Basic Typography Terms
By Barb Binder
Many of my InDesign and FrameMaker students come to class with strong computer skills, but lack basic knowledge about setting type. I frequently direct them either to a bookstore (recommending The Non-Designer’s Type Book and The Non-Designer’s Design Book, both from Robin Williams) or to a local college for classes on typography and design.
In the meantime, I still need to explain the terminology I use in class, so past and future students, this one’s for you.
- Typeface—the design of one complete alphabet (i.e., Helvetica, Garamond, Myriad Pro)
- Type size—the overall size of the type, measured in points (i.e., 10pt type)
- Type style—the appearance of the typeface (i.e., bold, italic)
A font is the same thing as a typeface, right? Wrong! A font is one typeface, size and style. (i.e., Helvetica 10pt bold is a font, Helvetica 10pt italic is another font.)
Anatomy of type
- X-height—the height of a lower case x
- X-line—the line that runs along the top of the x (and many of the other lowercase letters)
- Ascenders—the parts of letters that ascend above the x-line
- Baseline—the imaginary line that all letters sit on.
- Descenders—the parts of letters that descend below the baseline