Typography – Back to the Basics

Over the past centuries thousands of new fonts have been designed. Some emerged out of new means of production others had the purpose to please certain aesthetical or cultural needs. All fonts are organized under the DIN standard 16518 although it has to be mentioned that this classification isn’t very accurate (example: Group Nr. 6 refers to the sans serif fonts which form about 80% of all fonts, hence this group is very imprecise and ought to have more subdivisions) . Unfortunately currently there is no official replacement.

Every font has its own distinctive features, sometimes very obvious ones and sometimes on a rather subtle scale. The best way to memorize some of the basic differences is to actually write some of the key-letters down (with a pen, not digitally). In typography class we were given four pages, each with a different font example, which we had to copy. The fonts were:

  • Garamond (key-letters a, P)
  • Times New Roman (key-letters a,b,g,A,G)
  • Bodoni BE (key-letters e,g,o,R,k)
  • Clarendon (key-letters a,g,t,R,G)

Additionally a short historical background was included to every font (which really helps you memorize the features better). If you want to try it out too you can open any program that can process words in different fonts like Word/OpenOffice/InDesign etc. and type the key-letters. Then you just get your pen and a piece of paper and start copying. Nevertheless it’s a good idea to print out the letters really big and organized in line-grids like this:


example font Clarendon