Search engines

Using the search engine page, users come into contact with typographic variables and decode the meaning ascribed to them in this specific context. These changes in the appearance of the letters were gradually introduced to provide the reader with reference points. They create visible hierarchies and allow meaning to emerge. This is also the means for accessing the author's thought over and above the words used. The variables that interest us in the case of search engine pages are connected to a functional viewpoint in order for readers to situate themselves in various levels and amidst various types of information.
Among the different variables, the weight variable complies with appearance of the character by conforming with the existing contrast between a letter's upstrokes (the thickest lines) and downstrokes (the thinnest) so that the whole constitutes a family.


The measure of a character's dimensions, expressed in points. For well-designed characters, different type sizes will have different designs, in order to retain readability, regardless of size. Specifically, in smaller-sized characters the counters tend to become visually "blocked" (in the days of letterpress printing they would fill with ink).


Refers to the thickness of a letter. Varying the weight consists of making the thin and thick strokes heavier or lighter. Fonts with the thinnest weight variants are called Ultra-light, Light and Thin, while the thickest are referred to as Bold, UltraBold, ExtraBold, Black, UltraBlack and ExtraBlack, in reference to a standard weight, known as Regular or Normal. At first, the visual hierarchy established by a difference in colour (more or less black) was obtained by mixing characters of different shapes (see style below), as we can see in the first "Letters of indulgence" printed by Gutenberg and/or his former associates Fust and Schöffer.


The use in the same family of capital and small letters. The relation between these two aspects of a letter did not always exist for every character style: the first works published by Aldus Manutius printed in italics (see slope) used roman capital letters because there were no italic capitals.


Refers to the width of a character. Weights can range from ultra-light to extra-bold. The character is then said to be extended or condensed, in reference to the standard weight of the character, known as regular or normal.


Refers to the axis of the letter; in italics the slope is at an angle. While upright ("roman") letters appear calm, static and "serious", italics are reminiscent of rapid handwriting, and retain a trace of the original velocity.


In Garamont's time, printers carried over the variety of styles found in medieval manuscripts into their technical processes: Blackletter, humanist letters, italics. The distinction between serif and sans serif letters appeared much later. Combining them in a single text soon became meaningful since forms are consciously or unconsciously associated with the cultures and eras in which they first appeared.

Teaching guide n°5


Secondary school: theme «Art, techniques, expressions»
High school: theme «Art, sciences and techniques»

Implied instruction

French, history-geography, art, technology, art history

DocumentDownload the PDF
of this page


The search engine page below no longer has the usual reference points created by differences in type and colour. After listing those that you remember and that you found on the reference page, try and re-establish them and/or design new ones for each function that you listed by using the full set of existing variables.