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Welcome to my first post about fonts, those indispensable tyepface-y things that you need to make decisions about every day (which one for THIS doc; which one for THAT email; for whom, how big, how small, how readable, how...etc.).
Today we'll go over some basics about fonts and then, in the next post or two, we'll get into some of the more juicy topics like where and how to get more fonts (because you can never have enough), the difference between the various types of them, and even how to create your very own font. (Speaking of which, I recently read that schools in 41 states will no longer be teaching cursive handwriting. How can this be? My third grade, left-handed, nearly indecipherable, scrawl is priceless!)
Nevertheless, we're talking about typing today, not writing. Let's go font it up.
Traditionally, the terms "typeface" and "font" were used separately, and were not synonymous. It used to be that a typeface was designed by a printer or publisher, made out of metal, and stuck into a printing press. The typeface was the designed look of the characters, while a font was a particular typeface in one size, one style, and one weight (Helvetica Bold 10 point was one font and Helvetica Bold Italic 10 point was another font). Printers needed to change fonts every time they wanted to change the look of a word.
Well, times have changed and we're not talking about type made from metal here. These days, it's pretty safe to assume that "font" and "typeface" mean about the same thing—maybe not to designers, but to you and me, non-designers who just want to get our work done.
This image shows four different fonts:
A font family is a collection of all the fonts in a typeface, with different sizes, weights (such as bold), and slants (such as italic). The image below shows some of the Arial font family members standing in formation.
Ah, style. Some of us have it...and some of us don't. (Of course, some of us know that, and some of us don't.) Fonts are the haves in this case; they all have style. And just like making your daily decision between Gucci and Gap, every text situation calls for something different.
There are many other styles such as small caps, subscript, and superscript. Poke around in the Fonts area of whatever version of Office you're using and try out some of these things.
I realize this is all very basic (we must Begin at the Beguine, you know) and so in the next couple of posts I'll talk about things like where your fonts are stored on your computer, how to get more and install new fonts, and some best practices.