One of the key elements of signage design is typeface design. A typefaceface for short—also known as typestyle, refers to the printable design of a range of characters: letters, numbers, punctuation marks, etc. This blogpost dissects the parts that make up a typeface.

Font things first!

At this point, you may find yourself asking: Well, is a typeface basically a font then? Good guess, but ultimately not true. A typeface is distinct from a font, which is a set of styles and weights of a typeface. (Think: Italic, Cursive, Extra Bold, Semi Condensed, Bevel, etc.) The conflation of font with typeface is a common one, particularly because many of our software use the two words interchangeably.

A medieval typeface for the letter R.


Now that we have covered the basics of typefaces, it’s time to jump into the nitty-gritty. As with handwritten words and symbols, printed words and symbols must be legible too. It’s for this reason that teachers love typefaces like Times New Roman and Arial. Whether italicized or bolded, these typefaces hold their readability and let the focus of the reader be on the content of the signage, rather than its format. Legibility is also important when it comes to eco-friendly typefaces, which are typefaces that save ink and yet still retain the essence of their designs. Century Gothic, Garamond, and Courier would be good examples.

Times New Roman typeface for the word Knowledge.


Now, if you’ve ever been interested in calligraphy or cursives, the curvature and extension of letters have likely captured your heart in a major way. One common decorative element in typefaces is the serif, a kind of short protrusion (or stroke) at an upper-end or lower-end angle; names of typefaces like Sans Serif and MS Serif reflect how they possess these nifty little features. Sometimes serifs are at diagonal angles and more swirly, as you may have seen inside many old Bibles and in The New York Times logo. Another useful means of decoration is negative space. The FedEx logo is a good example; it squeezes in a white arrow between the E and the x.

Typeface utilizing negative space.


Regardless of how important legibility and decorativeness are, memorability reigns over them all in the world of graphic design. If a typeface is easy to read and elaborately adorned and yet fails to make a sizable impression, the letters in a sign can pale in comparison with those of other signs. Legibility without memorability can result in an aesthetic frustration; on the other hand, decorativeness without memorability can result in an underwhelmed reaction.

A typeface for the letter M incorporating the silhouette of an eagle.


The world of typefaces is fascinating, and all master signage designers know that they are crucial. Therefore, whether you wish to have banners or decals designed, having a competent designer on your side is key. For more information on signage, simply consult Quint’s Signs Overnite today!