MAU Art & Design Glossary




“Lettering” refers to the writing of characters/letters. This can refer to, among other things, traditional styles of writing known as shodō and calligraphy, in which a style is refined with the efficacy of the characters’ shapes in mind; to typeface design, in which a font such as minchō-tai or goshikku-tai is developed for use in printing; and to logotype, in which characters (such as those in a product name) are designed for maximum impact. Shodō and calligraphy are also referred to as hand lettering; in that sense, the painting of minchō-tai or goshikku-tai characters on a sign, for example, might also be called hand lettering.

Originally, lettering referred to the practice of handwriting (using a brush) media that did not require reproduction, such as individual signboards, signs used at meeting halls, and supermarket price lists, and the practice of transcribing model fonts such as minchō-tai or goshikku-tai, which made up the foundation of typographical training. With the spread of technology that allows for the printed output of digital lettering, using printers, lettering is coming to refer to the specific concepts of logotype and typeface design.