In order to become a better designer you have to communicate using all of the design lingo and terminology. Remember, at it’s core, Graphic Design is about visual communication – particularly if you want to be a great typographer or create amazing type.
When you begin taking on real-world projects (whether for a client or your own business), a basic understanding of letter forms and all of their parts is essential. For example, if you were an illustrator hired to draw cool comic book characters, you’d need to know basic human anatomy to begin drawing the characters accurately.
(It may seem like a dry subject, but think of it like showing an appreciation for your craft and it will make it a little more enjoyable.)
I created the image below to be a study guide of sorts. It should help you learn all of the different parts that make up the anatomy of typography.
An image showing all of the terms that make up the anatomy of a typeface.
Creating type used to be a painstaking process. Often times setting type and page layouts by hand took hours. Now with programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, we can digitally typeset. This means you can download a font and slap it on your website or projects fairly easily. However, we should still be mindful of not only the kerning and linespacing of our type, but also our font selection.
There are many different categories of fonts including scripts, serifs, sans serifs, and slab serif’s, but if you aren’t familiar with them or know how they are used it will be hard for you to make effective design choices when pairing fonts together in your work. I go into more detail about this subject in a recent video post called Communicating with Typography. Here you will begin to see how your font choices impact the viewer and the way your viewer feels. It is important to understand this and to remember that type should be legible and easy to read, but just because something is legible does not mean that it communicates effectively.
Learn from the masters
There are many great typographers out there who are a constant inspiration for me. I would highly recommend finding some great examples that speak to you and try to understand what it is about them that you like so much.
Some of these artists even create their own fonts and books of beautifully crafted typography that you can purchase to add to your design collection. The artists mentioned below are a few of my personal favorites who not only have a mastery of type and design, but also have an incredibly inspiring body of work.
Louise Fili is not only an incredible, highly-decorated typographer, she has been extremely prolific since founding her company Louise Fili Ltd in 1989. Specializing in brand packaging for food and restaurants, her design studio has also created many great book covers, signage, and logos for a lot of big names. Earlier in her career, Louise Fili actually worked as a Senior Designer for Herb Lubalin who is one of the most famous American Graphic Designers and the inventor of the Avante Garde typeface. I was fortunate enough to see one of her lectures in New York a few years ago. I can tell you that she is equally sincere and passionate about her art as she is skilled.
The Australian-based Art Director, Illustrator, and Graphic Designer Luke Lucas is the Co-Founder of Lifelounge and Fourinarow Magazine. Luke has a hugely diverse portfolio of highly detailed and fun typography. Many of his projects include logos, magazine covers, and advertising for some big name clients such as Nike, McDonalds, and Maxim Magazine.
Jessica Hische is an amazing artist who creates beautiful illustrations spanning several genres of art from film and book cover designs to cards, invitations, and even her own typefaces that she sells through her website.
Alex Trochut has a deep understanding and appreciation for typography as an art form. On his website he says “Typography functions on two hierarchical levels. First, there is the image of the word we see; reading comes secondary.” Alex is extremely gifted at mixing different visual styles drawing from fashion, music, and pop-culture. Some of his clients include Time Out Magazine, Pepsi, and Absolut Vodka.
Additional Resources: Typography Deconstructed, Designer Insights, Typedia.
If you are interested in learning more about typography or if you enjoyed this article, please let us know in the comments below.