In its essence, typography is how a word looks, including what font (typeface) it is set in, what color it is, and how dramatic and decorative, or how practical, it is. The possibilities are almost endless, especially when you consider hand-lettering (the process of creating letters by hand) and the continual creation of new fonts (Practical Typography). In fact, when faced with the long list of typefaces and fonts available to you, the task of choosing the right one can be more than a bit daunting. Knowing how to look at typography, and the different kinds of messages it sends, can help make the task easier.
Font versus Typeface
Oftentimes the words ‘font’ and ‘typeface’ are used interchangeably. While, yes, the words do relate to the overall appearance of the letters, they each mean something different. A typeface, also referred to as a type family, includes the different variations of the type. The word ‘font’ is the term used to describe the individual variations within a type family. For example, Helvetica comes in different weights and styles, such as light, bold, regular, etc. Let’s say a designer decides to use Helvetica Bold in their design. The typeface being used is Helvetica, while the font is Helvetica Bold. It can be difficult to distinguish whether or not the correct word to use is typeface or font, but once you figure out if you are looking at the overall name for a type family or a specific font within the type family, it can become easier to make the differentiation.
When you hear the words typeface and font, you might think of Times New Roman, the classic typeface used for school papers, or Comic Sans, the typeface that everyone loves to hate. There are a multitude of type families out there, each as unique as the next, and choosing just one or two can be a real challenge. The appearance of the font has an important influence on which message the viewers receive, based on the mood or tone it sets. Font choice may seem like a small detail, but in reality, it can make all the difference.
Typefaces are commonly divided into categories, such as serif, sans-serif, slab-serif, decorative or display, and script. (Fonts.com)