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The Essential Guide to Understanding Typography: What You Need to Know

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The Essential Guide to Understanding Typography: What You Need to Know

Typography is everywhere we look. You can find it in the books or newspapers you read, on all the websites and social media you visit, and even on your way to work on street signs, bumper stickers, and products at your local grocery store.

What is typography you ask?

In simple words, typography is the style or appearance of a text or a style of working with text - something you as an online entrepreneur probably do all the time, by creating websites, blog posts, social media graphics or documents, and even invoices!

Typography can be scary, especially at the beginning of your journey with it. Everyone gets scared when they have to choose their brand font and identify fonts that will perfectly represent their brand, their voice, and their mission. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You just need to know a little more to make a big difference in the projects and stuff you do every day. So let's get started.

First, let's learn about the common types of fonts and all you need to know about them.

The Essential Guide to Understanding Typography: What You Need to Know

So we have SERIF FONTS, which have little strokes, called serifs attached to the main part of the letters. Their classic look makes them perfect for more traditional projects, like printed publications, magazines, and newspapers

SANS SERIF fonts don’t have that extra little stroke (as the name indicates, if you speak french you know that SansSerif means without serif). This style is seen as cleaner and more modern than serif fonts. Also, it is easier to read on computer screens, smartphones, or tablets, which is why we see increased usage of these types of fonts in the online space.

DISPLAY FONTS come in many different styles, like script, blackletter, all caps, and just fancy. Because of their decorative nature, display fonts are best when used in small quantities, for example only in titles or headers or in more graphics-heavy design.

The Essential Guide to Understanding Typography: What You Need to Know

In some ways, fonts have their language. They all have something to say, besides the visible words on the page. They can appear casual, neutral, exotic, funny, or…graphic. This is why it is important to be aware of your message and choose the brand font that represents it.

Now I have to mention that some fonts have extra baggage, like Comic Sans, Curlz, Papyrus, and many more. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with these fonts. They just have a certain reputation as being outdated and overused. So if you find yourself considering them, think twice and try to identify similar fonts, but that are not in this category and won’t detract from our message.

Less is more...

Keep in mind, when deciding which fonts to use, the most important rule is less is more. It is best practice to limit yourself to one or two per project. If you need to have more contrast, try repeating one of your fonts in different sizes, weights, or styles, instead of adding another one to the game. This trick is foolproof for creating fresh and interesting combinations that work.

I bet you are familiar with the saying “opposites attract”. Well, that also applies to fonts. Don't be afraid to combine font styles that are different but complementary, like sans serif with serif, short with tall, or decorative with simple.

The Essential Guide to Understanding Typography: What You Need to Know

How do I choose the right font for my project?

Yes, this can be challenging at first, but don't give up. Look into other designs for inspiration, or check websites like to identify fonts that pair the best. You can also use the font finder by image, like All you have to do is upload a picture with the font that is drawing your attention and this website will identify it for you and show you alternatives. Soon you will be the font master!

What else should you know about typography?

We cannot forget about a few more important terms that you might have heard in terms of typography, like hierarchy, leading, tracking, and kerning. For those that are a little more experienced, these concepts are essential when it comes to creating professional designs. As a beginner, you don't have to know everything about these terms, just the most important things, that will help you design your graphics with more confidence and ease.

So, hierarchy is used to attract the reader’s eyes to what is most important. It shows them where to begin and where to go next while reading, using different levels of intensity. Establishing a hierarchy is simple, just decide which elements you want the reader to notice first, and then make them stand out, by making the items larger, bolder, or just in some way different. Just remember to keep it simple and stick to just a few styles.

Leading is the space between lines of text, for none professionals known as line spacing. If you are not sure how much line spacing to use, don't get scared, the default is mostly just right. The goal is always to make your text as comfortable to read as possible, so too much or too little spacing might be unpleasant for the reader.

Tracking is the space between characters, sometimes called character spacing. Most programs, like Canva, will let you adjust this space depending on your needs. In some designs, you might want to adjust your spacing to create a certain artistic effect. It also might help you fix spacing in poorly spaced fronts.

Kering is the space between specific characters. Unlike tracking, it varies by different letters, because they fit differently together. Some fonts have “bad kerning” from the beginning, making letters look improperly spaced, so sometimes it is just better to switch the font to a better-crafted one.


As you can see, well-crafted text can be the difference between just a well-done project and an extraordinary project, even if you are just a beginner. All it takes is an interest in typography, and believe me, you will start noticing more and seeing more, and that way you can also do more in your work.

I hope you enjoyed learning the basics of typography. Did you learn something new? Please let me know in the comments if this post was valuable to you and if you would like me to write more posts like this.

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