Design terms can be confusing, especially when designers throw around industry-specific lingo. Two words that are frequently used interchangeably are “fonts” and “typefaces”. If you don’t know the difference as a consumer, don’t feel bad. Even designers confuse the two. But what’s the real difference between these terms?
The answer begins in their origins. They are relics of the past which date back to the first printing presses where letters were separated into actual metal cases- hence, upper and lower “case” (via creative bloq).
A typeface is the design of a particular set of glyphs within a stylistic collection of letters. Think of a typeface as a large extended family that all share the same surname, but can still be broken down into smaller families that share even more commonalities. Examples of typefaces are Times New Roman, Helvetica, Didot, Caslon and Baskerville. For a full list of typefaces, you can find them here.
A font is the specific variant of typeface. Each variant of a said typeface can include weight or slant such as italic, bold, light or condensed that define the font.
To confuse everyone further, Adobe, Microsoft and countless others list their typefaces in menus labeled “fonts”. Precision counts, but is this information all that relevant to you as a designer/consumer or merely anecdotal? If you’re working to build a relationship based on accurate communication, knowing and understanding these small differences as a designer can be helpful to build credibility.
But if you’re a consumer… a font may just be a font 🙂
PS. Speaking of fonts and typefaces, score some free, designer fonts right here. Updated on Creative Market weekly!