic, bold, upper case, lower case etc.

Typography: design and use of typefaces.

Typesetting: act of using type to create words, sentences, lines of text.

Typeface Design: Typeface design is sometimes considered part of typography; most typographers do not design typefaces, and some type designers do not consider themselves typographers.


Research: Western Typeface classification

Research: History of Type Design

Project 3.1 : Type Samples Sketchbook


Typography has a ‘specific purpose of so arranging letters, distributing the space and controlling the type as to aid to the maximum the reader’s comprehension of the text. (Stanley Morrison 1928)

Typography is performed by typesetters, compositors, typographers, graphic designers, art directors, manga artists, comic book artists, graffiti artists, clerical workers, and everyone else who arranges type for a product. In modern times, typography has been put in film, television and on-line broadcasts to add emotion to communication. Until the Digital Age, typography was a specialized occupation. Digitization opened up typography to new generations of visual designers and lay users.

The arrangement of type involves consideration of:


Research: The language of type: Typography principles pdf 

Research: Modernist typography

Typographers: Joseph Muller Brockman, Jan Tschichold, Massimo Vignelli, El Lissitsky, 

Research: Experimental typography

Experimental typography 

Typographic Art

Typographers: Emigre Magazine, Robert Massin, Kurt Schwitters, Dada,  Concrete poetry, Filippo Marinetti, Wolfgang Weingart, Neville Brody, David Carson

Exercise: Experimental typography: 20,000 Leagues

See also Typography Resources 

Classifying Type

History of Typography

Readability and legibility:  typography_principles_pdf

Project 3.1b: Experimental typography

 3.2 Working with Images

Project 3.2: Illustrating text: Jaberwocky and Venice

3.3 Layout

Golden Section

Grids (forthcoming)

Project 3.3: Double-page Spread


Assignment 3: My Little Book of…

Good Typography


Bad Typography