WCC Typography

Before there were letters there were
pictures. The first type message that
we find in history was a series of
pictures that told a story, known
as pictographs. Native Americans
and Egyptians separately developed
ideographs; in the case of Egypt, this
led to the famous Egyptian
The Greek alphabet, which was
derived from the Phoenician
alphabet, marked
the true beginnings of our modern
alphabet and
the Romans contributed the serifs
and the first
thick and thin strokes.
Phoenician alphabet,
Type is an important design element used to
communicate and, after imagery, is the main
source used to communicate ideas and meanings.
Typography plays an important role in how audiences
perceive your document and its information.
Good design is about
capturing your audience’s interest and
helping your audience gather information
quickly and accurately.
Typography creates relationships between different
types of information, both organizing this information
and keeping it interesting.
A font is the one size, weight and width
of a typeface: for example Arial Narrow
11pt is a font.
Serif and Sans Serif Fonts
Serifs are the small tick-like lines at the end of
character strokes. Every letter in a serif font
includes serifs. The serifs assist the eye to
read the text.
Typeface is usually mistaken with font.
But they are different.
A sans serif font doesn’t have serifs and is
typically used in headings and titles.
The term font refers to a specific
member of the typeface family; for
example: roman, bold or italic.
Type Families
Type families are the complete set of one
typeface. The roman font is the initial font
from which a family of typefaces derives.
Every font style has different type families.
For example:
Typeface refers to the consistent
visual appearance or style; for example,
Helvetica or Times New Roman.
Typefaces can be divided into two main
categories: serif and sans serif.
Condensed Bold, Condensed Black, Ultra Light,
Ultra Light Italic, Light, Regular, Roman, Italic,
Typefaces have been put into very broad categories – type
classification systems. These systems were devised in the nineteenth century to assist printers
in identifying type. By doing this it has helped us to recognise typefaces and learn the different
functions suited to the various type families.
Initially we can divide typefaces into:
• text type (what you would typically use in the
body of your text)
• display type (what you would typically use for
Text type can be placed into three
broad categories: firstly, Old Style
letterforms, which are closely
connected to calligraphy and the way
our hand naturally moves to create
letterform. Then there are Transitional
and Modern; these typefaces are less
organic and are inspired by original
and abstract forms.
Display type came about in the
nineteenth century because existing
fonts were primarily used for books
and therefore not always suited for
billboards, posters and pamphlets.
Bolder, stronger
faces were required for this new
context; Ultra Bodoni is an example
produced in that era that is still used
Art Deco
Art Deco was an art and design movement of the 1920s and 1930s. Its classic geometric
style heavily influenced typography. Straight lines and sharp angles began to be used as
the basis for sans serif designs. As this was the ‘Machine Age’, typography
began to take on an industrial, streamlined and futuristic appearance. All things Egyptian
were very much in vogue at the time and this trend also influenced the style of
typography created, even leaning towards Egyptian hieroglyphics.
In Art Deco graphic design the effect of overlapping type and
shapes is a common feature. You can use this technique of overlapping type and shapes
in your own design work, whether using an historical or contemporary approach.
The Bauhaus
The Bauhaus is another example of a historic movement that impacted on the design
world. The Bauhaus immerged as a post war design style that favoured simplicity and had
its own unique way of using type and imagery in print design and publications. Herbert
Bayer was a very influential typeface designer during the Bauhaus period whose
experiments with typography sought to reduce the alphabet to a single case. He favoured
geometric sans serif types and perhaps his most famous font is the Bayer Universal. Posters
of the Bauhaus period often had interlocking type and imagery.
Figure 5.6 is an historical example. Figure 5.7 shows us a contemporary application of the
same concept.
Constructivism was a movement that originated in Russia in the early part of the twentieth century. It impacted on
architecture, graphic and industrial design, theatre, film, dance, fashion and, to some extent, music.
Many graphic designers worked on the design of posters for everything from cinema to political and propaganda.
Posters for cinemas were often brightly coloured with geometric imagery and included
Other distinctions of the Constructivist style included jagged angles, contrasts, an
emphasis on geometric shapes and experimentation with subject matter
Constructivist design work could also be quite minimalist. Constructivist typography had its own unique style with
letters and words at right angles to each other and often framed
by bold rules and borders printed in one or two primary colours.
As students you can also be inspired to incorporate the geometric style of constructivism
as seen in Figures 5.11 and 5.12.
Moody Type: Did You Choose the Right Type?
Type is a powerful design element that can be used to evoke a mood or emotion. Used appropriately,
type can not only inform an audience but also provoke feelings and emotions. Reading text is
a combination of the aesthetics of a typeface together with its readability and the perceived
meaning of the text itself. Choose the wrong typeface and you may portray a different meaning
to the one intended. As part of your evaluation ensure you test your choice of typeface.
A type choice can make or break a message. Look at the examples below. Each one has had their message
deliberately interrupted to highlight how, on a conscious or subconscious level, the wrong typeface can
negatively affect the message in print.
Select Your Typeface to Suit Your Purpose
The list below contains some points for
you to think about when selecting your
next typeface. These are not the only
points to consider and you should
always do your own research to choose
a typeface that meets the need of your
Consider the following:
• Script typefaces
– Designed to look like handwriting,
they are useful for display texts but
can be difficult to read in large
amounts (such as text for an
article in a magazine). Script fonts
can be useful to suggest something
personal, artistic and old fashioned.
• Serif typefaces
– These are easier to read off-screen
and therefore are used commonly in
print (books, magazines and
newspapers). Serif fonts can
be useful for conveying warmth,
personal, traditional and conservative
• Display typefaces
– These vary in style and personality.
Depending on the font they can be
difficult to read in large amounts;
however, you can find one that will
suit your purpose. They are
commonly used for logos, headings
and posters.
• Sans serif typefaces
– These are easy to read on-screen and
are commonly used in headlines for
newspapers and magazines, and in
website text. Sans serif typefaces can
be useful for conveying something
technical, cool, clean, youthful
and modern.
Remember: typefaces have
personalities. If their personalities
don’t match the essence of what
you are trying to convey you can
create a conflict, which distracts
your target audience. The
typefaces used in Figure 5.24 for
the Coney Island Travelling Festival
Circus are appropriate in attracting
the target audience of children and
families. The typeface is friendly
and seamlessly sits in with the rest
of the imagery and colours.
Text & Image
Typography can play a key role in design.
Good typography starts with font family choose
these to meet your design goals, but keep them
Use text alignment to create relationships
between different kinds of information.
Create contrast by using a serif font for headings
and a sans serif font for body text (or vice versa).
You can also use italics, bold, tracking, or color to
create contrast.
Do not use more than 2-3 Typefaces within a
Don’t use ugly Typefaces
Use contrast to indicate hierarchy.