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« The Case of the Missing Insignia | Main | How Significant Is It? »

October 05, 2006

"Font" or "Typeface"?

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Allan Haley explains the difference between a "font" and a "typeface." He also argues that we should be more careful in how we use the words.

I understand Haley's point and am sympathetic. I have my own streaks of language-usage persnickitiness -- back here, for example, I expressed my exasperation with the common misuse of the phrase "begging the question."

But, practically speaking, where "font" and "typeface" are concerned? I suspect that Haley is fighting a language-usage war that was lost several years ago.



posted by Michael at October 5, 2006


The distinction is not entirely without practical meaning. Most typefaces are inherently in the public domain, but computer fonts can be and are copyrighted.

Posted by: Daniel Newby on October 5, 2006 7:17 PM

Only the exact file per se is copyrightable(ie as 'software'). Type designs and their defining characteristics cannot be copy protected in the US, unlike Europe.

Font=Digital File
Type/Typeface= Aesthetic theorum

Posted by: Eric on October 5, 2006 9:00 PM

I followed your link, and I now realize I misuse "begging the question." Thanks for setting me straight, but I think pragmatically its definition has in fact been replaced with "makes me wonder." It's the more straightforward definition, really---a question is begging to be asked---rather than all that "the supposition needs as much proof as the conclusion" stuff. It's that kind of thing that makes my hurt about math.

Posted by: annette on October 6, 2006 10:10 AM

As a former typesetter and long-time grammar and usage nerd, I agree with the commenter who wrote the following:

Absolut Rubbish Mr H! A typeface is the family design (Futura), a font is the variant design (Futura Extra Bold Condensed). You're confusing rather than clarifying.

Posted by: beloml on October 6, 2006 3:50 PM


Typeface/Type Family is the aesthetic construct (family included) and in 21st century terms FONT is a digital file. FOUNT (pre-phototype)is a variant.
If it's not the file, what do I purchase and install on my computer?

Posted by: Eric on October 9, 2006 12:59 AM

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