How We’ve Come to Understand the Difference Between Typography and Lettering

by | Posted March 1st, 2013


As Professional Writers, we have learned about graphic design and different types of lettering and typography. We are supposed to know what makes for a good graphic and how to design an appealing and inviting poster/brochure/pamphlet/bookmark/etc. But do we all know the difference between Lettering and Typography?

Smashing Magazine posted an article explaining the differences and similarities between Typography and Lettering, stating that many designers, despite making “their careers our of designing type or custom lettering,” have come with “a lot of misunderstandings of some of the terms and concepts that we use.”

You can read the very thorough article for yourself, but basically, it says, “Typography is essentially the study of how letterforms interact on a surface, directly relating to how the type will be set when it eventually goes to press” where as “Lettering can be simply defined as “the art of drawing letters.”” Confused? Lettering started out as being hand drawn, such as calligraphy or like those giant Bibles that monks spent years and years writing out by hand. Typography has much to do with setting and aligning the type. For example, “Instead of setting metal type and locking in forms [to create newspapers or books like they did with old printing presses], we use panels in [Adobe] Illustrator or InDesign to kern, add leading and align our type.”

The article also explains the history of typography and lettering, and gives tips on how you can get started on your own hand-lettering as well as a list of websites with lettering and typography designs.