A Visual Guide to Typography

Fast-track your design education by getting familiar with fundamental typographic terms!

Typography is the art and technique of arranging type in your designs. The aim of the game is to make your written language look aesthetically beautiful, and read effectively so your message can be absorbed with impact.

These essential terms will form the foundation of your typography knowledge – so be sure to save, pin, and share these graphics for easy reference!

01. Ascender

Ascender

The ascender is the vertical stem that extends above the x-height of a letter, you can use this landing space as somewhere to place smaller, introduction type.

02. Descender

Descender

The descender is the portion of the letter that extends below the baseline of your font. Use this space to place copy as you would a subheading, or any other text with less importance than a heading. Likewise you could use this area to add a keyline or an embellishment.

03. Serif

Serif

A serif is a typeface with small decorative edges at the ends of the letters, these typefaces have a certain air of sophistication about them and are used often for long copy as they are easy to read.

04. Sans Serif

Sans Serif

A sans serif is a geometric typeface with no additional strokes or spurs at the end of the letters. Sans serifs make for modern, strong title fonts and are considered easy to read – they also make great partners when applied in different weights.

05. Script

Script

A script font is one which mimics the stroke of a paintbrush, often linking letters together. Applying a script can add a certain edge to your design and create a dynamic and interesting pairing when combined with a sans serif.

06. Baseline

Baseline

The line on which most letters sit, and below which descenders extend. Use your baseline to create a symmetrical composition by adding a line of text below, corresponding to the line above.

07. Letter Spacing

Letter spacing

Letter spacing (tracking), is the space between letters on a line. Use this technique to fill empty space and elongate shorter words, creating flush lines between heading to subheading.

08. Line Height

Line height

Line height is the distance between text from baseline to baseline. Altering this space can make your type much more legible and provide breathing space for tightly tracked lines of copy.

Don’t wait to delve deeper into the wonderful world of typography! Now that you’ve learned the basic lingo, apply your knowledge and start learning more about how you can use this artful skill to improve your designs. 

Poppie is passionate about helping people become better designers. As Canva’s Senior Graphic Designer, she’s responsible for many of Canva’s amazing graphics including the daily design tips on Canva’s social, runs educational webinars and workshops and recently authored a book – How to Create a Memorable Brand that Catches On. Got a design question? Ask her on Twitter @poppiepack.