Have you ever noticed that not all words look the same? From website to website and book to book, letters can look similar or quite different. If you’re looking for it, it’s obvious. But we don’t notice it most of the time.

Why don’t all letters look the same? It’s because they’re in different fonts. And we should be glad there are so many fonts out there, because they can make reading more interesting!

When talking about printed words, a font is a complete set of all the characters (letters, numbers, punctuation and other symbols) of the same size and style for a specific typeface. Today, computers are used to generate most published documents and “font” has come to mean basically the same thing as “typeface” — regardless of the size (10-point, 12-point, etc.) or style (bold, italic, etc.).

Even though computers have redefined how fonts are used, the word “font” itself comes from an old French word that referred to something that had been melted. This meaning comes from the fact that typefaces used to be actual metal pieces that were used in printing presses. Metal had to be melted before it could be shaped into individual characters in a typeface.

Johann Gutenberg designed the first font for his movable type press. At that time, all books were handwritten, so Gutenberg designed a font that looked similar to the popular handwritten style of the time. As other printing shops opened, printers began to develop additional fonts to make their products unique.

Fonts add elements of design and creativity to written works. Beyond the meaning of the words themselves, fonts can add emotions to text through their very design.

For example, if you want to add a sense of fun or whimsy to your words, you could use a font such as Jokerman. If you want to make your words look like they were written by a child, you could use a font like First-Grader. Or if scary is what you’re after, you could definitely achieve that effect with a font called Chiller!

With the help of computer programs, anyone can design their very own font. So many people have designed their own custom fonts that there are now tens of thousands of fonts in existence!

24 Join the Discussion

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    • Hi there, Wonder Friend Barbie Doll! We are glad you like certain types of fonts– they can help express emotion without saying anything at all! :)

  1. This is so cool I think that it would really really be hard to read for older people, even for a lot of young people. It also looks very hard to make the font. I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about hearing aids.

    • Great observation, Grace! We’re so proud of you for WONDERing on your own about fonts! We hope to see you tomorrow for more WONDERing together! :)

  2. Johann Gutenberg designed the first font for his moveable type press. And I am so surprised on how much typing has been improved. I never knew anybody could have a font? I learned so much with wonderopolis.

    • We’re so proud of all you learned, Jules! Thanks for sharing your comment with all of us at Wonderopolis! You ROCK! :)

  3. Dear Wonderopolis,
    I would have never guessed that today’s would be about fonts!!!!!

    I never knew that font came from France and means melt!!!!!!!

    I’m WONDERing if tomorrow’s wonder will be about hearing aids, that is because if you can’t hear tomorrow’s wonder and you have to crank it up to hear it, then it must be a hearing aid, or how you make hearing aids, and maybe new ones that they’ve made.

    • Hey there, Alexis, we think it’s so much fun to learn new things together! Thanks for sharing all you’ve learned about fonts today! Great work! :)

  4. I had never heard of a font, but I do know the words in different style. I once did it on my mom’s computer, it looked pretty cool with these kinds of styles. But I never used the computer again. :( :)

    • We’re SUPER glad you’ve learned something new, Carlos! We bet you have seen so many different fonts, but you didn’t know the name for it! We’re so proud of all you’ve learned today, Carlos! :)

    • Hi there, Rizzoli, thanks for WONDERing about font with us! We bet your own font is a Wonder of its own– it’s probably very stylish! Thanks for joining the fun today! :)

    • We’re over the moon that you’ve learned something new about font, Mercedes! How exciting! We hope you come back to Wonder with us soon! :)

    • WOHOO, we’re so excited that you learned something new with us, Diavion! It’s pretty impressive to think about! We love seeing different fonts– they each seem to have their own personality! :)

  5. My favorite fonts are: Monotype Corsiva, French Script MT and Teen. I love doing fancy writing and creating my own fonts.

    • Alright, we are so glad you’re using your talents and imagination to create fonts of your own, Ovi! We think you ROCK! What a great way to express yourself! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is a font?
  • How many fonts are there?
  • Can you write a poem that uses different fonts to express emotions?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Ready to try your hand at designing a unique poem with lots of different fonts? First, you’ll need to write a brief poem. It doesn’t have to be great, and it doesn’t have to be long. But it does need to be descriptive.

Use color words. Include comparison words, such as bigger, stronger and faster. And pick words that have some visual excitement associated with them. Be creative!

When you’re finished with your poem, type it using a word processing program on a computer. Have fun playing with all the different fonts. Try changing the size of the font for certain words. You can also experiment with italics and bold fonts.

Use fonts that reinforce the meaning of the words you chose for your poem. For example, if you used the word “bigger” in your poem, choose a font that’s bigger than the fonts used for the surrounding words.

Let your imagination run wild. Playing with fonts in a document can be a lot of fun. You never know when you might discover a talent for — and a future in — graphic design! If you can, post a picture of your finished poem on Facebook to share with all your Wonder Friends. We can’t wait to read it!

Still Wondering

Check out Science NetLinks’ Technology at Home site that lets you go back through the twentieth century to find out when everyday items such as computers, TVs, and CD players first appeared.

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