Speak UpA Former Division of UnderConsideration
The Archives, August 2002 – April 2009
advertise @ underconsideration
---Click here for full archive list or browse below
Sure, You Walk The Walk…

Yes, there is a difference between a font and a typeface. And, no, designing a logo is not the same as developing brand identity. “I don’t know if we have any copies left” is not the correct reply to the question: “When can I expect to receive the copy?”

It seems, from previous discussions, we have determined that a formal education does not produce a better designer. But shouldn’t there be a certain obligation from anyone involved in the graphic arts to speak the ‘language’ of the profession?

Thanks to John Doe* for the conversation leading to this topic.
*Names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
ARCHIVE ID 1974 FILED UNDER Design Academics
Hector Mu�oz’s comment is:

And so why can formal education provide better professionals on any knowledge brand but can’t help designers? Can I be a good designer without education?

On Jun.11.2004 at 02:37 AM
Jonathan Baldwin’s comment is:

You can be a good designer without a design education - I don't have one but I now teach design. I was a designer for ten years, self-taught, before I went into teaching. I know the "lingo" through experience; a design student does not suddenly become a "finished" designer on graduation.

There is so much to teach, so little time, and focussing on skills and knowledge is a mistake. The three elements we often talk about in education are "skills, knowledge and understanding".

Being a "good designer" is about marrying the three. I suspect many people think a "good" designer is one who is skillfull. Knowing how to kern, use QuarkXpress, choose colours etc. Those are "skills".

The font v typeface example is one of "knowledge".

The brand v identity example is one of "understanding".

Sadly it is that last level, "understanding" which is often left out of the curriculum of many courses.

There is another point to bear in mind, of course: The difference between a typeface and a font is an example of the way all languages evolve. There used to be a difference, but most lexicographers would add these to the list of words whose meanings have changed through common misuse.

It is easily solved by providing students with a list of key words.

The "logo" v "brand identity" example is a different kettle of fish. A logo is a visual representation of a brand identity. One is produced by a designer, the other by a team including experts in sociology and psychology. Focussing on the visual, the skills and, to a certain extent, the definitions of words, which is what a lot of design courses do, leads to the loss of essential understanding in how visual communication really works.

This will not be solved until design educators begin to agree on what design is - a rich and complex field of knowledge as well as simply a practice. That knowledge is not just knowing what word means what, but understanding the ideological difference and effect of a logo as a representation of a brand rather than as the brand itself.

Straightforward misunderstandings of word definitions can be ironed out after college. But college is often the only place where discourse about the understanding of design can take place.

On Jun.11.2004 at 05:04 AM
Steve Mock’s comment is:

But shouldn’t there be a certain obligation from anyone involved in the graphic arts to speak the �language’ of the profession?


The fact that language is in quotes above is an indication the argument is on shaky ground to begin with.

On the surface, this seems to further the secret handshake mentality. In other words; we are a closed society and if one doesn't use the right phrases one won't be considered in.

A little gentle steerage can go a long way. I would in no way consider it an obligation to make someone feel wrong for using wrong words.

When I was involved with Read For Literacy, we were cautioned about being critical of the common vernacular. We were to teach people how to read, not necessarily how to express themselves.

Educate, don't discriminate. It's no big deal.

On Jun.11.2004 at 07:04 AM
ps’s comment is:

It seems, from previous discussions, we have determined that a formal education does not produce a better designer.

it can produce a better designer. it can bring a starting designer to a certain level of understanding quicker. it can build a solid foundation that otherwise might be lacking. sure there are exceptions.

On Jun.11.2004 at 08:59 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Steve, I will have to disagree. If you are a designer — with a degree in it or not — you better know the trade's language. How would you otherwise communicate with printers, paper reps, copywriters, photographers, pre-press people… not to mention other designers?

Not that every time you open your mouth in a designer conversation out come all the profession's technical terms, but a basic understading and knowledge is definitive. Whether you learn it in school or as Jonathan, on the job, you must acquire it.

It's not about discrimination, it's about being able to speak with each other in a professional-specific manner.

I do agree that you shouldn't make people feel like shit for using an incorrect term and should use that opportunity to explain and define the correct term.

On Jun.11.2004 at 09:06 AM
Joseph Szala’s comment is:

I think maybe we should just start using 'whatchamacallit', 'thingamajig' and 'doohicky' to describe any grey areas in the design vernacular. At least then, no one is wrong. Wait, maybe I am wrong?

