Art and Design

Typefaces and point size

Eric Gill designed the Gill Sans typeface when he lived at Capel-y-ffin in the Black Mountains in the 1920s. Gill Sans is very beautiful and clear. It is still one of the most famous typefaces in the world.


Designers need to decide the size and spacing of letters. They measure the size in ‘points’. In digital design a point is 0.3527mm – an apparently odd choice of number that comes from traditional printing measurements in inches.

Point size includes the space needed around a letter. So the total space for a 10-point letter should be 10 times 0.3527mm, which is 3.527mm. The space for a 30-point letter should be 30 times 0.3527mm, which is 10.581mm. A 30-point letter should be three times the size of a 10-point letter. Some typefaces vary in size because they are designed to have different space around them.

Here is Gill Sans doubled three times, from 8 points to 16 points to 32 points to 64 points. If you look at the capital H you can see that the spaces as well as the letters get bigger.



You will need a programme like Word on a computer.


  1. Open a new document. Make sure the scale at the bottom right of your screen is set to 100% to help you see the type at about its real size.
  2. Cut and paste a paragraph of text or write a paragraph.
  3. Make three copies of the paragraph on the same page, one below the other.
  4. Select all the paragraphs together. On the Home menu choose the Palatino typeface from the drop-down ‘font’ box.
  5. Select the first paragraph and choose point size 12 from the box next to the font box.
  6. Select the second paragraph and choose point size 18. This should be 1.5 times the point size of the first paragraph. Notice how there are more lines because you can’t get so many words on a line in bigger text.
  7. Select the third paragraph and choose point size 24.
  8. Look at the three paragraphs. If you can print them out on paper they should appear exactly to scale. Which one is most readable and which is the nicest to look at?

Use the menus again to try out other typefaces and point sizes.