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Typography ( spelling recommended by the Duden and the Swiss Federal Chancellery ) or typography (from ancient Greek typographía ; from Latin týpos "stroke, impression, figure, type ", and graphics ) is an ambiguous designation: in the traditional sense it relates to the design of Printing units with movable letters (types). In media theory , typography stands for printed writing in contrast to handwriting (chirography) and electronic and non-literal texts.

An early modern book printer was called typographus , which in the 16th and 17th centuries could also mean printer-publisher. Today, typography usually describes the media-independent design process that uses font , images, lines, surfaces and empty spaces to create all types of communication media. In contrast to calligraphy , writing or font design, typography is designing with found material.

Typography is divided into microtypography and macro typography . The work of the typographer consists in combining both design features in a suitable way.


Microtypographic terms of the line system

The microtypography or detail Typography is the design intricacies of the following brief:

Macro typography

This is the overall design of a print or website. These include, among other things

  • the page format ,
  • the type area ,
  • Line width, spacing ( leading ) and number,
  • the avoidance of inappropriate word breakings and paragraphs ,
  • the structure of the page and the text,
  • the placement of images and tables in the text,
  • the quantity ratio of the writing to images and tables,
  • the font size and
  • the fonts .

Are basic elements in pleading

The individual elements of the page structure should be sensibly coordinated with one another, whereby the choice of font size and the correct positioning of figures, graphics and tables are particularly important. The harmonious division of the printed and unprinted area is crucial: One side must neither appear overloaded nor bare. The so-called grid typography is helpful here , in which the typographic elements are arranged according to a prefabricated design grid.

Another name for macro typography is layout , although the term layout is usually much more specific.


The history of typography is closely linked to the development of fonts and the changing (re-) production possibilities of printed texts; meanwhile also of digital media.


With the help of typography, the content, the purpose or the appearance of a work can be clarified. The statement of a text can be supported visually, whereby the good legibility i. d. R. comes first.

The areas of application of typography include, in addition to the design of bulk texts in novels or non-fiction books ( work typesetting ), above all commercial typesetting . This includes business stationery (letterheads, business cards, forms), printed advertising materials (flyers, brochures, posters) or even family prints (invitations, commemorative cards).

When it comes to the visual appearance of communication media, typographers usually try to harmonize the design with its content (message). Sometimes an attempt is also made to convey a subliminally different message (subtext), which may well contradict the content of the text. By influencing the statement of a text or a message in this way, a typographer can assume the role of co-author.

Possibilities of typographic design are traditionally the use of different fonts , font sizes / font sizes and types of labeling , the choice of line length (line length), the lines Falls , the printing area within the paper size , the assignments of different elements to each other in the layout, the choice of the appropriate paper and much more .

The types of markings are used to "highlight" individual text passages or paragraphs against the rest of the text, e.g. B. verbatim speech or quotations. For example, if typographers want to make it clear that a text passage represents what a protagonist has spoken , then it can be shown in italics: Hermione! shouted Harry ...

In typographical consider professional typographers the orientation of the user, the assessment of the target group (s), the specific conditions of the medium, is designed for the "Ortho Typography" (the ortho and typographically correct form), as well as different ways of reading, with which readers encounter texts of various kinds. With the typography of a romantic text, for example, attention is paid to an even and trouble-free reading flow. Sentences or words to be emphasized are i. d. Usually rather subtle so as not to emphasize them too much. Here, italic or small caps cuts the same font as the "basic text" (the non-excellent text) used in the same line width. In technical jargon, this is referred to as "integrated" or "quiet" fonts. The "informative reading" (e.g. in newspapers or online portals), on the other hand, requires a typographical implementation that allows content to be classified when skimming over it, before deeper text levels - often in smaller font sizes - are offered.

Typography has been part of the specialist knowledge of printers and typesetters since Gutenberg , but today it is an important part of the training of graphic designers , digital and print media designers and similar professional groups. The new media and the design of websites in particular presented typographers with new challenges such as user-friendliness and functionality. In the meantime, almost everyone can create documents (e.g. letters) or their websites on the computer and thus do typography.

