Back To Basics : The Anatomy of Type

In order to be a good graphic designer you need to understand how type works. By truly understanding the basics you can use this knowledge to make your designs effective. Type is essential. Type communicates and makes your designs speak.
The first fundamental of typography is knowing the anatomy of letter forms. This is tremendously valuable when communicating with other designers or trying to hunt down that perfect font for your design. By knowing the bits and pieces of type it is easier to understand why type looks good or why type looks like an eye-sore. It can truly make or break your design. While these terms won't tell you what makes a typeface good, they will at least give you the right words to use when you discuss the particular benefits of a particular face over another.

Here is a list of definitions of the most important parts of letter forms:

BASELINE : where all the letters sit. This is the most stable axis along a line of text, and it is a crucial edge for aligning text with images or with other text. The curves at the bottom of letters such as o or e hang slightly below the baseline. Commas and semicolons also cross the baseline.

X-HEIGHT : the height of the main body of the lowercase letter (or the height of a lowercase x) excluding its ascenders and descenders

CAP HEIGHT : the distance from the baseline to the top of capital letter. The cap height of a typeface determines its point size.

ASCENDER : The part of some lowercase letters (such as b, h or d) which ascends above than the x-height

DESCENDER : The part of some lowercase letters (such as y, p or q) that descends below the baseline. In some typefaces, even uppercase letters like J or Q may descend below the baseline

SERIF :  Small, finishing strokes on the arms, stems and tails of characters

So now have fun and practice. You can now say "We need to supersize that x-height" or "These descenders just don't work for me" and actually know what you are talking about.


  © 2010 Design by Stephanie Janke -

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