font metal letters
When creating a design that includes copy (words), there’s always going to be the question of which font to use. Wait, is it font or typeface? Typeface? What in the world is a typeface? You may be asking yourself these questions right now, and that’s completely normal for non-designers. Shoot, before a month ago I didn’t even know what a typeface was or what it had to do with a font. So I talked with our designers, did some research and now I get to share my new knowledge with my blog friends!

What’s the difference between font and typeface?

Quick History

Once upon a time in a pre 1960 world, we had analog printing- you know, where everything was done manually back before technology took over. Every page was set out in frames with metal letters that were rolled in ink and then pressed down onto a clean piece of paper. This was similar to how today’s newspapers are made (yes come people still get printed newspapers – I personally read the funnies and find them great for things like starting fires and craft projects but I digress). Printers (speaking of people, not the digital things we have today) needed thousands of physical metal blocks, each with different characters facing outward. So, if you wanted to print Helvetica, for example, you needed different blocks for every different size (12 point, 14 point…  you get the idea) and weight (bold, light, medium).

Font and Typeface

The analog practice of printing is where we get the terms font and typeface. Helvetica from the example would be the typeface; it described all of the thousands of metal blocks a printer might have on hand designed with the same basic principles. Whereas a font described a subset of blocks in that typeface, but each font had a specific size and weight.

For example, italicized Helvetica at 14 point was a different font than bolded Comic Sans 12 point. So, normal Times New Roman in 24 point would be a different font than normal Times New Roman in 72 point. Are you following me?

And if you still don’t understand what a font and typeface are…

In short: The typeface is the model (type) of car you drive, for example: Explorer.  The font is all of the variations of the model, for example: red, 2013, four door.

So why do we seem to refer to all of them as fonts instead of typefaces?

Well if you really want to you can blame Microsoft. Almost all computer users are familiar with the software and it’s option to pick different fonts. But if you’ve learned anything from above, you’re really picking out a typeface and not a font.

Does the difference really matter?

Most people unknowingly already use font and typeface interchangeably, so it really doesn’t matter which you use when talking to designers. If a designer is really offended by you using the wrong term they’re probably just trying to be a smarty pants.

The more you know!

Now when you go to design or redesign your website with us and you want to change your font or typeface, you’ll know which lingo to use. Also, don’t be afraid to share your fancy, new knowledge when using Microsoft Word next time you’re at work. You can even share this post with friends, family and coworkers on social media with the links below!

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