Without a doubt, knowing the vernacular of the trade (whether it is design or automobile mechanics) is important. Its importance is not only based on designer-designer conversations and designer-vendor communications, but also designer-client interactions. Throwing around font, logotype, typeface, type, copy, identity, corporate identity, brand identity, brand, etc. is confusing to even designers let alone clients. Learning the proper terminology and how to explain this terminology to clients and misinformed, fledgling designers should be the job of educators AND peers. There is a lot that one can learn in school, there is millions more that is learned by hands-on experience. I think it is our job to help get all designers we interact with on the same level and understanding. Who agrees?

On Jun.11.2004 at 09:17 AM
ps’s comment is:

i think armin is right, that knowing the language of the trade is essential in communicating with vendors, collegues, associates etc.

i think its also important to remember not to use -- or to explain -- certain industry terms to clients and outsiders so they'll understand what you, as a designer, are talking about.

too often people nod heads in agreement only to find out later that they did not really understand each other.

On Jun.11.2004 at 09:20 AM
Steve Mock’s comment is:

OK. That's all true... agreed. Joseph makes great points. Every trade has it's lingo. Sometimes it's confusing. One man's this is another man's that.

I guess I didn't get a lot from the original post. It's so short. Hard to get what KM was driving at. (And those footnotes seemed a little snotty to me.)

On Jun.11.2004 at 09:47 AM
pk’s comment is:

agree and disagree. you gotta know what the terms mean, but there are also places in which the terms are limiting an sometimes misleading.

i am reminded of the evening with rick valicenti at armin and byrony's when he pointedly did not call himself a graphic designer, but a visual communicator.

On Jun.11.2004 at 09:52 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> but there are also places in which the terms are limiting an sometimes misleading.

Very much agreed. But at least when you initially know and understand them, you might be more able to recognize when it is appropriate to use them or not. Or if somebody is bluffing.

To be fair though, I'll to admit that I do not know or understand a lot of the terms. And sometimes when talking to printers I'll just nod, but more often I ask what the hell are they talking about.

Also, recently I learned, and perhaps it's something I should have inherently realized, yet I was confused by the 90s propensity to call everything branding, is that branding identity and corporate identity are two completely different things. Branding identity to me sounded redundant and corporate identity… well that's what I've always called it. One time a friend asked me if I preferred BI or CI, my first thought was "what's the difference?", then, as to not appear clueless I said CI, why not?

Obviously — as the names imply — Brand Identity applies for any product or service available to consumers (ie Coke, Nike) while Corporate Identity applies to designing the identity for a corporation that doesn't interact directly with consumers. I probably still can't define the differences exactly, but at least I understand there are differences.

Debbie, JonSel, Tan or Maven, feel free to correct me.

On Jun.11.2004 at 10:32 AM
Sarah B.’s comment is:

I agree that you should know the language.. but unless you are around people who use the language... you DONT know it.. and only learn by mistake (I know this from personal experience).

I went to school for design... and honestly.. our language mistakes were not corrected there. And many of the other things you "NEED" to know when out working in the field weren't taught either. (For example, printing processes and specifying ink) - it is just assumed that you will learn it when you come across it. And until then.. you look like a dummy (well, if the printers are jerks!!)

When it comes to calling a font a typeface, and a typeface a font.. I handle that on a client to client basis. Sometimes, if you talk in "design lingo" they just DON'T get it - at all. And to avoid sounding snotty and superior - -I just agree, and perhaps will NOT correct them.

On Jun.11.2004 at 10:59 AM
KM’s comment is:

(And those footnotes seemed a little snotty to me.)

I'm happy you noticed. Yes, it was a tad snotty but I strongly believe that you should use, as a a lot of you have pointed out as well, the trade's language. I too do not know all of the lingo, but I try my hardest to keep on top of it. As not save myself from embarrassment but to be able to communicate clearly with vendors and other graphic designers.

Can I be a good designer without education?

Yes, without a doubt.

On Jun.11.2004 at 11:35 AM
marian’s comment is:

For the record, I agree with the general sentiment that you should know the lingo, learn it where you don't, but not bandy it about in any way that obscures communication rather than clarify it.

then, as to not appear clueless I said CI, why not?

Armin, Armin, Armin ... beware this trap. It's much worse to get further into a conversation and have it become painfully obvious you're bluffing, than to just admit a gap in knowledge up front. When I don't know something I just fess up, "What's that?" "I'm sorry I don't know the difference" "That's a new one on me, what does it mean?"--Such simple sentences, such great rewards.

And even after 10 years in this business I still run across terms I don't know. Some are old (from before my time), some are new (jargon, lingo, or re new processes) and some are just ... a different word for something I knew by another term.


I'm sure we've all had the experience of meeting with a new print rep, asking some questions about their presses and systems and have them look at us blankly and say, "Uh, well, I'll have to get back to you on that ... Let me ask ... I don't really know." Inspiring, isn't it?

On Jun.11.2004 at 11:59 AM
Jose Nieto’s comment is:

[...] but there are also places in which the terms are limiting an sometimes misleading.

