Font Definition & Meaning

A font is the combination of typeface, size, weight, slope, and style to make up a printable or displayable set of characters. Font characters include letters, numbers, symbols, and punctuation marks. It is important to be intentional when choosing fonts because they can affect readability, influence tone, and reflect professionalism all of which will influence how ideas are communicated.

Font vs. typeface

Although they have different meanings, people often use the word font interchangeably with another typography term, typeface. Think of typeface as an entire typography family, and a font as a specific size, weight, and style of a typeface.

For example, Times New Roman is a typeface that defines the shape of each character. Within Times New Roman, however, there are many fonts to choose from, such as different sizes, italic, bold, and so on.

Font technology

Font technology has come a long way since the days of printing presses and individually arranging typeset blocks. Instead of carving font blocks, typographers now design fonts digitally.

  • Bitmap graphics

One of the earliest types of digital font display styles used bitmap graphics. Fonts would be displayed using pixels, which led to characters looking blocky and having irregular edges. The main problem with these bitmap fonts was their scalability. When enlarged or zoomed in, the character s individual pixel makeup became obvious, especially on curved edges, and they didn t retain the original look or shape.

  • Vector graphics

The vector graphic font was created in the 1980s as a replacement for bitmap graphics. Instead of relying on pixels to create characters, vector fonts were formed geometrically. Since the character images are created by mathematical formulas, scaling and zooming will not change the appearance of the font, and the curved edge will appear smooth. Vector graphic fonts became the standard with the introduction of higher-resolution displays, word processors, and laser printers.

Abby Dykes
Abby Dykes
Abby Dykes is a newly-graduated writer and editor for websites such as TechnologyAdvice.com, Webopedia.com, and Project-Management.com. When she’s not writing about technology, she enjoys giving too many treats to her dog and coaching part-time at her local gym.

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