Calligraphy is one of the oldest forms of hand lettering, dating back to almost 1200 BC. When we think of calligraphy, we assume flourishing lines and elegant writing. Calligraphy lettering takes the proportion of letters into careful account in relation to the flourishes that extend off the end of the letters themselves. Digital calligraphy mimics texts manually written with an angled pen and often has angled edges at the end of the letters’ lines.
Many famous brands use a type of calligraphy for their logo, including Cadillac, Ford and Coca-Cola. In designing graphics, calligraphy is ideal for formal invitations, place cards for dinner or announcements for a special occasion. It often conveys an air of tradition and elegance, so this is a good style to choose for anything historical or slightly more formal.
There are two main classifications of type: serif and sans serif. The word “serifs” comes from the Latin word “servus,” meaning “small line.” That describes the very small lines you’ll see at the tops and bottoms of each letter. Serif fonts are used a lot for the body of text, because they are typically easier for the eyes to read.
Some brands that use serif lettering are: Tiffany & Co., Wikipedia and Volvo. One of the most well-recognized serif fonts is Times New Roman, a font that is widely used in media and printing of all kinds.
Serif lettering styles are clean and elegant and can truly fit in a versatile range of designs. Serif letters can be further subcategorized into different styles—traditional, old-style, classical or modern, for example, so serif letters don’t always have to look classic—it depends on the width and height of the letters and the lines that make up the letters.
Sans serif literally means “without a serif,” so this lettering refers to letters without the small “feet” on the tops and bottoms of the lines. It is one of the cleanest and less embellished styles of lettering. Sans serif fonts are used frequently for bold headlines, so it’s a great style to choose if you want to make your text stand out.
Well-known brands that use sans serif lettering are Google, Chanel and Spotify. In fact, Helvetica, one of the most popular fonts in the sans serif lettering style, is the most widely used font in the world for logos and billboards.
Brush lettering is a hand-drawn lettering style, in which the brush marks can be seen in the letters. It is more creative and conveys motion and dynamics. This style is very open to artistic interpretation and often does not appear as machine-made as the other more typographic fonts. This is a great style to use for apparel, social media, signage or any design where you’d like to convey a handwritten, artsy feel.
Brush lettering styles are also widely adaptable: these can be flourished and fine-width or made with wide strokes. The density of the brush can also vary to fit the style of your design.
Script refers to cursive-style lettering, in which letters are connected. Lines of script aren’t as hard and straight but, rather, are flowing. Script writing resembles handwriting and is an excellent style to use when you’d like to personalize a design. For example, in designing a greeting card or an invitation, script lettering would be an ideal choice.
Script is widely customizable, depending on the thickness of the letters and the angles. Kellogg’s, Ray-Ban and Instagram all use script-style logos, and they’re all widely different. When you observe the variety of brands that use script, you can see how variable script letters can actually be.
Vintage lettering refers to any lettering style used historically and conveys “retro'' feelings. Within vintage styles, there are script fonts that are flowing, as well as block-style letters. Vintage lettering tends to be more decorative and embellished. If you want to invoke nostalgia with your design, start by choosing a vintage lettering style.
Vintage lettering can be used on signage, apparel or anything where you’d like to convey something “aged.”
Gothic lettering lends itself well to ornate, historical designs. It is also known as “Blackletter” and has its roots in Germanic texts. Gothic lettering is what we think of when we imagine medieval-style texts with its broad, angular strokes. It’s a bold lettering style that can work well in many applications.
From invitations to product packaging, Gothic lettering is perfect for creating a more elegant look—perfect for concerts, civic or historical events, and even to convey a “spooky” feel, for example, for Halloween. Gothic lettering has a very noticeable look, so choose it wisely, as you’re definitely not going for a subtle one.
Block letters have a very cool, thick-lined style and are used to make an impact. Block lettering is sans serif, and, sometimes, this style is written in all capitals. The lines are often thick and chunky with solid color and without embellishment. FedEx is a famous brand that uses block lettering for its logo. Choose block lettering where you want to make a bold impact. Block letters work well for posters, billboards, t-shirts and apparel.
Wrap It Up
Once you have chosen your lettering style, you are ready to start designing. A convenient tool will come in handy at this point. If you choose Art Text, a typography and lettering app for Mac, not only will it give you powerful tools to design any text graphics, but will also provide hundreds of predesigned style templates fully customizable for your unique project, providing design inspiration.