Diseño Gráfico · Creativo Visual


It is impossible not to have constant direct contact with typefaces. They accompany us at all times, as they are part of our daily routine. We are therefore talking about a very powerful visual element that we can make use of in graphic design.


We are in constant contact with typefaces. They accompany us at all times, as they are part of our daily routine. We see them on posters, advertisements, reading, books and many more. We are therefore talking about a constant visual element that we can make use of in graphic design.

Furthermore, typographies are a key tool when designing the brand identity or branding of a project. Together with the logo, the colour palette and other resources, they form part of the visual branding that we design strategically to reinforce the message we want to send.

In this article I am going to go deeper into the concept of typography. You will learn what a typeface family is and its variables, as well as the 4 main groups of typefaces that exist according to their shape.

What is a typography?

The word typography comes from the Greek: “typos” which means stroke, mark or form, and “graphia” which means the quality of writing.

Thus, we can define typography as “the art of designing letters”. It is the discipline that studies the graphic representation of letters in order to make written language effective. It is the set of techniques for graphically creating letters and characters. Its name refers to the traces (or type) that are printed when we write. This discipline focuses on establishing rules of composition for the design and use of written symbols.

At the same time, we also call typography to writing with a set of alphanumeric characters, previously elaborated and that have a style and a series of characteristics in common. The whole family of characters has been designed following the same guidelines and style.

Some types of typefaces: Serif, Sans Serif, and Slab Serif

The author of typography is called the typographer.

We must not confuse the technique of typography with Lettering “the art of drawing letters” or Calligraphy “the art of writing letters”. Although they share similarities, these 3 techniques differ in how the creation of letters is conceived and approached.

As with shapes, colours or images, typefaces can also evoke concepts or emotions. This is called typographic psychology.

This psychology can help us to deepen and transmit even more with the visual identity of the brand. For example, if we want the company to appear modern and approachable, we can resort to a dry stick typeface. If we are looking for something more traditional and serious, a serif typeface might be a better option.


If we go too deeply into each of the categories of typefaces, we could classify them according to their morphology into 4 large groups:

  • Serif (roman)
  • Sans serif
  • Script (handwritten)
  • Display (decorative)

Let’s get to know them one by one so that you can learn to differentiate them by their shape.

Serif typefaces (Roman)

Serif typefaces are those that have finials or terminals, which are those small ornaments located at the ends of the strokes of the characters.

They are conceived as serious, institutional and traditional. They are perfect typefaces for paragraphs or long texts due to their legibility, as the small finials or serifs help to create an imaginary line under the text that makes it much easier for our eye to read.

Egyptian or Slab serif typefaces are among the serif typefaces, and are characterised by the fact that the finial is the same thickness as the rest of the stroke of the letters. They are typewriter typefaces or similar (Courier).

Some examples of Serif typefaces are: Times New Roman, Garamond or Book Antigua.

garamond typography

Sans-serif typefaces

Sans serif typefaces are characterised by the absence of end caps and terminals. They are designed without serifs and their strokes show little contrast.

Sans Serif typefaces are usually associated with commercial typography, as they offer a very good result for printing headlines or little text, in posters and advertising. This font style conveys modernity, security, neutrality and minimalism.

Although this typeface does not have the invisible line that Serif typefaces achieve for long texts, it is also very popular for texts on screen and texts in small sizes, precisely because of its lack of terminals and finials. They work very well in titles, posters and large formats.

There is a type within the Sans Serif families that are the Rounded typefaces, with soft shapes that tend towards the perfect circle and canes that are also rounded.

Some examples of San Serif typefaces are: Futura, Helvetica, Arial, Gotham, Verdana or Avenir.

gotham typography

Script fonts (handwritten)

Handwritten typefaces are also known as cursive or script typefaces. They are typefaces that represent or imitate handwriting, so sometimes they can also be called calligraphic typefaces, such as the Gothic font that imitated the handwriting of monks, or with a more modern and casual way of writing, such as Alex Brush. There are also typefaces that are used as signatures, which are intended to imitate a rubric.

Generally these types of typefaces have an italic or cursive tendency. The letters are linked to each other and offer more pronounced curves than in serif typefaces.