Case in point: windows and orphans. I've heard at least four different (and contradictory) definitions of these two terms, all delivered with total confidence. Bringhurst uses them as follows: a paragraph who's first line falls at the end of a page is an orphan; the last line of a paragraph that flows to the next page is a widow. I have heard professional use both words to describe a single-word line at the end of a paragraph, as well as a solitary line at the beginning or end of a page. I've pretty much given up on these two terms, and simply describe what I mean.

Armin, I had question for you. Did you learn all the terms in Spanish first, then relearn them in English? Was that a difficult transition? Just curious... (My entire design education happened in the states, so I never experienced the change.)

On Jun.11.2004 at 12:03 PM
Sam Sherwood’s comment is:

Font/typeface, brand/logo, leading/kerning, etcetera are definitely the more nitpicky (oh, it's a word *grins*) of terms. A great deal in our profession lies in the realm of "I'll know it when I see it."

Generally, I'm not one to go around correcting people on their terminology mistakes. If I understand what a person is getting at, what purpose would it serve to correct them, other than to inflate my own ego?

Either way, our more complicated designese definitely doesn't belong in client conversations. I have a friend who works for a NY architecture firm, and if a client asks for a large window and small support structure, he tells them their building will kill people — no excrutiating details necessary.

On Jun.11.2004 at 12:06 PM
Jerry’s comment is:

“You say [leading], I say [linespacing].”

I guess it’s safe to say that you should learn the trade vocab if you care about communicating clearly with supporting tradespeople. As much as you can in school and whatever is left, on the job, during the rest of your professional life (’cause there sure are a bunch of terms out there, sometimes more than one for the same thing). Although it is more easygoing and surprising when you hear words like �doo-dads’ and �thingies’.

On Jun.11.2004 at 12:08 PM
Geoff’s comment is:

There is a lot that one can learn in school, there is millions more that is learned by hands-on experience.

Coming up on my final year of undergrad studying graphic design, I'm an intern at a little agency, out there away from that bubble of academia. Unfortunately it seems that, for me, my understanding is best deepened by making mistakes. Like a lot of things, trial and error, in school or not, seems to be a great teacher. I think it's the mechanics of it, the doing, that solidifies the knowledge. Reading books and taking classes are nice but that hands-on experience is precious.

The terms "brand" and "branding" were very mysterious to me for a long time. They seemed like vogue words that could be tossed around by CEOs to make it seem like they were on the DL. So I appreciate the clarification of BI and CI.

As far as semantics (or what's become semantics) regarding font and typeface, in our closed circles, I appreciate some good old type snootiness. If you desire to boost your type snootitude I recommend Bringhurst's Elements of Typographic Style.

On Jun.11.2004 at 12:16 PM
ps’s comment is:

Did you learn all the terms in Spanish first, then relearn them in English? Was that a difficult transition? i can answer that one but from german to english.... it was a frustrating thing for me at first, and i'm sure it was for my vendors as well, probably even more so, but now i would have a hard-time remembering the appropriate terms in german.

On Jun.11.2004 at 12:17 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> Did you learn all the terms in Spanish first, then relearn them in English?

Yes, most of them I had to relearn. However, I never really practiced in Mexico so all the terms that you learn on the job I did learn them in english. The first time somebody told me that I had to prepare "specs" and send to the printer I almost wet my pants. "'Specs'? What the fuck is 'specs'? You mean like the little shiny specs on girlie papers?"

I also remember when a silkscreen printer was trying to explain "split fountain" — which is a very popular style in Mexican posters — to me, I just didn't get it.

What was really frustrating was all the paper spec'ing stuff. I didn't do much of it in Mexico, but I couln't visualize what an 80lb cover would be like. I was used to paper weighing like 250 grams.

It was definitely hard.

On Jun.11.2004 at 12:26 PM
JonSel’s comment is:

branding identity and corporate identity are two completely different things

Yes, they are confusing terms and not very helpful. The term "brand identity" is too broad, because corporations have brands as well that don't relate to consumers. I'd say you are close on your descriptions of the two terms, though. The way I always understood it, a "brand identity" directly related to a product (ex. Windows, AirMax, iPod) whereas the "corporate identity" was for the corporate entity itself (ex. Microsoft, Nike, Apple). Again, confusion can ensue because a corporation can have a brand of its own. The real crossover occurs when a company is so tightly integrated with its products (or single product) that the brand identity is the corporate identity as well.

Via brand identity, a company's many products and services can have unique embodiments in the marketplace, all supported by the corporate identity. Theoretically, a brand id is updated more often than a corporate id, since a product's packaging needs to stay current and relevent to the marketplace. A packaging redesign will often coincide with an updated/revised brand identity.

