A Crash Course in Typography

December 2006
by Alex W. White

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White, The Elements of Graphic Design (Chapter 11)

A Crash Course in Typography


by Alex W. White


Typography is the art and
craft of designing with type. Typesetting is not typography. Many designers are
mere typesetters because they are not fully informed about the traditions and
subtleties of type use.


Today’s use of type is based on 35
centuries of typographic evolution, on countless improvements based on our need
to record ideas in writing. Developments in the speed, accuracy, and precision
in both the marks we make and the way we reproduce them—in the paper, the
printing presses, and even the inks—are driven by technological


Type Classifications


There are three basic letter
shapes—rectangular, round, and angular—and many ways to classify
styles of type. I prefer a relatively simple system of eight categories. Of
these, serif and sans serif are the most important, because they are the most
used. The fun tends to be in the display styles. My digital font collection,
housed in 11 binders, has four ?lled with display fonts, three showing picture
fonts, two with serif fonts, and one each showing sans serif and script fonts.


Serif. Has cross-lines at the ends of strokes, which date
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