The Difference between Calligraphy, Lettering and Type

Many a times people mix up the terms calligraphy, lettering, and type, thinking them to be interchangeable. They are often thought to be three different ways of saying the same thing. However, these differences between the three are huge and also very important to know, if you plan to have a serious career in either. This article will highlight the differences between the three.

The most common example of this confusion I have seen around is when someone claims to be providing services of “hand-lettered typography”. This phrase is contradictory because typography is not hand lettered at all, and both are totally different.

In order to understand the differences between the three disciplines, it is important to know precisely what each is. The differences are explained below in detail.


Lettering is a form of art of drawing letters. A lot of factors come in to play in trying to get the lettering right, but the core concept is really simple: a particular blend of letters that are crafted for one use only. Lettering does involve play on letters but it deals with the whole picture, rather than just letters. It has to do a lot with how the whole piece looks, given the background, shades and all.


Typography can be termed as a subset of lettering. It is the study of how letters go well together when put together in a specific combination. It is, however, not concerned with the whole look of the piece. For type designers, regardless of the layout and background color, and other factors, the letter should go together well. It is different than lettering because it isn’t concerned with the whole piece, just the letters part.


While Typography is the study of making letter designs that go together well, calligraphy works with the same predetermined designed repeatedly. The difference can be understood by the fact that in typography, you create a whole alphabet design while in calligraphy, you use one of the already made alphabet designs repeatedly in art and other designs.

Why is it Important to Know the Difference?

If you are related to designing field in any way, it will be much easier to follow the standard to avoid any potential confusion. If you are a designer, you should definitely know what your client expects when they say lettering and what they want when they say calligraphy. If you are a client, you should know the right terms to clarify what you want from the project.