Fundamentals of Graphic Design

Module 1

Intermediate Level

Valencia INNOHUB

Unit 2: Typography


The main part of the presentation are the three core units included in this module: image creation, typography and digital graphics.


LOut1: Learn what graphic design is and what are the advantages of acquiring knowledge in this topic.

LOut2: Evaluate a proper use of the elements in graphic design.

LOut3: Understand the main foundations of image creation and typography regarding graphic design.

LOut4: Obtain practical knowledge and guidelines about digital graphics.

Lout5: Use open and free resources for a deeper knowledge on different topics and tools if desired.


  • Graphic Design
  • Communication
  • Image creation
  • Colour
  • Harmonic Composition
  • Typography
  • Bitmap
  • Vector
  • Open source software



Typography is a crucial and sometimes necessary element in most graphic compositions. It is used both to convey ideas and to shape a visual aspect in design.

It has a double function: text and image. Its graphic presence is related with the other visual elements, but at the same time it is necessary to ensure the necessary legibility of the text. Therefore, it is necessary to approach selection and typesetting from a graphic composition perspective but also keeping in mind the functionality of the text (readability).

The set of alphanumeric characters and signs created on the basis of the same shared graphic line is called a typographic font. The range of weights, italics or slopes and widths is known as family.

Typographies are usually differentiated according to the most characteristic features of their design: the strokes and the terminals.

The stroke constitutes the linear element that defines the character. These strokes can be uniform, if they keep the thickness constant; or modulated, if they vary the regularity of the lines. In case the line is modulated, this variation suggests a virtual axis that can be vertical or inclined in different degrees, depending on the design of the typography.

On the other hand, at the end of the strokes we can find the terminal strokes, also known as serif. The presence or not of the serif, and its form if so, are determining factors in the design of the typography and, in fact, will mark the classification of the typographic family.

The Ribbon

Regarding typographic classifications, one of the most recognized classifications is the one proposed by Maximilien Vox and later adapted by the International Typography Association (ATypI). This classification is known as Vox-ATypI.

The Vox-ATypl classification bases its analysis on the formal characteristics of the fonts, but also on historical evolution. It groups the families by features such as the shape of the terminals; the modulation and width of the line; the tilt axis; the relationship between the height of the high box, the terminals and the x-height; among other factors.

The eleven categories that integrate this classification are grouped into four major groups, as follows:

1) Classics (Humanist, Garalde, Transitional)

2) Moderns (Didone, Mechanistic, Lineal)

3) Calligraphics (Glyphic, Script, Graphic, Blackletter)

4) Non-Latin

Vox-ATypl classification and examples (1/2)


Bodoni 72 OldStyle










Copperplate Gothic





Vox-ATypl classification and examples (2/2)


Fraktur type font










Times New Roman


Non Latin

“Hello” in Chinese

A solid knowledge of the Vox-ATypI classification, given the wide diffusion in graphic practice, will facilitate the delicate task of selecting the font to be used in a graphic creation. This choice becomes even more complex when the graphic composition uses a combination of different typographies.

As a guideline, it may be useful to assume that any design can work perfectly with the articulation of two fonts as maximum. From here we can combine the possibilities offered by each of the fonts (body, series, box, colour…). In any case, working with two typographies confronts us with a decision that is both critical and decisive: their combination. We have to avoid being redundant, thus using differentiated fonts, whose contrast can be appreciable.

Layout programs usually compartmentalise the composition into two sections: character composition and paragraph composition.

Character composition groups parameters such as font, series, body, line spacing, box (upper or lower case), colour, tracking and kerning, among others.

Paragraph composition, on the other hand, allows you to edit parameters such as paragraph alignment, indentation, space allocation between paragraphs, and other factors.

In the following slides we will check out a few tips regarding these two concepts, in order to know how to manage content creation and written text composition within a graphic design approach.

The configured space between the so-called base line of a text line and the base line of the text line immediately above or below is called line spacing.

Broadly speaking, in graphic design, and for consecutive text, it is understood that a line spacing of approximately 120 % of the body value is functional. This value, however, will have to be adapted according to other parameters such as the selected typography, the specific body, the box or the length of the line of text.

The line spacing value is set in direct relation to the body text value. In fact, in professional typesetting its needed to report both the body and the line spacing values together. It does so graphically by displaying the corresponding pair of values (in points) separated by a slash: for example, Times New Roman 12/16, where 12 is the body value and 16 the spacing value.

Designs that have to integrate a large amount of text often opt for the use of columns. This structure divides the width of the composition box into columns and, therefore, shorter lines of text. This partitioning of the composition space makes it easier to read and also helps to fit all the text in the space available.