On Jun.11.2004 at 12:47 PM
JonSel’s comment is:

I couln't visualize what an 80lb cover would be like. I was used to paper weighing like 250 grams.

That's funny and so true. I recently worked on an identity and print system for a global company and someone asked me whether a 250 gram (or something close) paper would be ok. I had to tell them I'd check it out because I didn't know international equivalents.

Generally, when presented with something I'm not familiar with, my first instinct is to fake it. It's not a good instinct. If it's clearly a "new" term or outside of my expected field of knowledge, I'll cop to ignorance. I suppose I should do that more often. It's pretty hard to ask questions about something you don't understand, especially two weeks later!

On Jun.11.2004 at 12:52 PM
ps’s comment is:

corporate identity...corporate brand... brand identity

certainly all different interpretations on these... i throw in a couple thoughts

corporate brands augment the identity of the organization through added uniqueness in terms of values, styles or experiences.

corporate brands take usually longer to develop than corporate identity

corporate brands are mainly focused externally

corporate brands aim generally for high profile

corporate brands are supported by corporate communications, visual and verbal identifiers.

On Jun.11.2004 at 01:03 PM
JonSel’s comment is:

Regarding brands: You can't design a brand. You can design a brand identity.

On Jun.11.2004 at 01:30 PM
Jose Nieto’s comment is:

I couln't visualize what an 80lb cover would be like. I was used to paper weighing like 250 grams.

I hadn't even thought about the metric aspect... The funny thing is that paper weights are confusing and arbitrary even when they are all in the same measurement system.

On Jun.11.2004 at 04:12 PM
graham’s comment is:

jonsel: Regarding brands: You can't design a brand.

yes you can.

On Jun.11.2004 at 04:23 PM
Greg’s comment is:

So, to recap:

1) You probably shouldn't use design vernacular with clients, it will confuse them.

2) Most designers won't care if there's a fudge on the part of another designer, unless they're ridiculously snooty.

3) Most designers don't actually agree on what any of the terms mean anyway.

So, is there a point to them? Is there a standardized dictionary somewhere? Can these terms actually be learned?

On Jun.11.2004 at 05:21 PM
Steven’s comment is:

I agree with Marian whole-heartedly. Just ask for clarification. One moment of embarassment is better than long-term ignorance.

The word "brand" is so commonly over-used and misused that its "real" meaning is lost to most. Frankly, it feels weird to me to say "brand identity." From what I know, which may indeed be incorrect, brand is the cultural perspective of a company or product. As designers, we create identities which may or may not be relevant to its perceived brand. We try to enhance a brand's value or resonate with its cultural significance, but a designer (or corporate officer, for that matter) doesn't control a brand, s/he merely tries to affect it in an advantageous manner. For me, this is why some branding campaigns fail. Designers and corporate officers work together to "create" a brand's "identity," but the outcome may not, in fact, accurately reflect the public's perception of that brand. So when I talk to clients, I tell them that "brand" and "identity" are two related but different things.

Please feel free to correct me, should I be showing my "guilt."

On Jun.11.2004 at 06:00 PM
marian’s comment is:

Inspiring, isn't it?

Hm. In rereading my own comment, i realize my intent wasn't clear. There were 2 thoughts there ... one was "if you don't know, ask" but the other, about the print rep was actually. "If you really, really don't know, get educated first." My "Inspiring, isn't it?" was meant sarcastically--there's nothing I hate like coming across a vendor who hasn't the faintest idea what they're talking about.

So ... so there.

On Jun.11.2004 at 06:10 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

if you don't know, ask

Words to live by, Marian. I sometimes make my students chant the mantra: “It is better to look stupid than to be stupid.”

On Jun.11.2004 at 08:03 PM
Michael Surtees’s comment is:

“I don’t know if we have any copies left” is not the correct reply to the question: “When can I expect to receive the copy?”

If I hadn't read your entry a couple times I would have gone on a different tangent with my response. I wanted to fire off a number of reasons why education is important. I hate generalizations like we have determined that a formal education does not produce a better designer. However the context of the question above seems to be more about the world of live work as opposed to the padded room of school to me.

The skills of listening and understanding comes with time and experience, for me it was/and is learning from my mistakes. The above statement about copies doesn't seem to be about a technical design issue as much as a response from the person deciding what their going to say before they've fully listened to what was being asked.

On Jun.11.2004 at 09:13 PM
Jill’s comment is:

But shouldn’t there be a certain obligation from anyone involved in the graphic arts to speak the �language’ of the profession?

I might not say "obligation", but do agree that one had better learn the jargon in order to communicate with vendors and clients.

