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!

Wonder What's Next?

Can you hear tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day? If not, crank up the volume!