The width of the column, and the size of the corresponding line of text, will be determined by the space available (page format and its reticulation), but also by the communicative functionality and the usability we want to give to the text and design. Shorter line widths will make reading more agile, while longer lines, as long as they are not excessive, could reduce this speed and therefore be convenient for less dynamic texts.

In graphic design, it is recommended to set up lines of text between forty and sixty-five characters. This interval would allow for adequate legibility and composition (word partitions and dysfunctional interior spaces).

The paragraph composition has as its main parameter the so-called paragraph alignment or justification. This field allows you to configure various types of alignment for the consecutive lines of text grouped together (the paragraphs). Thus the text can be aligned to the right, to the left, in the centre (symmetrically), justified or composed asymmetrically.

Left alignment is possibly the most common paragraph composition in texts followed by Western reading.

Right alignment is not conventional, since it makes it difficult to find the beginning of the next line in the reading. This alignment is reserved for the composition of image captions, annotations or secondary texts, as long as they do not present an excessive number of lines of text.

Centred text, despite its often excessive use, seriously hinders the reading of continuous texts. Its symmetry, however, can be interesting for some compositional uses such as headlines, highlight texts or equivalent graphic formulas.

Justified means that the text is aligned both on the left and on the right. Thus, the text is presented as a regular block, giving the receiver a sense of functional order and internal continuity.

To conclude this unit, we will check different types of brand logos and the use of typography in them. We can divide logos into three different types: symbolic, typographic and mixed. As we can see, the use of typographic elements in logos is optional and, in most cases, the typographic font is specifically composed for that unique logo

Bitmap graphics build an image on the basis of a regular, two-dimensional grid (in height and width) of continuous and equivalent elements, where each of them can reproduce a differentiated colour value.

The visualization of all these chromatic elements (image description points), at a certain distance, generates the perception of the image.

Each of these grid elements are the so-called pixels. Each pixel reproduces a colour, which may be the same or different from that of the adjacent pixel.

The pixel is the (minimum) unit of a bitmap digital image. Each pixel reproduces its own colour value, and it will always be uniform for the whole pixel. The global visualization of the set of pixels in the image (each one with its colour), at a certain distance, allows the perception of the image.

Therefore, the reproduction of the image depends on the number of pixels present, and that is why resolution is important. The more pixels per unit of measurement, the more difficult it will be to distinguish them. With a small number of pixels per measurement, it is easy to consider the image “pixelated”.

The resolution of a digital image is expressed in pixels per inch (abbreviated as ppi)

Vector graphics, unlike bit-mapped images, are not built on an equivalent pixel array where each pixel can reproduce a distinct colour value. These graphics encode the numerical information of their geometry. In this way, independent graphic objects are generated, defined by coordinate points, all of them linked by vectors.

These graphics or vector objects are articulated according to mathematical formulas that describe position, dimensions, shape and colour to build what will be the two constituent elements of any vector object, the outline and the interior of the graphics. This mathematical architecture allows an unlimited resizing of the object or set of vectorial objects, without substantially affecting either the storage size or the representative quality.

Vector images are characterized by the term scalable. They are scalable, because even though we enlarge the image or any of the vector objects that form it, the visual quality will not suffer. The image will not be “pixelated”, nor will the file’s memory weight increase significantly.

This guarantees optimal quality for printing or any other kind of reproduction, always with the highest possible definition. As a result, the vector object is not dependent on the resolution and, in most cases, the storage size is much smaller than a bitmap image would be.

Regardless of the nature of each image (bitmap or vector), it can be encoded and saved in different file formats. The reason for this diversity can be related to the desire of industry and research to answer the different needs that arise, adapting the format used to the specific goals pursued with the image. In the following table we can study the main differences and characteristics of each format:

Currently, the variety of programs for creating and processing graphics is wide and diverse.

Previously we have analysed the fundamental differentiation between bitmap and vector graphics. This distinction is not limited to formats, but also extends to its related software. There are, therefore, vector graphics programs that work with Bezier objects, and bitmap graphics programs that work with images composed of pixels.

In the following slides we will check out different possibilities for each of them, focusing on open source programs and attaching free resources for a deep learning and understanding of those.

Adobe Photoshop

It is a paid program specialized in the creation, edition and retouching of images, specially working with bit map formats.

It offers multiple functionalities: working with layers, masks, filters, auto-corrections, different colour modes, guides, background saving… Its main use has always been bit map image editing, thus it is used for professional photo retouching and design. It can also be used for vector design, but in that sense is significantly limited.

You can find the official tutorials, guides and teaching tools for Photoshop here.


Free program for editing digital images in bitmap form, both drawings and photographs.

With GIMP we can create and edit bitmap images mainly. We can also work with vector images with the corresponding plug-in, but it is not the most suitable program to treat complex vector images.