As they are linked to calligraphy, they have a more human and close personality. Examples of cursive typefaces are Beckham Script or Parisienne.

beckham typography

Display typefaces (decorative)

They are also known as decorative typefaces. Considered to be fun typefaces, more casual, but with the potential to transmit a wide variety of sensations.

They have a very strong character and personality. From the point of view of typographic psychology, they are transgressive, eye-catching and help to attract more attention. However, the legibility offered by this type of fonts is, in general, somewhat poorer.

The characteristics of these decorative typefaces do not fit into the three previous sets. They are usually created for specific purposes where legibility loses a bit of value. They are very expressive and tend to have more thematic attributes.

In short, they are suitable for logos or short headlines. However, they are definitely not good fonts for paragraphs of text.

They can transmit a lack of care or disinterest in the design. Therefore, it is necessary to weigh well when using this type of typefaces.

cooper typography

What is a typeface family?

A typeface family is a set of characters, alphabetic or not, that have common characteristics in their structure and style. This allows us to identify them as a single family.

The members of the same typeface family resemble each other, but have their own characteristics such as variations in weight, inclination and proportion. This is discussed further in the next section.

There are a multitude of typeface families. They originally emerged with the creation of the printing press, but others have appeared as a result of the advent of digitisation.

Typeface families with and without serif | Swift and Gotham

Typographic variables and small caps

Typographic variables are the options that can be found within the same typeface family. They are modifications of the morphology of the typeface, i.e. its shape. They act on the thickness of the stroke, the width or proportion of the character and the inclination of the vertical axis of the characters of the same typeface family.

Thanks to typographic variables we will be able to establish a visual hierarchy in our compositions and designs. They also help us to cover the needs that may arise when communicating visually with typefaces.

When I am asked how many typefaces I can use in a design, or how many typefaces a brand should have, my answer is that it is better to play with the variables of the family and not use a very high number of different fonts.

Weight as a typographic variable

The weight variable, i.e. thickness or pitch, directly affects the stroke of the characters. It changes the relationship between the width of the stroke and the empty spaces within each typeface.

Light typefaces have a smaller stroke width, while bold typefaces have a larger stroke width.

Proportion as a typographic variable

The width or proportion variable directly affects the character structure. In short, it is the change in the width of the letter. In principle, the stroke does not change.

Condensed and expanded typefaces are typefaces that have been designed from scratch and created expressly for this variable, just like regular typefaces. That is why we should not deform the scale of our typefaces if we need condensed or expanded fonts.

The size variation in the vertical direction is not considered a typographic variable, as it corresponds to a simple modification of the typeface body.

Tilt as a typographic variable

The tilting typographic variable modifies the axis of the characters. It refers to the angle of inclination of the typeface. It changes the structure and alters the rhythm.

Within the typographic variable of inclination we will be able to recognise two types. Oblique and italic.

Typefaces with an oblique variable have the same morphology as regular typefaces, but with a slanted axis. On the other hand, italic variable typefaces also have their own morphology that reminds us of calligraphy.

Small caps typefaces

After looking at typographic variables, it is a good time to also mention small caps. These typefaces have alphabets that keep the height of the upper case (capital letters) at the same height as the lower case (small letters).

Small caps are typefaces that can be very useful if, for example, we need them for aesthetic reasons. We use this option, for example, if we need to use capital letters and we do not want to create irregularities in the text.


Typography is a fundamental element of graphic design and its communication. It is not only essential in terms of legibility, but also in terms of design, ideas, concepts, values or sensations to be transmitted.
There are many typographies. Many more than you imagine and the truth is that you will not use 98% of them. Knowing how to choose them, knowing how they work, how to articulate them and what options they offer us to be able to transmit a message as we want it to, is fundamental.
If we need to use a bold, condensed or italic typeface, remember to always choose the typographic variable before doing so with digital options, which alter its structure.


Hi, I’m Roberto Vidiella.

I am the founder and Creative Director of VIDI. I am passionate about graphic design, and through this blog, I try to deepen my knowledge and share what I have learned during my career. If you leave me a comment, you help me to keep learning and improving, and also because I’m really excited about it!

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