Typography refers to the arrangement of text on a page, and appears in some form or another in all instances of written communication. Depending on the purpose, typography can be used for optimum readability, impact, or an artistic statement. Some graphic designers work totally in text, and study typography extensively while they perfect their art. Quality typography can make a big difference in communications, because it can impact the way the reader sees and feels about the topic being discussed.
At the most basic, typography is a combination of font, size, spacing, and color. For example, wiseGEEK articles use a clear sans serif font in a moderate size, arranged on the screen for maximum readability. The text is black on a pale background, further enhancing the readability, and links within the text stand out because they are underlined, and in a different color. The overall purpose behind the typography of the article is to clearly communicate written information to a reader.
This is also the case with typography in newspapers, books, and other sources of information. Newspaper typography is a carefully balanced art form, as the compositors of the newspaper must be able to fit the required text within certain page restrictions. The newspaper staff must also make decisions about the sizing for headlines, and the placement of material on the page. The next time you see a physical newspaper, examine the typography more closely, and see if you can observe patterns in the way articles and photographs are laid out on the page. You should be able to immediately distinguish the lead article, for example, as it should instantly draw your eye.
However, typography can also be elevated into an art form. The best examples of highly artistic typography are found in advertising design. For example, most consumers associate particular fonts with certain branded products, because the advertising campaign featured distinctive use of those fonts. The design teams behind the advertising campaign made a series of design roughs which probably included a variety of fonts so that the designers and company executives could decide on a design which best represented the company.
Especially in modern art, typography is also used to convey an artistic statement. Famous works of modern art often include the use of text as a visual medium, sometimes alone, and sometimes with image. The font, letter spacing, and color are all important considerations for maximum visual impact. Small changes in the typography can radically alter the look and feel of a piece, and numerous computer graphic design programs make it easier for designers to modify their typography to perfection. Classic typography, using movable type and a press, required a close eye to detail, and an ability to extrapolate the final look of the piece from limited visual information.
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