Font vs. Typeface

What should I see when I opened Twitter this morning, but a tweet from Errol Morris that said,

@errolmorris: “The author has regrettably confused ‘typefaces’ and ‘fonts.’ (How could he?)”

and I realized that my post yesterday must be riddled with errors.  Until that moment I had no idea that there was a difference between the two terms.  For those of you like me, here is a bit of clarification.

Typeface 

The design.

Arial, Helvetica, Comic Sans–these are all typefaces.  One of the best explanations was by Jon Tan, who says,

I think of a typeface as the design of a type family. Like every family, type families have names. An example of a type family name is Georgia. Georgia is a type family — a typeface — not a font.

Font 

The specific manifestation.

Tan goes on to describe fonts as particular family members–related, yet unique.  There are many font variations for every typeface.  Essentially, a font is comprised of the size and styling of a typeface:

12 pt+Helvetica+Bold=Font

Unfortunately, these terms are commonly, though incorrectly, interchanged.  If you pull up the font editor in Microsoft Word the 3 main categories that appear are “Font,” “Font Style,” and “Size.”  Put these things together and you most definitely get a font; however, it should read “Typeface” “Style” and “Size.”

I hope I haven’t confused matters more for you.  I, myself, had to look at several definitions before I  could make sense of the difference in the terms.  In case you need it in different words or with more examples, here are the three best definitions that I encountered:

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2 thoughts on “Font vs. Typeface

  1. Thanks for the explanations. I’ve seen both terms typeface and font forever but never really understood the difference and never bothered to go further with it since I could always find something that worked just fine. Better hope it’s not me who has to quickly decide between cardiac and maniac. 🙂

  2. One of my favorite takeaways from Simon Garfield’s super informative book, Just My Type was this (admittedly cheesy) joke.

    Comic Sans walks into a bar and the bartender says, “Sorry, we don’t serve your type here.”

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