Calligraphy, Hand-lettering, and Typography, What’s the Difference?

With the advent of fonts available online these days, the distinction between handwriting, calligraphy, and typography has become a bit more obliterated, in fact, they almost look the same. A simple way to define the difference between them is that calligraphy is a style of writing, handwriting is an illustrative art, and typography is a technique of using letters in graphic design.

1. Calligraphy

A calligraphy is basically a form of writing. The art itself refers to writing that is done with a kind of pen that holds the ink spread over the paper as written by a calligrapher.

Unlike handwriting which can be done with any tool, calligraphy can only be done with the tip of a pen and ink or at most modern style pens with ink in the cartridge. Some modern calligraphers use a marker with a tip shaped like the tip of a pen. Even calligraphy is known as the art of writing with a single stroke. Calligraphy is made entirely manual and it may, or may not be digitalized afterward. Calligraphy involves creating different types of lines which are eventually combined into a fluid composition.

2. Hand-lettering

The essential difference between calligraphy and handwriting is in the creation of each. As previously noted, calligraphy is the art of writing, meaning that the letters are written from beginning to end and must remain that way. Handwriting, on the other hand, is more like an illustration of letters.

Handwriting can definitely have a calligraphic style, even if done with pen and ink. However, unlike calligraphy, handwriting can be further stylized until the artist is satisfied with the final result. Refers to the activity of drawing the alphabet with more than 1 stroke (multiple strokes). Each letter can be written individually without the need for further calligraphy.

Other handwriting styles can be more illustrative with different decorations, themes, and design styles.

3. Typography

Typography is a type-setting technique to create letters, words, and sentences on a piece of the written text of various sizes or lengths. In typography, all letters used in a certain font are the same. There are no differences between the same letter in one single word, meaning that the fonts use preset rules.

There can be “illustrated typefaces” or “hand-lettered fonts” that start out handcrafted and then turn into font files. That’s why you see many popular fonts today that look handwritten (likely originally created by hand) but are used in a repeatable and typeable way, they slide more precisely into this typographic category.

Fonts are created by type designers and graphic designers use their respective fonts to complete more complex projects.

Graphic designers can also create fonts if they want to create them specifically for their own designs.


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