Why are there so many typefaces? Why do we need new ones? And what are the differences between them all? These are some of the most commonly asked questions about type, understandably so. With over 160,000 typefaces in existence and new ones being designed every day, both the novice and the professional can easily become lost in a sea of typoconfusion.

Type design is similar to other kinds of product design in that it combines personal expression and interpretation with the needs and trends of the times. As technology changes, so does society as a whole, and changing personal tastes and styles are often a reflection of this, as is the desire to stand out from the crowd. Automobiles, furniture, watches, clothing, and even household items–such as telephones, toasters, and teacups–are all essential functional items that are constantly changing and being redesigned and subsequently purchased anew or replaced by consumers. We never seem to have enough choices. The same is true for typefaces, with one major difference–the appropriate choice of a typeface is essential to the success and effectiveness of your message.

Some typefaces, such as text faces, are chosen for their functionality, while others are chosen to be new, different, and eye-catching, as are most display designs. Before we can understand the differences between typefaces, it is important to be able to see the differences. This is an acquired skill that can be learned ...

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