what is typography?The visual component of the written word

Ty­pog­ra­phy is the vi­sual com­po­nent of the writ­ten word.

A text is a se­quence of words. A text stays the same no mat­ter how it’s ren­dered. Con­sider the sen­tence “I like pizza.” I can print that text on a piece of pa­per, or read it aloud, or save it in a file on my lap­top. It’ll be the same text, just ren­dered dif­fer­ent ways—vi­su­ally, au­di­bly, digitally.

But when “I like pizza” is printed, ty­pog­ra­phy gets in­volved. All vi­su­ally dis­played text in­volves ty­pog­ra­phy—whether it’s on pa­per, a com­puter screen, or a billboard.

For ex­am­ple, what’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween these two signs: the text or the typography?

Is ty­pog­ra­phy an art? That’s like ask­ing if pho­tog­ra­phy is an art. Some pho­tog­ra­phers and ty­pog­ra­phers use tech­niques that raise their work to the level of art. But at their core, both pho­tog­ra­phy and ty­pog­ra­phy have a util­i­tar­ian func­tion. The aes­thetic com­po­nent is sep­a­rate. Be­ing an ef­fec­tive ty­pog­ra­pher is more about good skills than good taste. And you can learn the skills.

by the way
  • Don’t in­fer from this high­way-sign ex­am­ple that ty­pog­ra­phy is an­other word for font. Ty­pog­ra­phy en­com­passes all the con­sid­er­a­tions about the vi­sual ap­pear­ance of type. Fonts are one part of that.

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