Since graphic or web designers focus on typography and different ways to treat the typeface, can we call them typographers?

Graphic and web designers spend significant time on choosing the typeface, pairing fonts, making text readable, legible and even more which comes under typography. Especially when dealing with text-heavy projects.

I’m talking about those who use appropriate typographic principles and treat the text in effective way in graphic and web designing.

According to my knowledge:
designing the typeface is called type design and
the art of using type is called as typography.
I believe this is true and some people are confused with these two terms (supporting link).

  • @bharat You can delete your own comments by hovering over them and clicking the ciruclar button with a cross that'll appear.
    – Vincent
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 13:12

3 Answers 3


Very rarely.

Any time you claim to be a professional X, you're staking your reputation on a claim to have specific, comprehensive expertise in that profession. With typography, some graphic designers can justify such a claim, but most can't stretch that far.

"Typographer" implies professional expert. Most good designers are adept at typography, and many be typography enthusiasts, but only a minority have gained that specific, comprehensive expertise:

  • Expertise: Could you do the things professional typographers do? Could you do it all day, every day? For example, imagine you work for a publishing house who are thinking of developing a new unique typeface for one of their publications, like The Guardian did under designer/typographer/creative director Mark Porter. Could you:

    • research and make a coherent case for or against there being a business need for this from a typographic point of view?
    • identify what typographic properties and features the new typeface needs?
    • choose the most appropriate foundry and/or type designer, and explain clearly and coherently why?
    • oversee the typeface creation process, knowing when to demand, for example, higher or lower contrast or x-height (and why), which optional glyphs to include, what weights and variants, which languages to support?
    • produce or oversee the production of guidelines on correct usage of each variant?
  • Specific expertise, deeper than that necessary for graphic design. You'd be expected to know the finer points of typography even if they don't often come up in the context of graphic design, from the advanced things OpenType is capable of to the difference between a "point" and a "pica". No-one knows everything, but a "typographer" will love the opportunity to enthusiastically geek out about the fine detail side of typography even when they're not necessary for an active project. A few semi-random examples of topics I'd expect typographers to have opinions on but average designers to struggle with:

    • Appropriate uses of discretionary ligatures
    • The pros and cons of hinting
    • Typography trends such as foundaries like Tart Workshop who use high-tech OpenType features to simulate low-tech hand-lettering
    • Anything to do with the history of typography, movable type, letraset...
    • Typography in-jokes, like, what's the most embarassing keming you've seen?
  • Comprehensive expertise: Do you have the breadth of knowledge of a typographer, or do you only know those parts that touch on graphic design? Can you give genuine, informed, professional-level advice on, for example:

    • typography for paperback novels?
    • typography for low-quality paper?
    • typography for signage and wayfinding?
    • typography in cartography?
    • international typography and scripts? You don't need to be a linguist, but I would expect very basic passing awareness of what issues exists - for example, the importance of character encodings, or the fact that some scripts like Arabic are unreadable without correctly-applied ligature-like joins.

Most graphic designers (myself included) don't have this level of expertise, and can accurately describe themselves as designers and typography enthusiasts - but to be a on a par with a professional typographer requires an extra level of expertise.

Some designers have this extra level, some are close or working towards it, but most don't.

  • 2
    As a one time professional typographer with a stupid amount of typographic knowledge in my head, I can tell you that the whole first section under "Specific" is superfluous. As far as understanding typography for various use cases, you don't need to know everything, and international (esp Arabic) is just academic unless you're actually designing for it. The "Real expertise" section is the heart of the matter. Those are the differentiating features. Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 17:18
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    @plainclothes thanks for the feedback! I did have that section first but for some reason moved it to the end... have put it first again, and I've edited to hopefully make it clearer that these are examples of having a knowledge and appreciation for the subject beyond what is necessary for active projects. Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 17:29
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    You have the essence of it, I just don't want any prospective typographers to get scared off and become Photoshop junkies instead ;-) Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 17:35
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    In my daily work I have to be wary of Cyrillic, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Thai, Burmese, Devanagari, Japanese, Chinese and a smattering of other scripts - up to and including (last week) Egyptian Hieroglyphs. I regard myself as technically proficient, but indeed the last total redesign for the publishing house I do this for was supervised and veto'ed by an alumna of the Dutch KABK. The result was way better than I could have done on my own.
    – Jongware
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 18:24
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    @DA01 I don't agree with your analogy. There is a certain level of expertise required to give yourself the label of "typographer" — just having the basic expertise to set type properly, or to choose the right typeface for the job isn't enough. A better carpentry analogy: every carpenter worth their salt should be able to build a basic cabinet. But it takes a certain level of expertise to call yourself a cabinetmaker. There are certifications and awards given for typography in Graphic Design, so certainly people have definitions.
    – ghoppe
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 22:12

Your first line "Since graphic/web designers focus on typography" is by in itself not accurate. Graphic and web designers do a lot more than focus on typography. They are also responsible for layout design, they also plan and design interaction(web designers), they also plan and develop color themes. So in a nutshell, even if you spend a lot of time with typefaces, that just happens to be one function of being a graphic/web designer.

Typographer, on the other hand is a very specialized skill dealing mostly with typefaces. This wiki has good info.


  • Yes, I agree that designers will do more than that. So according to you, though graphic and web designers perform typography, they are not called as typographer, right?
    – bharat
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 10:20
  • That is correct. Typography or a typographer is a specialized skill and not the same as being a graphic or web designer. And for clarity, they do not actually perform typography. They work with typefaces that are already available and to be used in their graphic or web projects.
    – bbh
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 10:22
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    You are telling that typographers design the typeface. But what I tell is typographers are those who use the typefaces in their design which are already created by type designers! As you said "They (designers) work with typefaces that are already available...", that means they can be a typographer, right? Seems you are pointing typographer instead of type designer.
    – bharat
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 10:31
  • And from the wiki link you provided they mentioned something like this: Typography is performed by typesetters, compositors, typographers, graphic designers, art directors, manga artists, comic book artists, graffiti artists, clerical workers, and everyone else who arranges type for a product. It means designers can be a typographer, right?
    – bharat
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 10:40

I wouldn't say the other answers are wrong at all, but will simply offer a different POV:

designing the typeface is called type design and

the art of using type is called as typography

Those would also be my definitions. If you're skilled at designing with type, sure, you can call yourself a typographer. I'd argue any graphic designer or web designer of skill has typographic skills. Type is a basic building block of graphic designer.

There is no official test or anything like that. There's no governing body of typographers. For that matter, there's no official test or governing body for web designers or graphic designers.

This is really a question of semantics and, a such, will ultimately be very opinion based.

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