difference between typography and calligraphy: types laying around

The Difference Between Typography and Calligraphy Explained

If you have trouble distinguishing between typography and calligraphy, you should read this article thoroughly and learn more about this topic.

As a graphic designer, you will face many challenges in your path. There are always better people, and their presence should only motivate you to improve your design work.

A piece of expert knowledge in graphic design is the first step you must conquer to become better. Even though you might think you know it all, there are nuances you probably have no idea about. One of these nuances is represented by the slight differences between typography and calligraphy.

To understand this topic, you should know the definitions of each term, what they are used for, and how they are created.

This article has one sole purpose – to explain all the concepts that put you in difficulty and help you in the future.

The difference between typography and calligraphy can be tricky to explain for someone who has never worked with graphic design or doesn’t understand this concept. There is a fine line between them, but they have a specific element in common, and this element is represented by lettering. Both typography and calligraphy are based on nicely designed letters.

The main difference between the two is simple but complex at the same time.

Typography is computer-generated, meaning that it is based on preset fonts or typefaces.
On the other hand, calligraphy involves manual handwriting.

More details are yet to be discovered in this article. Keep reading for precise information regarding this topic.

The Definition and Characteristics of Typography

Let’s define typography – it is formed by the multitude of typefaces and fonts graphic designers use in their work.

In typography, all letters used in a specific font are the same. There are no differences between the same letter in one word, meaning that the fonts use preset rules.

It is essential to understand that people work with creating typography only.

Graphic designers do not create fonts (only if they want to specifically). Type designers create fonts, and the graphic designer uses the respective fonts to complete more complex projects.

To understand typography, you should know that several fonts produce different visual effects.

Take into account that the nature of the message is the one that influences your font choice. Depending on the feeling you want to transmit, there are appropriate fonts.

Here are the main types:

  • Serif–serif fonts are the traditional ones used for typical projects; serifs are attached to each letter
  • Sans serif – sans serif fonts are recommended for contemporary projects; as the name says, they no longer include serifs for each letter.
  • Display fonts – display fonts come in multiple styles but are primarily decorative; these are best with headers and titles.

Pro Tip: What About Digitalization?

Some say that calligraphers make fonts that they later digitalize, which is not the same as typography since the respective font won’t be as exact as a result obtained by a type editor.

Calligraphers can digitalize their work has nothing to do with typography whatsoever.

Calligraphers rarely illustrate the whole alphabet from A to Z. They illustrate messages or put together words with the individual letters, eventually editing the final result digitally. That’s what offers their work a complete finish.

Digitalization has become a necessity in the world of visuals, so you should put aside the beloved pen and paper and try to get a better grip on how devices work.

The definition and characteristics of calligraphy

On the other hand, calligraphy involves creating different lines that eventually combine into a fluent composition. A dip pen is used to develop various-sized lines in one single stroke.

Calligraphy represents a method to express a word, a phrase beautifully or a piece of text. Unlike typography, calligraphy is made entirely manual and may or may not be digitalized afterward.

In both cases, a lot of practice is beneficial. Still, a calligrapher has to put in a lot of work to achieve professional results.

calligraphy drawing

People unrelated to the graphic design world mistake beautiful handwriting for calligraphy.

The word calligraphy means beautiful handwriting, so that is partially true. Yet calligraphy involves more than just beautifully writing down words – it involves sharing a particular artistic impact with people.

Words on paper become a form of art. Keep in mind that calligraphy is not related to lettering. Calligraphy is more of an individual piece of art, while lettering refers to creating beautiful alphabet letters.

Pro tip: What is faux calligraphy?

Another important concept for understanding the difference between typography and calligraphy would be faux calligraphy.

Hand-lettering, also known as faux calligraphy, is very similar to traditional calligraphy. It involves manual work and thick/thin lines, but the instrument used for creating this sort of work is not a dip pen but sharpies or gel pens.

While calligraphy involves doing everything in one stroke, faux calligraphy is less rigorous, allowing the artist to draw letters rather than write them down.

People often mistake faux calligraphy for the traditional one because they don’t know the rules and discipline involved.

Faux calligraphy is not as rigid in rules compared with traditional calligraphy.

Some artists prefer a combination of the two. Still, to separate calligraphy from faux calligraphy, you should look up the rules and principles each follows.

Final Thoughts: The Difference Between Typography and Calligraphy

Understanding the differences between the concepts mentioned in this article can help you know what you truly need for your projects.

Graphic designers use typography simply because they must use fonts and typefaces to transmit a message.

For instance, creating a banner with different fonts that complement each other can transmit a more vital message than one that only has one font that’s not impactful enough.

brand typography on window

Typography can make a difference in the way people perceive artwork and visuals.

Even though it might seem easy to create a font, it is a complicated process that can take a while.

Graphic designers rely on good type designers. The more fonts they choose from, the bigger the opportunities to transmit a message more effectively.

You can’t afford to use the terms mentioned in this article interchangeably because you will look unprofessional. It will be pretty clear to your clients that you are not well-informed about the topic, and you might risk losing important projects over one mistake you made.

It takes just a few minutes to learn more about it, which will tremendously help you in the future.

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