For those of you curious enough about the miracle of type and interested in communicating in specifics with graphic professionals, we offer a bit more technical jargon that may facilitate discussions with your designer.
- X-height: denotes the height of each letter and is literally a measurement of the height of the lowercase x in that font. When using fonts together, most designers will use fonts with comparable x-heights.
- Set width: describes the width of each character, including the symbol itself as well as the space buffer between it and its neighbors.
- Baseline: where the feet of your capital letters sit. Below this line are descenders and loops.
- Ascenders: the elements of lowercase characters that rise above the font's x-height for letters like h, t, and b.
- Descenders: the letter elements that extend below the font's baseline for lowercase characters like g, p and y, and uppercase Q.
- Stems (or strokes): the full height vertical (or primary-diagonal) lines in upright letters like T, k, or B.
- Bars: the horizontal lines that span the space between two outer lines, as in a capital A or H or lowercase t or e.
- Counters: the spaces enclosed by a letterform. Counters can either be open, as in a c or S, or closed, as in an O or the number 8.
- Serifs (aka Roman) which feature "feet" to improve legibility.
- Old Style types are traditional workhorses, often used for printed text and anything where legibility is essential. These classics generally connote staid dependability and refinement.
- Transitional typefaces shift further away from handwriting, giving them a formal elegance, precision, and verticality often associated with Enlightenment-era idealism.
- Modern/Didone typefaces tend to look expensive and stylish, contrasting thick and thin strokes dynamically. Almost any fashion or jewelry ad sports a Didone because they telegraph glamor and sophistication.
- Slab/Egyptian serifs emerged with the dawn of industrial-age advertising, and their blockiness made them stand out in printed adverts. In recent years, they've resurged as the funky hipster font of choice because of their boldness and retro vibe.
- Sans Serifs
(aka Gothic) which forgo "feet" in favor of clean lines.
- Grotesques (Neo-grotesques) include some of the most ubiquitous typefaces (Arial, Helvetica, Univers), which gives them a practical, utilitarian appearance.
- Geometric typefaces echo simple shapes like circles and squares and avoid ornamentation, which imparts a sleek, abstract style generally associated with Deco-era Bauhaus design.
- Humanist fonts are more legible and have a quirky, calligraphic quality in the variation of their line widths, which offers a warmer, friendlier feel than the relative sterility of more abstract sans serifs.
- Scripts which mimic handwriting.
- Calligraphy/Formal scripts are the most elaborate of type, mimicking the boilerplate handwriting of the Enlightenment era. As the epitome of fancy script, they show up on millions of wedding invitations, but their terrible legibility makes them next to useless for much promo design.
- Blackletter (also known as Gothic) scripts are "ye olde" historical lettering that Renaissance festivals adore and credulous drunkards use to tattoo heavy metal slogans on themselves. Blackletter typefaces convey ominous antiquity, but are largely illegible. Proceed cautiously!
- Casual scripts resemble actual handwriting, making them ideal for any design in which a personal, bold, or informal impression is preferable.
- Decorative fonts run the gamut of themes, styles, and kooky options suitable for display. Beware of the ubiquitous decorative fonts that dog dog your genre to the shame of credible designers everywhere. (e.g. dripping all-caps for horror, sleek space-age illegibility for sci-fi, and olde-worlde Uncials for fantasy.) Never court cliché.