When we start GIMP, we can see several windows, and inside each one we use the right button of the mouse to access its different functionalities. The GIMP interface has two main windows – the Toolbox and the Image Window – in addition to other windows, such as the Colour Palette, Layer Window, etc.

You can find the official tutorials, guides and teaching tools for GIMP here.

Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is the official name of one of the most popular -paid- programs of the Adobe house. It is an application that works on a drawing board, called “work table”, and is intended for editing, photo retouching and painting based on vector images.

It contains creative options, easier access to tools and great versatility to quickly produce flexible graphics for use in print, video, web publishing and mobile devices. It is enormously recognized by the quality and artistic level of the illustrations created with it, being frequently used by experienced artists.

You can find the official tutorials, guides and teaching tools for Illustrator here.

With GIMP we can create and edit bitmap images mainly. We can also work with vector images with the corresponding plug-in, but it is not the most suitable program to treat complex vector images.

When we start GIMP, we can see several windows, and inside each one we use the right button of the mouse to access its different functionalities. The GIMP interface has two main windows – the Toolbox and the Image Window – in addition to other windows, such as the Colour Palette, Layer Window, etc.

You can find the official tutorials, guides and teaching tools for GIMP here.



Inkscape is a free, open source vector graphics editor that can create and edit vector graphics such as illustrations, diagrams, lines, charts, logos, and complex illustrations. The main format the program uses is SVG. It aims to provide users with a free open source tool for creating graphics in scalable vector format (SVG) that is fully suitable with XML, SVG and CSS standards. Supported features include: shapes, strokes, text, markers, clones, alpha channel blends, transformations, gradients, patterns and groupings.


Inkscape also supports Creative Commons meta-data, node editing, layers, complex stroke operations, vectorization of graphic files, text in strokes, text alignment, direct XML editing and more. It can import formats such as Postscript, JPEG, PNG, and TIFF and exports PNG as well as many vector-based formats.


All objects included in the drawing can be modified: move, rotate, scale, stretch. The parameters of the transformation can be specified numerically through the Transform dialog. Transforms can adjust the angles, frames, guides and other objects in the nodes. Objects can be subject to cut, copy and paste operations. They can be grouped and ungrouped, they can be duplicated.



You can find the official tutorials, guides and teaching tools for Inkscape here

Adobe InDesign

Adobe InDesign is a -paid- digital page layout application developed by Adobe Systems specifically for professional typesetters.

With this application, which is considered the industry standard, we can make from simple projects such as a colour flayer, black and white, with text, images etc… to more complex creations such as magazines, conventional and electronic books, newspapers and many other publications.

Its text formatting is pretty simple thanks to its paragraph and character styles. On the other hand, the incorporation of our resources will be equally simple since InDesign accepts a large number of file formats including audio and video files.

You can find the official tutorials, guides and teaching tools for InDesign here.


Scribus is a page layout program, licensed as free software, created for publication design, typesetting and file preparation for professional-quality computer imaging equipment, and available in 24 languages.

It provides design and layout capabilities similar to those offered by privative software programs such as Adobe InDesign. Among its most relevant features, Scribus supports most major graphic formats, in addition to SVG, font and image handling, CMYK colour manipulation and ICC colour management.

Scribus offers the ability to prepare files for professional imaging teams. You can also create interactive, animated PDF presentations and forms. Examples of its application include newspapers, brochures, newsletters, posters, and books.

You can find the official tutorials, guides and teaching tools for Scribus here.


Not actually a program, but a free resource for practicing and doing exercises related with graphic design. This website uploads new exercises weekly, regarding different topics and programs used for graphic design, including several lessons about other similar topics such as social media, photography or GIF creation.

In the platform you will find each exercise deeply described, including the graphic elements that you will need attached (such as images or png files). Another cool fact about this website is that, for each exercise, you can upload your work and see other’s, which can be a really helpful learning activity.

You can the official DEX exercises here.


As we have studied, typography is a crucial element in graphic design, as it functions as text and as image, with all the consequences that entails (image creation). 

Each typographic font can be analysed and studied by its own, but certain general rules can be considered, which creates different categories as we studied in this unit. Notwithstanding, and as it happened with image creation, there are no strict rules, but several recommendations and guidelines are followed by the majority of graphic designers.

Typography plays a huge role in branding and logo design, as it can easily become the image of a company or project.

Graphic design is, by all means, a digital sector. Software and other digital solutions are used day by day by graphic designers to do their job and to obtain the best results on their works.

We mainly distinguish between two different kinds of images: bitmap and vector. Each of them has its own characteristics, advantages and disadvantages, which have to be taken into account in order to work accordingly.

List of references

Further reading