How to learn typography (job opportunities and salaries)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Typography is all about the expert use of numbers, letters and images, which affect many aspects of everyday life. In business, using typography effectively can attract people to a brand and play a crucial part in improving brand messaging. Learning about typography and developing your skills to a professional level can allow you to gain employment in a well-paid job. In this article, we discuss its definition, how to learn typography, its core elements and job opportunities in this field.

What is typography?

Typography is the arrangement of numbers, letters and pictures in a visually appealing and readable way. Learning how to use typography well is essential in writing and designing. It has become particularly relevant in this current computer age where so much communication takes place online. Many aspects of typography are crucial to effective communication since they determine how people perceive things, for instance, the choice of font affects how readers interpret a message.

In typography, every element has a purpose and they complement each another to create a harmonious flow, so if there's an inconsistency or oversight, it affects the whole content. Choosing and creating the correct lettering and appearance of an interface is equally as important as the brand logo design, since the typography accentuates the brand message either through written words or the design.

Related: Q&A: What is web design? (Definition, elements and uses)

How to learn typography

The following is the processes of how to learn typography:

1. Study the fundamental elements

You can learn about typography from various sources like books and websites. These resources discuss the general terms, elements and rules that govern typography. Make use of these to help you develop a good understanding of the basics, which you can then build upon to gain more advanced knowledge.

2. Create custom typefaces by adjusting and combining existing ones

After learning about typefaces, you can familiarise yourself with those currently in use in design applications and explore how this software can help you with interface layout. Then you can start to mix and make new typefaces to suit your interests. Ensure that the typefaces you are combining are compatible, and consider elements such as leading, kerning and tracking.

3. Experiment with layout design

Next, you can start to learn about layout design. You can do this by trying out different types of fonts and typefaces that form visually-stimulating layouts for platforms such as books, pamphlets or digital interfaces. By doing this, you can observe and identify the impact your typography has on your audience and adapt your approach accordingly.

4. Start lettering

After consolidating your skills in layout design, you can start working on lettering and the formulation of hierarchies. Lettering is the act of using letters to construct your typefaces. Hierarchy, in typography, is the positioning of layouts and text to convey a particular message or personality. If you commit the time and work hard you can overcome any initial challenges you may face in learning these highly specialised skills.

5. Take an online course or go to a workshop

There are numerous workshops and online courses available to help improve your typography skills. This type of training allows you to learn from other people and helps you develop your expertise. Ask lots of questions and look out for new techniques that may help you to improve your skills.

Related: 12 essential web designer skills

Why are you learning typography?

In graphic design and writing, typography determines the arrangement of alphanumeric values (letters and numbers). If you do this well, it is appealing to the eyes and minds of your readers. As a form of communication, typography can convey a different message and tone depending on the font, colour and thickness of lettering. For example, if a company uses bold, dark lettering, this may portray a very direct message, whereas a lighter and finer typeface seems more conversational and friendly. This is why the font style on a birthday card is usually different from that of a motivational book.

The fundamental elements of typography

To learn typography, it's helpful to become familiar with the basic elements and terms relating to the practice. Below are a series of terminologies that you might come across in typography:

  • Baseline: This is the bottom line at the base of the alphanumeric values.

  • Cap height: The distance between the baseline and the highest capital letter.

  • X-height: This refers to the height of the lowercase letters, specifically 'x', 'w' and 'z'.

  • Bowl: The fully-closed, rounded part of some letters, for example in 'b', 'd', 'o', 'B' and 'D'.

  • Serif: This is the extension at the end of a letter used in some typefaces.

  • Descender: The longest point on a letter that extends below the baseline, for example, 'p', 'y' or 'g'.

  • Ligature: This is the stroke that joins two adjacent letters together.

  • Stem: Refers to the main, usually vertical, stroke of a letter: it looks like the stem of a flower.

  • Spine: This is the curvy part of the letter 's' and depending on the typeface it may be nearly vertical or closer to horizontal.

  • Ascender: The ascender is the part of a letter that extends above the mean (average) line of a particular font, such as in the letter 'h'. This means it's higher than the font's x-height.

  • Crossbar: This is the bar that forms the inner part of a letter and goes from left to right or right to left. A good example is the line inside the letter 'B'.

  • Counter: This is the empty area in the middle of letters like 'A', 'B' or 'O', that the bowl encloses.

  • Terminal: This refers to the curve at the top or the bottom of a letter such as 'f' or 'j'.

  • Finial: The finial is the tapered end that features in some letters such as 'e' or 'c'.

  • Kerning: This is the variation in the space between two particular letters.

  • Tracking: Tracking is the modification of the spaces between a group of letters.

  • Leading: Leading is the distance between lines of type, measured from baseline to baseline.

  • Hierarchy: This is the orientation and arrangement of parts of the text to highlight that certain portions are more important than others.

What jobs can I get as a typography expert?

Here are some great career opportunities in typography:

1. Graphic designer

National average salary: £26,560 per year

Primary duties: Graphic designers create visual concepts for their clients with a mix of images and typography to use in projects such as promotional adverts and magazines. Their role is to study the brief, present ideas, plan the work and complete it within budget.

Using their skills and experience, these designers use the appropriate layout and colour to fit the client's brief. Once they have a design, they test this across different media to ensure that it appeals to the target audience.

2. Illustrator

National average salary: £31,433 per year

Primary duties: Illustrators produce images for digital and printed media such as newspapers and magazines. They prepare drafts of the project in line with the client's brief, and they use different colours, graphics and effects to bring the concept to life. This may combine hand-drawing, painting and digital design.

They typically work in collaboration with other team members to generate new ideas and illustration styles. Illustrators ensure that when they present the final product, it meets the appropriate standards of quality and colour.

3. Web designer

National average salary: £28,336 per year

Primary duties: They plan, develop and construct websites for use on the internet. They do this by expertly combining audio, written content and visual elements. This involves designing the font, text style and size, colour, animations and graphics. Web designers also register web domain names and facilitate website hosting.

Related: How much does a web designer make? (plus duties and skills)

4. Digital marketer

National average salary: £26,426 per year

Primary duties: Digital marketers monitor, maintain and implement promotional marketing for a company through mediums like social media. They use the company's social media accounts, websites and email to advertise products to potential customers. These marketers come up with strategic ways to improve the company's sales and overall productivity. They design and maintain the company's social media presence and ensure that it attracts positive attention from the public.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.


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