Anatomy of the Type

To learn about typography better, we must be able to distinguish between different typefaces. Just like humans, each typeface has some physical attribute that distinguishes it from the other typeface.

As discussed in my earlier post, I am attempting to document and share whatever that I have learned about typography. While I was learning about the anatomy of type, I felt that rather than just reading about it or writing alphabets digitally, I will learn better if I practice them by writing. The images I have included are all part of my notes. You can obviously do a quick google search to find a digital image, but if you wish to remember these names, practice them like this 🙂

We will be covering the following in this post:

  1. Baseline
  2. x- height
  3. Cap Height
  4. Ascender
  5. Ascender Line
  6. Descender
  7. Descender Line
  8. Stroke
  9. Stem
  10. Arm
  11. Serif
  12. Bowl
  13. Spine
  14. Crossbar
  15. Cross Stroke
  16. Shoulder
  17. Tail
  18. Counter space
  19. Aperture
  20. Finial
  21. Loop
  22. Link
  23. Ear
  24. Jot
  25. Beak
  26. Apex
  27. Crotch

Baseline

The invisible line where the characters sit

2

x Height

The height of a small case x. It represents the height of the small letters without the ascenders or descenders.

Cap Height

Height of the capital letter from the baseline.

3

Ascender

The vertical stroke extending above the x-height, such as in alphabet b and h.

4

Ascender Line

The invisible line from where the ascender rises. It marks the height of the ascender.

Descender

The vertical stroke that extends below the baseline.

Descender Line

The invisible line that marks the end of the descender. It marks the maximum height of the descender.

Stroke

A diagonal line is called a stroke.

5

Stem

The vertical stroke in an alphabet is called a stem.

6

Arm

The diagonal or horizontal stroke that is not connected at one or both ends. Examples would be top of the capital T, the horizontal strokes of the F and the diagonal strokes in K.

Serif

The stroke that is added at the beginning and end of the stroke of the alphabet.

7

Bowl

The fully closed curved or circular part of a character.

8

Spine

The main stroke/ curve of the letters.

9

Crossbar

The horizontal stroke in a letter like A, H or E.

10

Cross Stroke

The horizontal stroke that intersects the stem in t and f

11

Shoulder

This is the transitional section in an alphabet which is a curve projecting downwards from the stem.

12

Tail

The decorative stroke that descends downwards in Q .13

Counter

The completely or partially enclosed area within a letter. Letters containing closed counters include A, B, D, O, P, Q, R, a, b, d, e, g, o, p, and q. Letters containing open counters include c, f, h, i, s etc.

14

Aperture

Opening at the end of an open counter

15

Finial

The tapered curved end of the letter as in c and e.

16

Loop

The counter below the baseline. It is connected to the bowl with a link.

17

Link

A stroke connected the loop and the bowl.

Ear

Ear is a decorative stroke projecting out from the upper bowl of lowercase g.

Jot

A small round mark also called tittle.

18

Beak

Found in some Serif Typefaces, Beak is a decorative stroke at the end of the arm of a letter.

19

Apex

The portion of letters A, M, and N where two strokes meet to form a peak.

20

Crotch

It is acute angle made on the inside where two strokes meet.21

Though I have tried to include as many as possible, I might have missed few.

Here is the list of references that can help you to understand the type anatomy better

  1. Typography Deconstructed
  2. I Love Typography
  3. Thinking with Type
  4. Typedia

Whatever source you choose, as mentioned earlier, try to write them and practice. You will be able to understand and learn these terms better. Another great way to understand the anatomy is to see them as parts of human anatomy and in real life perspective. Baseline could be the ground on which we walk, the ear like human ears, are projections from the main body, the arm is connected from one end of the body just like in an alphabet and so on. Please feel free to add your own definitions, references and anything that can help all of us learn typography better.

Thanks for reading!

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