Typefaces and FONTS

Taken from the Floating Frog www.thefloatingfrog.co.uk/

Taken from the Floating Frog http://www.thefloatingfrog.co.uk/

Did you know there’s a difference between a font and a typeface?
If you didn’t, not to worry, neither did I.

typeface is also known as font family. For example, Helvetica is a typeface. Or Caslon Pro is a typeface. Some typefaces have large font families like Helvetica. Some have smaller font families like Arial.

A font is a particular style of a typeface. For example, the bold, italic or roman of that typeface. The font sits within the typeface family – just like children. Each child has a different personality. So too with fonts. Some are bold, some light, some heavy, and others are even bold italic!

Wikipedia has more information should you like to go into a bit more detail.

There are thousands of different typefaces, and there’s a lot more in-depth descriptions on the web – one being The Font Feed.


Some TIPS on using typefaces and fonts

  • Headings generally look good in a sans-serif. The term sans comes from the French word meaning without. Sans-serif fonts are without serifs. An example of sans-serif is Helvetica Neue LT Std – see image below. A serif is a typeface with serifs. For example, Palatino LT Std – see image below. When it comes to body text styles, I often use a serif typeface. Using serif typefaces for body texts doesn’t always apply to all books, especially in ebooks. Sometimes using a sans-serif throughout a book can look great for computer or cellphone reading. That is, we need to look at the usability of reading – where it will be read on – before we implement old text rules 😉 However, for printed books, it all depends on the kind of book you are designing, and the market you designing for. Remember, the typeface you use contributes to how a book is read – with strain or with ease. I think we all prefer the latter!

sans vs serif

  • One can get overwhelmed when choosing typefaces. There are so many that it can become confusing or even intimidating. Experienced designers should have a general knowledge on typefaces. Knowledge comes with time, study, practice, research, and by looking at everything around you… In the street while driving, while shopping, and even while watching television. This doesn’t always have to be learnt through an expensive course. The most obvious route is to read. And read more! It’s a good training ground in becoming aware of typefaces. So next time you are reading, take a moment, and look at the text on the page. Does it look good? Is it easy to read? Could it be better and how?
  • In book design, it helps to choose a typeface with a large font family to support your design. I’ve made the mistake where I once chose a really cool typeface. Loved it! Got it approved! Only to realise afterwards that it didn’t have an italic or a semi-bold font. Those ‘designy’ typefaces are perfect for headlines or for logo use.
    Also, if you using the typeface for body text throughout the book, then a good tip is to test the italics. Sometimes the italics can look awful within the body text. So test the bold and italics to see if you like the way it sits within the text before you make a final decision. Bear in mind, the bigger the font family, the better you are able to show variety in font without using another typeface. Sometimes you just got to… keep it in the family!
    Try to keep it as simple as you can. Don’t complicate matters. A good rule is not to use more than 3 different typefaces within a single book design.


A final note when choosing a typeface, and this goes back to when you designing the spec grid, is to look at the character and line spacing of that typeface.

Character spacing is called kerning.

Spacing between the lines is called leading.

These differ between typefaces and can either result in a pleasant reading experience, or a very strained one for the reader. Depending on who your market is – choose carefully and appropriately. Practicality is just as important as pretty. The typeface selection will play a vital role in keeping within your book’s extent. Some typefaces take up more space on the page than others. So when making up your book’s grid, take your time and play around with the different typefaces.


Hope you found this post enlightening. Is there something you’d like to add? As always, feedback is most welcomed! 🙂

5 thoughts on “Typefaces and FONTS

  1. Hi Sammy

    Thanks for this advice. It’s made me re-think my font choices for a book that I’m writing. Most definitely for the better.

    I’d love to read a blog post from you on font family combinations.

    • Hi Aslam
      Thanks for the comment! Glad I could be of help. When you say ‘font family combinations’ are you referring to when using roman, italic and bold’s together? Would you be willing to share some more detail on your question? I’d be most happy to offer advice here where I can 🙂

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