Introduction to Design Systems

Font measurements

There are several types of measurements you can use to build a type scale.

Pixels are units used by designers, however they shouldn't be used to define a type scale.

Most browsers allow a user to set their default font-size to another value than the default of 16px. If a user sets their default to 20px, all font-sizes should scale in relation.

However if you set font-sizes in terms of px, a heading set at 30px will remain at 30px regardless of the base font-size selected by the user.

Em is the unit of typography equal to the currently specified point-size. 1em can compute to different values depending upon where you are in the code.

Ems perform in a similar fashion to REM, until it comes to nesting.

If you have a div with a font-size of 2em, then you nest a p with a font-size of 2em, the font-size of the paragraph is now 2em relative to the div.

REM is the unit of typography equal to the root font size. 1 rem will be equal to the font size defined in the html element.

REM is great for creating robust type scale systems which account for user preference and propagate to HTML elements.

You can calculate pixels from REM by multiplying the REM value by the pixel base.