Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable and appealing when displayed. The arrangement of type involves selecting typefaces, point sizes, line lengths, line-spacing (leading), and letter-spacing (tracking), and adjusting the space between pairs of letters (kerning). The term typography is also applied to the style, arrangement, and appearance of the letters, numbers, and symbols created by the process. Type design is a closely related craft, sometimes considered part of typography; most typographers do not design typefaces, and some type designers do not consider themselves typographers. Typography also may be used as an ornamental and decorative device, unrelated to the communication of information.

Typography is the work of typesetters (also known as compositors), typographers, graphic designers, art directors, manga artists, comic book artists, graffiti artists, and, now, anyone who arranges words, letters, numbers, and symbols for publication, display, or distribution, from clerical workers and newsletter writers to anyone self-publishing materials. Until the Digital Age, typography was a specialized occupation. Digitization opened up typography to new generations of previously unrelated designers and lay users. As the capability to create typography has become ubiquitous, the application of principles and best practices developed over generations of skilled workers and professionals has diminished. Thus, at a time when scientific techniques can provide evidence that supports established practice (legibility or brand recognition achieved through the appropriate use of serifs, letter case, letter forms, contrast, spacing, etc.) through understanding the limitations of human vision, typography may be encountered that fails to achieve its principal objective: effective communication.




The word “typography” in English comes from the Greek roots τύπος typos (‘impression’) and -γραφία -graphia (‘writing’).



Although typically applied to printed, published, broadcast, and reproduced materials in contemporary times, all words, letters, symbols, and numbers written alongside the earliest naturalistic drawings by humans may be called typography. The word, typography, is derived from the Greek words τύπος typos “form” or “impression” and γράφειν graphein “to write”, traces its origins to the first punches and dies used to make seals and currency in ancient times, which ties the concept to printing. The uneven spacing of the impressions on brick stamps found in the Mesopotamian cities of Uruk and Larsa, dating from the second millennium B.C., may be evidence of type, wherein the reuse of identical characters was applied to create cuneiform text. Babylonian cylinder seals were used to create an impression on a surface by rolling the seal on wet clay. Typography was also implemented in the Phaistos Disc, an enigmatic Minoan printed item from Crete, which dates to between 1850 and 1600 B.C.[8][9][10] It has been proposed that Roman lead pipe inscriptions were created with movable type printing,[ but German typographer Herbert Brekle recently dismissed this view.

The essential criterion of type identity was met by medieval print artifacts such as the Latin Pruefening Abbey inscription of 1119 that was created by the same technique as the Phaistos Disc. The silver altarpiece of patriarch Pellegrinus II (1195–1204) in the cathedral of Cividale was printed with individual letter punches. Apparently, the same printing technique may be found in tenth to twelfth century Byzantine reliquaries. Other early examples include individual letter tiles where the words are formed by assembling single letter tiles in the desired order, which were reasonably widespread in medieval Northern Europe.

Typography with movable type was invented during the eleventh-century Song dynasty in China by Bi Sheng (990–1051).[21] His movable type system was manufactured from ceramic materials, and clay type printing continued to be practiced in China until the Qing Dynasty.

Wang Zhen was one of the pioneers of wooden movable type. Although the wooden type was more durable under the mechanical rigors of handling, repeated printing wore the character faces down and the types could be replaced only by carving new pieces.

Metal movable type was first invented in Korea during the Goryeo Dynasty, approximately 1230. Hua Sui introduced bronze type printing to China in 1490 AD. The diffusion of both movable-type systems was limited and the technology did not spread beyond East and Central Asia, however.
A sixteenth century workshop in Germany showing a printing press and many of the activities involved in the process of printing

Modern lead-based movable type, along with the mechanical printing press, is most often attributed to the goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg in 1439. His type pieces, made from a lead-based alloy, suited printing purposes so well that the alloy is still used today. Gutenberg developed specialized techniques for casting and combining cheap copies of letter punches in the vast quantities required to print multiple copies of texts. This technical breakthrough was instrumental in starting the Printing Revolution and the first book printed with lead-based movable type was the Gutenberg Bible.

Rapidly advancing technology revolutionized typography in the latter twentieth century. During the 1960s some camera-ready typesetting could be produced in any office or workshop with stand-alone machines such as those introduced by IBM (see: IBM Selectric typewriter). During the same period Letraset introduced Dry transfer technology that allowed designers to transfer types instantly.[30] The famous Lorem Ipsum gained popularity due to its usage in Letraset. During the mid-1980s personal computers such as the Macintosh allowed type designers to create typefaces digitally using commercial graphic design software. Digital technology also enabled designers to create more experimental typefaces as well as the practical typefaces of traditional typography. Designs for typefaces could be created faster with the new technology, and for more specific functions. The cost for developing typefaces was drastically lowered, becoming widely available to the masses. The change has been called the “democratization of type” and has given new designers more opportunities to enter the field.



The design of typefaces has developed alongside the development of typesetting systems.[32] Although typography has evolved significantly from its origins, it is a largely conservative art that tends to cleave closely to tradition.[33] This is because legibility is paramount, and so the typefaces that are the most readable usually are retained. In addition, the evolution of typography is inextricably intertwined with lettering by hand and related art forms, especially formal styles, which thrived for centuries preceding typography,[33] and so the evolution of typography must be discussed with reference to this relationship.

