TheoryThe difference between a font and a typeface

The difference between a font and a typeface

When we talk about typography, we either refer to it as a typeface or a font. And in most situations, it’s fine to use either one. But they actually mean two separate things, and it might be helpful to use the correct version to avoid miscommunication. (And to not annoy your creative director of course).

The difference between font and typeface

Most articles I’ve read take too long in my opinion to explain the difference. While this actually isn’t too hard to grasp.

  • A typeface is the name of a family, for example, Helvetica Neue is a typeface.
  • A font is more specific, for example, Helvetica Neue 18px SemiBold.

Three example sentences about typefaces and fonts:

  • “This typeface doesn’t look right, let’s change it to Meta instead of Helvetica.”
  • “The typeface is alright, but I have my doubts about the font, let’s use 18px bold instead of 16px SemiBold.”
  • “Let’s use the typeface Garamond in this design, with the font 16px Garamond Italic.”

Why we should not call a typeface a font

Let me sketch a simple situation to illustrate why it matters.

Let’s say your colleague is designing with Helvetica Neue 18px SemiBold. When someone has his doubts about the typeface, he could say something like “I’m not very font of (no pun intended) of the font, let’s use a different font”. The designer might pick a different font: Helvetica Neue 20px Bold, instead of the 18px Semibold. He did indeed pick a different font. But his colleague actually meant to say typeface (thus getting rid of Helvetica all together and pick Garamond for example).

In other words, you might create miscommunication.

But also, as designers, we want to know what we’re talking about right? 😉

Curious next about how to choose a typeface for your design? Read more about that here.

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