Learn typography terminology and what it means to a graphic artist

Measurements

Points

In 1737, Simor Fournier developed a system for measuring type which was later perfected by a Frenchman named Firmin Didot. Before this every size of type had a different name. 8 point type was known as Brevier, 10 point type, for example was known as Long Primer; 14 point was English; 36 point was Double Great Primer, 42 point type was known as Seven-Line Nonpareil. Points and picas are the only units used in this country. Other countries use millimiters and a unit called the cicern. There are 72 points per inch.

Picas

A unit of measurement used by typographers and printers. One pica equals 12 points. There's 6 picas in an inch. Picas and points are still heavily used in printing, so it's a good idea to become familiar with them since one of your first jobs might be working for a printing company.

Body Copy or Body Type

Generally text smaller than 14 points considered to be in the main body of the ad. Generally speaking, body type should be between 9 and 12 point unless it is set for very young children or seniors which should be set at 12-14 points.

Display type

Text that is set above 14 points. After selecting body sizes, you should select a Display text size that is at least 1 1/2 to 3 times larger than what is specified for the body

Sizing & Spacing Type

Line Space

The space between baseline to baseline. Sometimes it's referred to as leading, which is slightly different.

Leading

The difference between the type size and the line space. 14 point type set with 16 point line space will have a 2 point leading. This name stems from the days when type used to be made out of metal and typesetters would use strips of lead in between lines to increase the spacing between letters. Leading and Line space are often confused and mislabeled as one another.

You should use between one to four points of leading in text. Some folks specify that the line spacing should be about 1 1/2 times the font size. Another rule of thumb is that the leading should be about 20 percent of the type size (divide by 5). Heavier typefaces and faces with larger x-heights require more leading.

Line Length

Line length refers to the width of a single line of copy. The typographer must avoid lines that are too long. As with leading, the correct line length depends on the type size and x-height, but generally 1 1/2 to 2 alphabets long. You can also use the font size times 1 1/2 to 3 times and then convert it to picas. So type that is 12 points should have lengths between 18 to 36 picas. If your page is larger than 36 picas, then a two or more column format is suggested.

Letterspacing

This refers to the general space between letters throughout a section of type. As with line space and line length, the proper amount of letter space depends a great deal on the typeface chosen. Letter spacing is sometimes referred to as tracking.

Text letters should never overlap. Letters can be very close to one another, but they must never touch. This style of typography is known as TNT or Tight Not Touching letter space.

Kerning

Kerning refers to the spacing between individual letters. On occasion and in very large display type it is necessary to bring letters closer together to achieve a pleasant visual harmony.

Trying to kern by putting the same mathematical amount of space between characters will not work. Try to imagine liquid pouring between the letters and try to make the liquid feel like it has the same volume between the letters. You are trying to prevent focal points that the reader focuses on when reading the type and creating an even gray area.

Word Space

This refers to the spacing between words generated by typing the space bar on your keyboard. Word space is always larger than the letter space.

Justification

Justification is the alignment of the right or left margins of text. Text can be left justified (ragged right), right justified (ragged left) or full justified. Heated discussions among typesetters can arise when discussing whether left justified or full justified is better. Personally I prefer flush-left, ragged right text, because full justification requires proper hyphenation in order to prevent rivers from text (big gaps of continuous white space) from occurring. Researchers have discovered that readers are not aware of whether the type they are reading is justified or not.

Mono-spacing

Certain typefaces are meant to emulate typewritten styles and are sometimes not kerned or letter spaced in order to provide consistent spacing and alignment. We call those typefaces mono-spaced because the space between letters is the same regardless of the letters.

Greeking

Oftentimes you'll be designing an ad before the copy is completed or the copywriter (if you're lucky enough to have one) gives you the copy. In such instances designers use dummy copy. To prevent the client from focusing too much on what is written on the page, designers oftentimes use greek copy that begins with Lorem Ipsum Dolor Sit, etc. You can find lots of greet at: http://www.lipsum.com/

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