Since typography as a graphic design has historically developed in the field of art , the discussion arose in the post-war period whether typography represented an art form in its own right. In fact, new forms of typography have emerged in Italian Futurism , Russian Constructivism, and Dadaism . While the Italian Futurists recognized a special artistic statement in the destruction of traditional text forms and thus elevated typography to an art form, the German Dadaist Kurst Schwitters wrote that typography could "under certain circumstances" be art.

In contrast to the history of art, however, the history of typography after 1945 developed a strong orientation towards the recipient of the message, which at the same time required greater restraint and a less clear author's role on the part of the typographer. Due to their stronger connection to everyday culture and their integration into economic processes, post-war typographers such as B. Kurt Weidemann ( inter alia designer of Daimler's corporate typeface ) that typography as an art is “irrelevant”; rather, it depends on restraint in favor of legibility and the desired effect on the part of the reader, and it is not about the self-realization of the designer.


  • In traditional printing in Germany, in continental Europe and in many other parts of the world, the French system of measurement largely applies, i.e. Cicero and Didot's point . Other systems of measurement are also used.
  • In the computerized printing industry , the English system of measurement with pica and DTP point applies worldwide today .

Letters and other typographic elements are measured with the typometer . A detailed representation can be found under font size .

French units of measure   Ratio   English units of measure
  Parisian foot   [pied]   324.864 mm   864   English foot    [foot]   304.8000 mm  
  french customs     [pouce] 27.072 mm   72   English customs   [inch] 25.4000 mm  
  Cicero   [Cicéro] 4.512 mm   12   Pica   [pica] 4.233 3  mm  
  french line   [ligne] 2.256 mm   6th   english line   [line] 2.116 6 mm  
  Didot point   [point Didot]   0.376 mm   1   DTP point   [DTPP]   0.352 7  mm  

In the course of the conversion to photosetting, an attempt was made to  fix the point to exactly 37 5 µm. In practice, however, the DTP point prevailed in IT.

Legal issues

In Germany typographic fonts are subject to the ornamental design similar character law . The stronger copyright applies to such fonts, contrary to what is required by font manufacturers, but not or only in special cases of extreme design height such as initials fonts that are already in the direction of paintings. The same is likely to apply to handwriting and calligraphy . It is sometimes controversial to what extent typographical unique items cannot themselves be addressed as calligraphy. However, copyrights can exist for fonts (computer typefaces) if the hinting program, which ensures the aesthetic display even with low resolutions, has a sufficient creative height as a computer program . In addition, the names of the fonts are subject to trademark law . As such, a text set or engraved image is not subject to copyright or design law, and it is controversial whether an ancillary copyright exists on the basis of the Unfair Competition Act (UWG).

Elementary typography

"Elementary Typography", "New Typography" or "Functional Typography" is a style within font and print design from the beginning of the 20th century.

Experimental typography

"Experimental typography" means:

  1. Scientific attempts to examine the effect of typographic designs on test subjects. In this they are not to be confused with the efforts of “expressive” and “extreme typography”.
  2. A movement within typography that, from 1945 onwards, questions the “classic designs” with its own design proposals and new media. These experiments relate to a) cinematographic, b) opto-dynamic (e.g. neon advertising) and c) kinetic attempts at expression.

See also

Portal: Font  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of font


Web links

Commons : Typography  - collection of images
Wiktionary: Typography  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Typography, Typography, the. Duden online; accessed on February 10, 2020.
  2. Spelling: Guide to German spelling . (PDF; 822 kB, 160 pages) 4th updated edition. Federal Chancellery , Bern 2017, p. 149; Quote: "Typography that".
  3. Hans Widmann : Author trouble of a scholar in the 16th century. In: Börsenblatt for the German book trade - Frankfurt edition. No. 89, November 5, 1968, pp. 2929-2940, here pp. 2930/2931.