What the Font!?

By Chad Gordon | August 29, 2014

What the Font?

I’m warning you up front. That this is a curmudgeonly blog about design language.

First, when speaking out loud of a photograph, it is a “picture.” Not a “pitcher.”

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s discuss Font vs Typeface. Like when people say “font” when they really mean “typeface”. Or vice- versa. Whatever. The definitions have evolved with technology, so it is kind of confusing. It isn’t that easy to explain either. But I will try.

What I was taught is that typeface is the style or the design of the letters – how Times looks different than Helvetica.

Font is the delivery mechanism.

Way back in the day type was crafted out of metal or wood blocks, each individual letter would be created at a particular size and stored in cases or drawers with the rest of the letters of the alphabet in that exact size.  So, for example you would have a drawer full of every letter of the alphabet in the typeface Bodoni at 36 point size. Another drawer may contain all the letters for Bodoni at 24 point, and so on. The collection of letters in each size is the font. I’m sure you have seen these drawers or the individual letters.

custom logo design

Fast forward to today and everyone can set type on their computers. It is easy to see why the definitions have become lost or murky. Most software applications that allow you to set type use the word font. You scroll through a “font” menu. So everyone just says “font”.  In one way, this is correct as font is the mechanism for delivering a typeface. The type drawer has been replaced by a computer file. But non-designer people, and even designers, use the word font when they really mean typeface. Saying, “I love that font you used in that logo!” really means, “I love the computer file you used to render that typeface!” I’m sure that isn’t what you meant.

indesign Menu | custom logo design

Still confused?

One of the better metaphors I have seen comes from typographer Nick Sherman:

“The way I relate the difference between typeface and font to my students is by comparing them to songs and MP3s, respectively (or songs and CDs, if you prefer a physical metaphor).”

And expanded upon by designer Stephen Cole:

“When you talk about how much you like a tune, you don’t say: ‘That’s a great MP3’. You say: ‘That’s a great song’. The MP3 is the delivery mechanism, not the creative work; just as in type a font is the delivery mechanism and a typeface is the creative work.”

I know language evolves, so I will cut you some slack if you use the font instead of typeface. I’ll know what you mean. But give it a shot. Typefaces are beautiful.

Just don’t tell me I make pretty “pitchers” any more. I’m not a potter.

Love,

Chad

Share on...

Posted in , and tagged , , , , , , ,

Author

Chad Gordon

Chad is the Creative Director, overseeing the development of virtually every original design. Chad studied photography in Edinburgh, Scotland, and has a degree in photo illustration from Ohio University. In 1991 he worked with Reuben and Company as a photo assistant before joining designRoom as a designer the following year. Chad has received numerous national awards, has shared in his team’s many Addy Awards, and has had his work published in several international design publications. Chad is experienced in all phases of creative design, including concept development, art direction, photography, typography, print production, and website design. Chad’s specialties are photo illustration and identity development. His unique infrared photography has been shown in numerous galleries around northeast Ohio. He is an avid baseball man, a crafty pitcher with speed and movement on his fastball, and played on championship teams in the Roy Hobbs League.

“I trust them with my brand. I trust them with my marketing business. They will not steer you wrong. They will ensure everything is on point moving forward.”

Lauren Byers, Vice President, MarshBerry

"Our client base increased. Our staff base increased. Our reputation and notoriety in the industry increased. The branding has lifted us up to be very confident.”

Denise Corbisiero, COO, Integrity Billing

“We trust them as true professionals who really understand the process that’s required to do things right.”

Carole Boye, CEO, Community Alliance

“They really bring in the heart behind the message. They tell the story in ways that are compelling. They’re really creative and that matters.”

Anthony Guido, VP of Communications & Marketing, Cohen Veterans Network

“…we really felt that they understood what we wanted to accomplish. They listened to us instead of puking their process on us.”

Laura Bren, President, Deeley Insurance Group

“Loved the process – we got so much more than a new logo; helped us unite around a common mission and language.”

Travis Pearson, CEO, Endeavors

“This input helped us work better together as a team. The whole brand refresh process was a wonderful team building opportunity.”

Matthew Wolf, Vice President, Seabrook

“We never had the production value in terms of the presentation/signage – the quality was new and impressive and people really embraced it.”

Marvin Ventrell, Executive Director, National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers

“Take the time to let designRoom get to know you. It is amazing that they get to the core of who you are…”

Jonathan Lee, President & CEO, Signature Health, Inc.

“They became much more like partners deeply embedded inside our business.”

Travis Mlakar, President, Millcraft Paper

  • X