Join Ina Saltz for an in-depth discussion in this video Display type vs. text type, part of Foundations of Typography.
An important distinction in typography is the difference between Text Type and Display Type. Here's what you need to remember. Text Type is type that is designed to be read in large quantities at small sizes. For example, the bulk of the text in any newspaper, magazine, or book is Text Type. It's also called Body Type or Body Copy. Display type, on the other hand, is type that 14 point or larger, and it's typically used in small quantities for emphasis and effect.
The vast majority of the 200,000 or so typefaces now available are Display typefaces. Display Type encompasses an enormous variety of letterforms. But first let's talk about Text Type. Depending on the type style, Text Type is typically between 8 point and 10 points in size or possibly 12 point type, depending on the typeface. Because Text Type is small it has to be easy to read.
The most famous essay on text typography was written in 1930 by Beatrice Ward. Beatrice Ward used the metaphor of a crystal goblet. She said that the goblet should be clear so that its contents would be what you see, not the goblet itself. She was making the point that clarity in typesetting allows the content to be easily appreciated, suggesting that printing or typography should be invisible. Smooth reading is the goal. It may seem effortless when we're in the process of doing it.
But in reality, when we're reading, we rely on many tiny cues to help us take in words and passages of text in fractions of a second. Letterforms need to be super clear so that it takes as little effort as possible, in fact, no conscious effort at all to see the shapes of the letters. Typefaces that are designed to be read in large quantities at small sizes share some important qualities and characteristics. If you look at these examples of widely used text typefaces, everyone has open spaces inside the letters.
The body height of the letters is tall, compared to the capitals. They have rhythmic and repetitive shapes and they are a medium weight. And it's easy to identify letters immediately because of their details. Some of the most popular text typefaces used today are digital versions of typefaces that have been around for hundreds of years because they still work perfectly well, such as the first three in this example. What about Display Type? Display Type is just the opposite.
Display Type depends on its unique form to announce and amplify its content. It is not supposed to be invisible and in the vast universe of display typefaces available, there is something for every possible use. For example, in the category of typefaces that look like handwriting, hundreds of typefaces are available, here are just a few examples. Something else to keep in mind about Text Type and Display Type, Text Type can function as Display Type by being made larger. But Display Type can rarely be used to function at small sizes like Text Type.
Later in this course, we're going to cover when and how to use Text Type and Display Type to make your design projects look professional. I want you to think of display typefaces like the icing on a cake. Display Type should be used in small quantities and with restraint. A little intense sweetness goes a long way.
- What is typography?
- Differentiating type characteristics
- Using ornamental and decorative type
- Combining typefaces
- Using contrast and scale
- Kerning and kerning pairs
- Choosing the optimum line length
- Aligning and spacing characters, words, and paragraphs
- Understanding factors affecting legibility
- Working with three-dimensional type
- Putting type in motion