When discussing typography, a typeface is a set of one or more fonts that contain glyphs that share common design features. It can represent either an individual letter, number, punctuation mark, or symbol, and the same glyphs can be used for characters from different scripts (i.e. Roman upper-case ‘A’ looks just like the Cyrillic upper-case ‘A’ or Greek upper-case alpha). On top of that, typefaces can also be used for a variety of applications such as map-making, mathematics or astrology. 

A typeface is often confused with the term ‘font’, however in professional typography, the two terms are not interchangeable. In contrast to a typeface, the term ‘font’ is used to define a particular alphabet and its associated characters in a given size. For instance, a 10-point Times New Roman was considered as one font while a 12-point Times New Roman was considered as another.

In regards to typefaces, each font will have a specific weight, style, condensation, width, slant, italicization, ornamentation, and designer or foundry, and this is what helps people distinguish them. For example, “Neue Helvetica Bold Italic” font is different from “Neue Helvetica Condensed Ultra Light” font even though they are all within the same typeface which is “Neue Helvetica”. While the first one is bolded and italicized, the other is thin and has a condensed-width.

Currently, there are thousands of typefaces that already exist, however new ones are continuously being developed. Fonts that share a specific weight and stylistic variants (i.e. regular, italic, condensed, etc.) are grouped together in ‘font families’, which is a collection of highly related typeface designs.

Examples of Typefaces:

To help you better understand typefaces, here are some examples of typefaces that you may be familiar with:

  • Roman typefaces – includes Serif and Sans-serif typefaces
  • Blackletter typefaces
  • Gaelic typefaces
  • Monospaced typefaces
  • CJK (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) typefaces – includes Mincho, Goth, and Maru styles
  • Script typefaces
  • Ethnic typefaces
  • Ornamental typefaces
  • Symbol (or dingbat)  typefaces
  • Emoji

Have another view, an anecdote that you would like to share, or just a question for the author? Feel free to comment below!

in Designer Resources Definitions
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