Case in point: windows [sic] and orphans. I've heard at least four different (and contradictory) definitions of these two terms, all delivered with total confidence. Bringhurst uses them as follows: a paragraph who's first line falls at the end of a page is an orphan; the last line of a paragraph that flows to the next page is a widow.

This is the dilemma, isn't it? What good is terminology if it isn't standardized? I do like Bringhurst's clarification of the difference: orphans have no past, but do have a future; widows have a past, but no future. Sort of compels you to reunite the lonely widows and orphans with their paragraphic families, doesn't it? But what a revealing statement about typographers'mindsets. Since when does a widow have no future? Jeez.

On Jun.11.2004 at 09:34 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> When I don't know something I just fess up, "What's that?" "I'm sorry I don't know the difference"

I tend to go that route most of the time.

And as it turns I do prefer CI.

On Jun.11.2004 at 10:06 PM
Michalel Bouchard’s comment is:

Brand. Identity. Seeing as how this discussion has partially lead to what these two terms might mean, I'll offer my own over simplified understanding. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Identity is essentially a company's "look". The logo, the type, the colors, the motion. Visual elements that work together to form a unique look for any company.

Brand is the personality of a company, or who/what a company wants to be. It's the mission or a unique philosophy that makes a company different from competitors. You can't really visually represent a brand. It's a feeling, an attitude. A brand is invented and crafted over time. Remember VW's "Farfegnugen (spelling?)" ? That's branding. The new TBS look and how "funny" they are? The "funny" is branding, the colors and logo are identity.

Of course, Identity and Branding should work together. You can't have an identity like, say, UPS, and be a company that sells organic burgers or something. They should cross over and play off each other. Good branding becomes tied to a company's identity. You see a Volkswagon and automatically think Farfegnugen, and think, "I want to drive that car and experience farfegnugen. What does farfegnugen feel like?"

I don't own a VW — never have. But I'd like too.

And to add in general, I went to a pretty lousy design school. It was cheap. It's paid for. We were never taught any of this stuff. Anyway, 10 years later and I still have never been formally told the meaning of these two terms. I've had to teach myself, hopefully I've paid attention. What's frustrating is that these two things seem pretty academic, yet, everyone expects you to just know it. And you should because it's important stuff.

Whenever I see or hear a conversation about this kind of design vernacular I perk up and pay attention. I know I don't know it all and just might learn something —�so the next time I'm in a meeting and everyone is talking about whether a logo concept truly represents "a human touch", or if it's "too sophisticated", I'll be able to contribute and know what I'm talking about.

On Jun.11.2004 at 10:58 PM
schmitty’s comment is:

I read through all of the comments and I could have missed it, but I don't recall anyone defining the difference between a "typeface" and a "font", yet everybody seems to agree that there is a difference and there is a time and place to use one term over another.

OK, I'll be the sacrificial pig. Will someone please tell me what the difference is?

Now that I got that off my chest-whew!

I do not think that one needs a formal education to be "good designer". My whole family is artistic, but I am the first one to make it a career. I can remember the day that I realized I had a gift-5th grade-I drew a picture of an elephant running through the jungle under an assortment of monkeys swinging from the trees. When one of my classmates saw it, the whole classroom gathered around my desk to see it. I realized then that I have a little talent. I've always been a doodler.

When I went to take my college placement tests the test scorer bet me that she could tell what my major was. Of course I thought that was impossible so I took her up on it and she guessed fine arts/graphic design. When I asked how she knew she said "because they always score the lowest in math". Now that certainly isn't the case for everyone, but it was for me.

My point is that some people are born with it (I'm not saying this is the case with me) and a degree is just a formality and some people will never really get it and but the degree gives them the basics to secure a descent graphic design job.

Just out of curiosity, does anyone else remember the day they decided they wanted to go into this field? Has it always been an extension of your personality? Were you given failing grades in High School because your teachers could not read your assignments because of all the doodles in the margins? (I was!)

As for "font" vs. "typeface", here is what Merriam-Webster has to say:

Main Entry: type�face

Pronunciation: -"fAs

Function: noun

1 : the face of printing type

2 : all type of a single design

Main Entry: 2 font

Function: noun

Etymology: Middle French fonte act of founding, from (assumed) Vulgar Latin fundita, feminine of funditus, past participle of Latin fundere to found, pour -- more at FOUND

: an assortment or set of type all of one size and style

Is a font the same as a type family? I'm so confused! :)

On Jun.12.2004 at 12:02 AM
Matt Waggner’s comment is:

schmitty -- a "Font" has the old-school connotation of being a single size and style of a type family, one that you'd pull out in an organized "case" and feed into your press. This lived on into the digital age as type designers used to make single-size bitmaps (like the old Emigre fonts, the ".bmap" part of a postscript file, or one of those "flash fonts" that are popular now). A typeface is all of one design in the same style, but in different sizes. (The italic would be different than the regular). A type family covers the whole mess, and is very useful if you're designing a brand identity or, um, whatever it was that CI meant.

