Typography refers to the arrangement of text on a page, and appears in some form or another in all instances of written communication. Depending on the purpose, it can be used for optimum readability, impact, or an artistic statement. Some graphic designers work totally in text, and study how text is arranged extensively while they perfect their art. Quality design can make a big difference in communications, because it can affect the way the reader sees and feels about the topic being discussed.
At the most basic, typography is a combination of font, size, spacing, and color. For example, many online articles use a clear sans serif font in a moderate size, arranged on the screen for maximum readability. The text is black on a pale background, further enhancing the readability, and links within the text stand out because they are underlined and in a different color. The overall purpose behind the layout of the article is to clearly communicate written information to a reader.
This is also the case in newspapers, books, and other sources of information. Newspaper typography is a carefully balanced art form, as the compositors of the newspaper must be able to fit the required text within certain page restrictions. The newspaper staff must also make decisions about the sizing for headlines, and the placement of material on the page. People who examine newspapers closely should be able to see patterns in the way articles and photographs are laid out on the page. They should be able to immediately distinguish the lead article, for example, as it should instantly draw your eye.
Typography can also be elevated into an art form, and some of the best examples are found in advertising design. For example, most consumers associate particular fonts with certain branded products, because the advertising campaign featured distinctive use of those fonts. The design teams behind the advertising campaign made a series of design roughs that probably included a variety of fonts so that the designers and company executives could decide on a design which best represented the company.
Especially in modern art, typography is also used to convey an artistic statement. Famous works of modern art often include the use of text as a visual medium, sometimes alone and sometimes with image. The font, letter spacing, and color are all important considerations for maximum visual impact. Small changes can radically alter the look and feel of a piece, and many computer graphic design programs make it easier for designers to modify their text to perfection. Classic typography, using movable type and a press, required a close eye to detail, and an ability to extrapolate the final look of the piece from limited visual information.