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What is the difference between typography, lettering & calligraphy?

Designers take great pride in using correct terminology. Most people think that typographylettering and calligraphy are pretty much the same because they all deal with letters. No doubt, these artforms are all related but if you want to know what you're talking about, it's important to know the difference when using these terms.

Typography sampleThe word Typography is derived from the Greek words typos — which means form or impression and graphein — which means to write. Typography is the study of how letterforms interact on a surface, directly related to how type will be set when it eventually gets published. One definition describes typography as the art and technique of selecting and arranging type and comes from a time when movable lead type printing was the standard way most of the world printed. Typography is part of typesetting with a repeatable system of setting letters that already exist and can include type design. Essentially, it means arranging, choosing and working with fonts on a daily basis. A great resource to further explore typography is ilovetypography.com.

Handlettering sampleLettering is simply defined as the art of drawing letters. In essence, it is a carefully planned out combination of hand drawn letterforms, for a single unique purpose and oftentimes for only a word or short phrase. Different tools can be used such as pencils, drawing pens, markers, brush pens, paint brushes or a tablet. Jessica Hische, an American letterer and type designer is one of my favourite lettering artists. If you're looking for inspiration, visit her site or peruse the beautiful lettering examples on Beautifultype.net.

calligraphy sampleCalligraphy is defined as the skilled art of writing letters and is based on rhythmic, decorative penmanship. While lettering focuses on drawing letters and draftsmanship, calligraphy is more likely to be used for longer passages of text. Western calligraphy is recognizable by the use of the Roman alphabet. The alphabet appeared about 600 BC, in Rome, and by the first century, Rustic Capitals were being painted on walls while Roman Cursive was reserved for daily use. During the 4th and 5th centuries, when the Roman Empire fell and the Dark Ages began, it was the monasteries which preserved calligraphic traditions, copying bibles by hand.

There are great examples of typography, handlettering and calligraphy all over the internet and now you have the proper terms to help you identify and talk about each one!

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