On Jun.12.2004 at 12:29 AM
Matt Waggner’s comment is:

What's interesting to me about the question of whether or not we must leap fully educated into practice is that it shows how long gone the master/apprentice model is, which was the area from which many greats had sprung. Now, many undergrads at my school leap straight from their fourth year to independant, professional practice.

There was an article by Natalya Ilyin a couple years ago called "Design Mythos," basically talking about a split in the design world between "do-it-all-myself" designers and "project-so-complex-we-need-a-big-team" firms, suggesting that the sense of community injected by a group effort informs the work and enriches the design community. I'd agree, but those days seem to be evaporating, even for larger-scale corporate websites and the like. Expect more "creative terminology" as par for the course in coming years. (PS - I know it's valid as a software term, but the word TRACKING drives me *crazy*. C'est la vie...)

On Jun.12.2004 at 12:42 AM
davek’s comment is:

One of the most important responisbilities of a visual communicator is to ask questions. Don't know, ask.

If you are explaining, talking about or to a vendor, product, production method, or work flow process, the more you know the better. Different shops, firms, design boutique, or agencies may have their own language. See what I'm doing back there? Then there are terms unique to the type of communication or type of business that is doing the communication. It seems to me marketing related business have tons of unique terms.

If you're a young professional asking questions is very important and seen as a good thing. Be a sponge at any age.

Has there been a Helvetica Neue post?

On Jun.12.2004 at 10:50 AM
schmitty’s comment is:

a "Font"…single size and style of a type family,

Matt-thanks for joining in the sacrifice with me.

So then how come we by call it a "font" that we purchase and download from a "font house" when what we are really downloading a type family or atleast a type face. Is the whole industry using these terms wrongly? And font houses-shouldn't they know the difference? But they still call themselves font houses. And is my CD wrong when he says to change the font I used in the brochure?

I think that most of us use these two terms interchangeably so what is the big deal about when to use this or that?

On Jun.12.2004 at 12:23 PM
Jerry Reyes’s comment is:

So then how come we by call it a "font" that we purchase and download from a "font house" when what we are really downloading a type family or at least a type face.

You may be right about a few things. I think that at this point many do refer to any type design as a font. Maybe the fault lies in our software? “Pull down the font menu…” But any self-respecting type design studio would probably call themselves a type foundry. Foundry of course being from the old metal days. So if we were to replace the word foundry now that the metal days are history, what would we use? (Type) Studio, Office, Firm, Manufacturing, Strategists? Or should we just keep it as it is to remind us where we’ve been?

My bet is that if you only use Font to discern one type family from another, no one will call you on it. But if you want to get in the habit of using the correct terms follow Matt Wagner’s tips.

On Jun.12.2004 at 12:49 PM
Maya Drozdz’s comment is:

I draw the distinction between 'font' and 'typeface' to distinguish between technology and design. So, a font is a piece of software that you install on your computer, and also something you must remember to include with your files. A typeface is the aesthetic choice you made while designing something. This isn't exactly the correct distinction, but it makes sense in my head and it's a good way to distinguish the two in the classroom.

On Jun.12.2004 at 02:29 PM
Jose Nieto’s comment is:

Maya, Robin Kinross would agree with your definition (see "What is a typeface" in Unjustified texts ). Considering that a single vector file will give you access to an infinite number of point sizes, the software/design distinction might be the only one that makes sense now.

On Jun.12.2004 at 04:30 PM
Gahlord Dewald’s comment is:

Getting back a little bit to the original topic...

Perhaps the reason it is important to know the words/lingo/spoken-language of design is to demonstrate competency or understanding of a specific design concept/principle/body-of-knowledge.

For example, I could care less whether someone calls it line-spacing or leading (though I will admit to preferring leading). If they know the concept of the space between baselines then there's a higher likelihood of them being aware of readability issues, using leading/line-spacing to affect the color of the page, etc.

We use words as packaged handles on larger bodies of knowledge. The folks who nitpick on this-term/that-term are missing the point (and are usually ostracized or ignored by their peers, no matter how correct they are).


On Jun.12.2004 at 05:00 PM
Hector Mu�oz’s comment is:

What would you do first if you were put in charge of the government? Confucius was asked.

"I would correct the language: if the language is not correct, then what is said is not what was meant to say. If what was said is not what was meant to say, then that what must be done remains undone, and if what must be done remains undone moral and arts deteriorate. If moral and arts are damaged, then the justice will be lost. If the justice is lost the people will be confused and forsakened. So this is why there must not be arbitrariety in what is said. This is important above everything else."

