CSE5910 : Multimedia Programming in Java

Lecture : TypograpHy

In the previous lecture:

In this lecture:

How can we use type effectively?

printing press

...the art of printing, particularly those branches of it concerned with the design, setting, and arrangement of type.

Printing: the production of impressed copies from the inked surface either of an engraved block or metal plate, of a lithograph, or of movable type.

Technology has changed, but typography remains a vital aspect of communication using text.

Printing Press.
Engraving by Jost Amman, 1568.

Definitions, definitions...

Face / typeface / font: a set of characters including letters, punctuation marks, numbers and assorted textual symbols such as @#$%. Named because the blocks of movable type had a "face"... the front of the block with the type on it is the "type face".

Family: a group of typefaces sharing common features.

The two most common families of type:

Serif S Sans Serif S

The serifs are the little marks at the ends of the sweep of the lefthand S.
'Sans' is French for without, so it's no surprise that a Sans Serif font is a font without serifs!

Some Serif typefaces...

Times Palatino
Courier NewYork

Serif fonts are frequently

Serif fonts often have a formal quality about them. Compare these two sentences. Do they say the same thing?

Serif Typeface Subsets

Some Sans Serif typefaces...
Helvetica Chicago
Charcoal Arial

Sans Serif fonts are:

Besides Serif and Sans Serif fonts...

Decorative typefaces like these

lovely fonts with style

may be used to convey a mood or set a look and feel...

...but should be used sparingly as they are hard to read in large quantities.

block of decorative text

block of serif text

Script fonts emulate handwriting. The characters follow into one another.

script font works poorly in body text but, like decorative
fonts, script may work well in short sections,
headers or on dance party & birthday invitations.

Monospaced faces such as Courier allow the same amount of horizontal space for each letter.

For example, count the x's below (Courier on the left, Helvetica on the right)

monospaced font

Monospaced characters line up in columns which is vital in many circumstances.

Code in Courier Code in Helvetica

Type Form: the shape and direction of a typeface.

Type Weight

Roman text - standard / medium weight font.

font roman / medium

Bold text - provides emphasis, adds weight to a page by thickening the character strokes.

font bold

Light text - subtle and gentle characters produced with slender strokes.

font light

Type Width

Condensed text - (compressed) less character width than Roman text of this style.

font condensed

Expanded text - (extended) more character width than Roman text of this style.

font extended

(It is actually the letterforms which are altered in these types, not the spacing between letters.)

Type Posture

Italic text - slants fluidly to the right in the manner of handwriting.

font italic

Oblique text - slants rigidly to the right not in the manner of handwriting.

font oblique

(The character's inclination might be the same, but the Sans Serif font looks regimental whilst the Serif font flows like handwriting.)

Font Size

Font size is measured in points.

There are 72 points to an inch (that's 2.54 cm).

Size of text should indicate its importance relative to other page elements.

Headings should be large.

Footnotes should be small.

And body text should be just so. (Usually around 12pt)

Be consistent with all your font decisions, including size.

Directional Text


be used for effect

But horizontal text appears more stable and is easier to read.

Coloured Text

Small highlights of coloured text can be used to great effect.



But avoid making your pages difficult to read by inappropriate use of colour.

Leading: distance between text lines (The space between rows of movable type used to be filled with lead).

Kerning: space adjustment between particular letters of a font which otherwise appear too distant or too close to one another.

E.g. Note the strange gaps between uppercase 'T' and lowercase 'o', uppercase 'Y' and lower case 'o', uppercase 'I' and lowercase 'n'. Also note the irregular gaps between the lowercase 'w' and the 'o' and 'a' on either side.

Yorkshire Pudding, Towards Infinity

Can you find other examples on this page of character pairs that require kerning?

Spacing: horizontal space between all letters of a font.

Spaced Text

I.e. Spacing is the amount of space before the next letter (whatever it is) begins.

Anti-aliasing smooths the jaggies around large characters.

anti-aliased A

But it can make small characters blurry and illegible...

like this (blurry text)

Homework: Re-examine all of the visual examples (maps, graphs, signs, watch faces etc.) of the lecture on Information Design. What typefaces were used? Why?

Lecture summary:

Fonts contribute a message.

This will depend on the family from which they spring, their orientation, position, relative size and weight and a host of other characteristics, all of which need to be understood to enable the message contributed by the fonts to meet the goals of the production within which they appear.

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