This simple Macromedia Director movie presents the basics of typography. Hopefully, you'll learn to use typography better by understanding the ways you can manipulate text in graphic design and by knowing how to refer to those manipulations. For more on typographic design, don't forget to visit the Gestalt & Typography site, also.

To advance the slides, simply click anywhere in the movie.

Copyright 2001, Mike Cuenca. All Rights Reserved.


Typography Basics Script

By Mike Cuenca

This script was written to accompany the visual teaching presentation that is online at http://seekpeace.com/typo. I used this particular presentation in the classroom environment, narrating it myself as I navigated through the online images. The script can be passed on to other teachers/instructors, who can use it to take advantage of the online presentation.



1. Welcome to Typography Basics. Typography is the art of designing with type. We use type to communicate ideas through written language. In this presentation, I'll introduce you the basic terminology of typography.

2. This word is merely a group of individual symbols-what we call letters-grouped together to visually signify the representation of a verbal expression. The way that we present words in print and on electronic screens can significantly enhance the effectiveness of our typographic designs. Let's get started.

3. The measure of the height of type from the bottom of its lowest point to the top of its highest point is referred to as its point size. Picas and points are the traditional printers' measures and there are 72 points in an inch. When we refer to type size, we refer to how many points tall it is.

4. When we set type, the type sits on its "baseline", which is where the bodies of the type rest.

5. Those parts of a letter that may cross under the baseline are called descenders.

6. The height of the bodies of the letters is referred to as the "X-Height" of the type. It is important to note that typefaces with taller x-heights appear larger to the eye than typefaces with shorter x-heights.

7. Those parts of a letter that may rise above the x-height are called ascenders.

8. The "holes" in individual letters are referred to as "counters".

9. The decorative flourishes on some typefaces are called "serifs".

10. In general, the families of typefaces are grouped into two major groups: Serif typefaces-those that have serifs-and Sans-Serif typefaces-those that don't have serifs. Within these groups are many individual, distinct typefaces and styles of type.

11. For example, you see here the four basic type styles. Regular, Bold, Italic, and Bold Italic.

12. These days, there is a nearly limitless number of distinct and individual typefaces. All typefaces have a character and personality of their own. By choosing the most appropriate typeface for a particular design, you can more effectively communicate the mood and attitude of a particular message. On this screen, you can begin to look at the differences between typefaces. Some have are drawn with fine lines, some with heavy lines. Some are rounder or more square than others. Some mimic handwriting. These individual differences make each typeface distinct and unique.

13. Now let's move on to the terminology used when referring to how individual letters, words, and lines of type are positioned relative to each other.

14. Tracking is the measurement of space between all of the letters in a word, line, paragraph, and so on. You can track letters open, which means to add more space between them as you see here . . .

15. . . . and you can track letters tightly, as you see here.

16. When you refer to the space between only two letters, that is called "kerning". Kerning is the traditional means of enhancing the appearance of letters that may appear too far apart when set in a "normal" spacing.

17. For example, by tightening up the distance between the "o" and the "r" here, we are kerning those two letters.

18. Here we're kerning the "p" and the "l".

19. Now, even though the other letters are moving in closer as we kern a pair of letters, the spaces between those other letters remains the same. Remember, kerning is between only two letters and tracking is between more than two letters.

20. Next, we'll look at the spacing between lines of type. We call this measurement "Leading". Notice that the measurement is between the baselines of the lines of type.

21. Here you see a block of type set with what would be a normal amount of leading. Normal leading would be considered to be an amount of leading approximately 1 to 2 points more than the type's point size. For example, if you have 10 point type, normal leading would be something around 11 points or 12 points.

22. Here, I've opened up the leading, adding extra space between the lines of type. You can refer to this as "loose" leading.

23. Here, I've reduced the amount of leading so that the type on one line actually prints on top of parts of the letters on another line. You can refer to this as "tight" leading or "negative leading." This type of leading was impossible with metal type and is a product of the computer age.

24. There are also some type distortions that you can apply to type only with computer typesetting and desktop publishing.

25. The first is vertical scaling. You can stretch type to be taller or compress it to be shorter.

26. With horizontal scaling, you can stretch type out wider or you can condense it to be narrower.

27. By combining both vertical and horizontal scaling, you can actually make type appear to be a larger point size.

28. That's it. I hope you now have a solid understanding of the basic principles and terminology of typography. Thanks for joining me.