This terminology mess is a clear example of the relevance of the formal education. Why is correct language important? because of clear understanding, can we deny the value of a clear understanding not only of the technical part of our job, but also of the conceptual problems we adress? No. How is one to understand his own job in order to control it if you can’t even describe it? Language is the key of understanding, you can’t understand what you can’t name because the mind operation is based on language.

The main value of the formal education is the clear and directed approach to the understanding of the conceptual problems adressed by the rethorical act of graphic design, because design is mainly an intelectual activity. Of course everyone can reach a professional formation by their own merits but rarely with the efficiency of the formal education. Also could someone deny that formal educatoin made them better designers?

On Jun.12.2004 at 08:48 PM
Fernando Espinoza’s comment is:

I have been illuminated. I will never again confuse an orphan with a widow.

After graduation I worked for a while in a Japanese kitchen in a London restaurant, with a Mongol chef, Brazilian waiters, a Danish manager, an Argelian kitchen porter, and me, the Mexican Fryer. A 'ten king prawn tempura, with no aubergine and extra ochra' would reach me as 'kng pruuun nogin kra 'ura. NOW!'

I felt exactly the same way when I started working. I had Mexican and Argentinian teachers, software in english, old school printers using metric, digital printers using inches and pounds, and mostly design illiterate clients and bosses.

My last web clients don't know the difference between a 'popup' and a 'cookie' (true story), not to talk about 'bleeds' and 'chokes'.

That is why I love the idea of a standarized design vernacular. I wish I had been given a dictionary in first semester.

Meanwhile, I use lots of sketches on napkins, and I ask a lot of questions. This has worked out so well, i'll stick to it until Amazon stocks on the Official Spanish-English-DesignVernacular Dictionary for Dummies.

On Jun.12.2004 at 11:51 PM
bDuffie’s comment is:

I challenge Considering that a single vector file will give you access to an infinite number of point sizes, the software/design distinction might be the only one that makes sense now..

Considering that Adobe is releasing "optical sizes" for the typefaces in their Open Type pro font packages, I don't think that a single vector file can fulfill all point sizes. The digital faces they are creating are developed for use with in a very specific point size range. And there is a considerable difference in the glyphs of the individual font files.

While this harkens back to the days of type punched into matrices, it still has relevance in today's digital world.

Especially in pixel type, the need to make specific faces (files) for a given point size is incredible important. The article A Synthesis of Low-Res Type from Emigre #59 presents this at length.

Unfortunately, the current design education environment disregards the need for a deep understanding and appreciation of traditional typesetting methods. As a current design student, I repeatedly see my peers looking for the magic font menu to solve their problems, along inventing all manners of terms for letterspacing and leading.

It is equally frightening to see how there is a disregard for the asthetics of type, with many students stretching and squashing their type. Not that is it surprising considering that most formal classes in Letterform have been discontinued.

While this has been rather typographically centric, I think it provides an example of how there is a decided importantance (in my opinion) on the values of real world experience, and also in constantly expanding one's knowledge + understanding of design. While I'm still a student, avenues such as speakup, emigre, and the like have made me a much better designer by giving me much needed insight into the experiences of others.

On Jun.13.2004 at 12:50 AM
Michalel Bouchard’s comment is:

Speaking of a disregard for the asthetics of type, with many students stretching and squashing their type. To me, and to most of you all, this is obvious. I wish our applications would remove those two little controls from the type palette.

I remember the first time my boss jumped down my throat for stretching a line of text. I was like, huh?, what makes you so smart, why can't I just pull this little handle to make the text longer. What's the big deal? I was told "well, it's just something you don't do, ever." OK. That was the last time I did it.

Now I find myself in the opposite position. I work with a couple of designers who like to distort type. One of them is fresh out of school. The first time I saw that this was happening I told him that he should never distort type. Of course, he asked me why and I told him,"well, just because, don't do it." I really didn't know what to tell him.

Never distort type. Why?

On Jun.13.2004 at 09:32 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Michael, you don't distort type because when you do, the letterforms lose all their carefully-constructed proportions. The white and black space of the typeface gets completely distorted and it loses balance. If you scale something horizontally, the horizontal bars and stems retain their thick/thin proportion whereas any vertical and diagonal lines will be completely distorted. Or a typeface that has the same thickness all around would magically have thicks and thins, which was not the intention. Same applies if you stretch vertically. See below examples, the red is the original and the blue is the stretched. With lowercase the effect is even more dramatic.

If somebody wants to extend a typeface, tell them to choose a typeface that was built extended. Or condensed, if you want to fit more stuff per line.