In the nascent stages of European printing, the typeface (blackletter, or Gothic) was designed in imitation of the popular hand-lettering styles of scribes.[34] Initially, this typeface was difficult to read, because each letter was set in place individually and made to fit tightly into the allocated space.[35] The art of manuscript writing, whose origin was during Hellenistic and Roman bookmaking, reached its zenith in the illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages. Metal typefaces notably altered the style, making it “crisp and uncompromising”, and also brought about “new standards of composition”.[33] During the Renaissance period in France, Claude Garamond was partially responsible for the adoption of Roman typeface that eventually supplanted the more commonly used Gothic (blackletter).[36]:8 Roman typeface also was based on hand-lettering styles.[37]

The development of Roman typeface can be traced back to Greek lapidary letters. Greek lapidary letters were carved into stone and “one of the first formal uses of Western letterforms”; after that, Roman lapidary letterforms evolved into the monumental capitals, which laid the foundation for Western typographical design, especially serif typefaces.[36]:10 There are two styles of Roman typefaces: the old style, and the modern. The former is characterized by its similarly weighted lines, while the latter is distinguished by its contrast of light and heavy lines.[34] Often, these styles are combined.

By the twentieth century, computers turned typeface design into a rather simplified process. This has allowed the number of typefaces and styles to proliferate exponentially, as there now are thousands available.[34] Unfortunately, confusion between typeface and font (the various styles of a single typeface) occurred in 1984 when Steve Jobs mislabeled typefaces as fonts for Apple computers and his error has been perpetuated throughout the computer industry, leading to common misuse by the public of the term “font” when typeface is the proper term



There are many facets to the expressive use of typography, and with those come many different techniques to help with visual aid and the graphic design. Spacing and kerning, size-specific spacing, x-height and vertical proportions, character variation, width, weight, and contrast,[38] are several techniques that are necessary to be taken into consideration when thinking about the appropriateness of specific typefaces or creating them. When placing two or more differing and/or contrasting fonts together, these techniques come into play for organizational strategies and demanding attractive qualities. For example, if the bulk of a title has a more unfamiliar or unusual font, simpler sans-serif fonts will help complement the title while attracting more attention to the piece as a whole.



With a drop cap, the initial sits within the margins and runs several lines deep into the paragraph, indenting some normal-sized text in these lines. This keeps the left and top margins of the paragraph flush.

DIn modern computer browsers, this may be achieved with a combination of HTML and CSS by using the float: left; setting. A CSS-only solution alternatively can use the :first-letter pseudo-element. An example of this format is the following paragraph:


A block quotation (also known as a long quotation or extract) is a quotation in a written document that is set off from the main text as a paragraph, or block of text, and typically distinguished visually using indentation and a different typeface or smaller size font. This is in contrast to setting it off with quotation marks in a run-in quote. Block quotations are used for long quotations.

The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems
Kathleen Swanson

The Chicago Manual of Style recommends using a block quotation when extracted text is 100 words or more, or approximately six to eight lines in a typical manuscript.

Typographic alignment

In typesetting and page layout, alignment or range is the setting of text flow or image placement relative to a page, column (measure), table cell, or tab. The type alignment setting is sometimes referred to as text alignment, text justification, or type justification.

Title of image

The edge of a page or column is known as a margin, and a gap between columns is known as a gutter.

Justification has been the preferred setting of type in many Western languages through the history of movable type. This is due to the classic Western manuscript book page being built of a column or two columns, which is considered to look “best” if it is even-margined on the left and right. The classical Western column did not rigorously justify, but came as close as feasible when the skill of the penman and the character of the manuscript permitted. Historically, both scribal and typesetting traditions took advantage of abbreviations (sigla), ligatures, and swashes to help maintain the rhythm and colour of a justified line.

Its use has only waned somewhat since the early 20th century through the advocacy of the typographer Jan Tschichold’s book Asymmetric Typography and the freer typographic treatment of the Bauhaus, Dada, and Russian constructivist movements.

Not all “flush left” settings in traditional typography were identical. In flush left text, words are separated on a line by the default word space built into the font.

Continuous casting typesetting systems such as the Linotype were able to reduce the jaggedness of the right-hand sides of adjacent lines of flush left composition by inserting self-adjusting space bands between words to evenly distribute white space, taking excessive space that would have occurred at the end of the line and redistributing it between words. This feature is also available in desktop publishing systems, although most now default to more sophisticated approaches.

Graphic designers and typesetters using desktop systems also have the option, though rarely used, to adjust word and letter spacing, or “tracking”, on a manual line-by-line basis to achieve more even overall spacing. Some modern desktop publishing programs, such as Adobe InDesign, evaluate the effects of all the different possible line-break choices on the entire paragraph, to choose the one that creates the least variance from the ideal spacing while justifying the lines (so as to reduce rivers); this also gives the least uneven edge when set with a ragged margin.


Pre-digital era

  • Manual typesetting
  • Hot metal typesetting
  • Phototypesetting