On Jun.13.2004 at 09:48 AM
Matt’s comment is:

At R.I.T. we called it "bastardized" type. I remember during a crit at senior level when it came time to talk about a classmate's in progress work on an logo and he had horizontally stretched his logo-type. My instructor flipped her lid in front of the entire class. I had never seen someone so angry over rules of typography. It made me chuckle.

On Jun.13.2004 at 12:20 PM
Jerry’s comment is:

(Maybe someone should start another discussussion where we can tackle the type issues? Until then, here goes…)

The validity for not stretching or condensing type stands.

However, have any of you ever heard that you shouldn’t screen type (assuming that it is legible when screened), and to instead use a lighter ink? The reason being that the screen adds some distortion/pattern to the solid strokes of the type.

What do you think?

On Jun.13.2004 at 01:40 PM
Matt Waggner’s comment is:

Jerry- I'd think that at text sizes with normal linescreens, screening the type back could make it hard to read. I think about this the same way I do about stretching type, using display type at text sizes, and (my personal favorite) using Benguiat Gothic in a contemporary setting—sure, they might be all be "bad ideas", but following the rules and norms against these things simply offer you certain connotations of stability, professionalism, and tradition. Sometimes it might be good to connote "horrible", "amateur", or "useless", so long as it's done intentionally.

Moiré patterns in the text typography? Heck, there's gotta be a client where that (or any the other "bad setting") would be perfect to use—the caveat being that said client probably won't be able to pay very well. Which is why bosses and teachers, whose reputations rely on the profitability of their charges, might hyperventilate when those rules are broken. Michael, I say go ahead and let your new employee stretch his type, but explain that if he cares anything for his readers, he'll at least do it because he means it. ("I stretch type because I care"... sounds like a t-shirt to me!)

Or you could go with the opposite response: "David Carson and Ray Gun are over. Get with the program, and get back to work."

On Jun.13.2004 at 03:30 PM
michael w.’s comment is:

I am a design student and can appreciate the values and rules of the modernists’ principals. I would like to believe that I am familiar with the rules of typography and try to use them more often then not. But what is unsettling about some of the comments on here is that THESE ARE THE RULES AND YOU MUST OBEY. A formula for "good" design or even design in general does not exist [if it does email me so I can see what it looks like]. I'm not saying that design should be all intuitive either. However some of the best work I’ve seen has been. If stretching your type works with your design why not? I've had instructors who are deeply rooted in formal and traditional design values, if there’s a reason for an element and you can explain why you did it, then there’s not a problem. But to simply say you cannot do this because...just because, there is no justification in that either. There is no better time than now while design is at a critical to break the rules and do it well.

On Jun.13.2004 at 04:22 PM
bDuffie’s comment is:

Using a lighter ink color rather than screening type makes sure that you don't get halftones affecting the legibility of your text. The same goes for making sure that at least one or hopefully two of the colors in a process piece are at 100% or very close to it when used for type.

And to hit on another often abused area of type, stroking a book weight face is not the same as using a bold or black weight. Likewise, using the bold and italic buttons in quark and in the old days Pagemaker are not the same as using a real bold or italic (though it was fun watching the screams from those by the printer seeing Courier all over their page).

And personally, I see stretching/squashing type as the lazy solution to a problem. If you can't find any other solution than stretching/squashing, at least redraw the letterforms to be condensced or extended and then use those with proper proportions and weights in the lines, or keep looking for a better solution.

On Jun.13.2004 at 04:43 PM
Jerry’s comment is:

I understand the why about the screened type. But is it as blasphemous as deformed type? What’s the gravity of it?

michael w: If stretching your type works with your design why not?

It’s like stretching an image in your design. The objects become less recognizable the more you stretch. I think most people though who use these tricks don’t have a logical reason for including it in their design. If it doesn’t reinforce the message, don’t do it. It’s worse when you present to instructors and more so to people you interview with because they all know it’s a cheap trick easily acheivable with even the most domestic of software. It’s worse for type, because usually, type is meant to be read.

On Jun.13.2004 at 08:44 PM
Rob’s comment is:

and personally, I see stretching/squashing type as the lazy solution to a problem. If you can't find any other solution than stretching/squashing, at least redraw the letterforms to be condensced or extended and then use those with proper proportions and weights in the lines, or keep looking for a better solution.

I would agree with this wholeheartedly. If the face you are working with isn't working, don't resort to 'trickery' that usually results in lower readability. Redraw it so that there is balance and consistency in the letterforms. That's design. Anything less is desktop publishing.

As far as terminology goes, as someone who's undergrad degree was in journalism, I can only say you will go much further and gain more respect in your career, if you know what you are talking about. And if you don't, you'd better well ask because most professionals will know when you are just guessing. And asking is far more respectful and appreciated then just guessing.

On Jun.13.2004 at 10:39 PM