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Anatomy of Type

Understanding Anatomy

Individual letter forms have unique parts which have changed in visual form over the centuries. A nomenclature helps identify major elements of their construction. The evolution of lettering styles over time is a result of optical adjustments to the basic components by type designers over the ages.

When the words are overlapped, they do not line up perfectly. For the designer this means that they will have to be mindful of the fonts they use and be sure to never mix a serif with a sans-serif font family.

Descender Counter Stroke Spine Stem Fillet Arm Tail

Capline Meanline X-Height

Ectoplasm Ectoplasm







Anatomy of Type | Understanding Anatomy

Anatomy of Type | Single Letter

When the bottom half of the word is covered, it is more legible than when the top gets covered. Fundamental to all typographic design is the interplay between letterform and background. Every letterform denes a particular counterform. Form and counterform are reciprocal values and completely interdepenent and integral to a letters completeness and design.v The counterform is not just what is left over in the background. The counterform is a new entitiy that emerges through interaction with the form. Typically these counterforms are either geometric or organic in quality depending on the structure or style of the ltter. An awareness of this inter-relationship of form and counter form is essential in typographic design.

Ectoplasm Ectoplasm Ectoplasm

Anatomy of Type | Cropping Studies

Anatomy of Type | Counterpart and C ounterpoint

Anatomy of Type | Counterpoint and Counterpart

denotes counterpart relationships denotes counterpoint relationships

Anatomy of Type | Form/Counterform

Anatomy of Type | Typographic Kinetics

When creating a visual hierarchy in typographic space, a designer balances the need for harmony, which unies a design, with the need for contrast, which lends vitality and emphasis. As in music, elements can have a counterpart or a counterpoint relationship.

Typographic counterparts are elements with similar qualities that bring harmony to their spatial relationship. Elements hav a counterpoint relationship when they have contrasting characteristics, such as size, weight, color, tone, or texutre. Counterpoint relationshps bring opposition and dissonance to the design.

Every letter has a personality you can identify. Fragmentation is not the goal in and of itself. Everything is adjustable and its a case-by case decision of how far to go. The form you seek is one that to be able to read the word. So this determines the degree of fracture. Its the

part(letterform) towhole (word). Both must be juggled to value. You cant use the same element over and over just because it worked in one place. Every example should change somewhat. Because range is a persistent goal of design, you want to invent in each example. Expect some noble necessary part of any assignment.


a L T o sm

c o e


sm op A s

Anatomy of Type | The Structure of Letters

Anatomy of Type | The Structure of Letters

While upper and lower case letters are distinct in structure, they are all built by combining four strokes; vertical, horizontal, slanted, and curvilinear. These elementary strokes form the foundation, a visual code that is recognizable through our long experience with reading and writing regardless of style.

Therefore, letter forms derive their visual character from combinations of these basic strokes and not from being light or bold, wide or narrow, Roman or italic, sansserif or serif. An entire alphabet can be categorized using only six basic underlying visual combinations of strokes as the example illustrates.

Since the time of the Greeks, capital letterforms have consisted of simple geometric forms based on the square, circle, and triangle. The basic shape of each









abdgh jurpmn



capital letterforms can be extracted from this Roman letterform template found on the Trojan Columns which is composed of a bisected square, a circle, a triangle, and inverted triange, and two smaller shapes.

Typographic Page with a Chair

Using the initials of your designer, impose the letterofrms in a typographic study that interprets a realtionship to the form of the chair they designed. The goal is to discover relationships in form and division of space. Then, using the desingers name, the name of the chair, and the date of its manufacture, impose the words in a typographic study that demonstrates relationships to the chair.

size + weight

size + case


h w
weight + slant

size + width

h W
weight + width

weight + face

Be Sk net als tol

19 63

1 9 6 3

3 -Be

net S k





size + weight

s han er n g we
slant + size

3 6
ene 3b




er n inte



y th



3 -Benet


als t sk


size + width

size + tonality

Anatomy of Type | Chair Hang Tag


H an s


Type generally falls into two primary categories; informational and or expressive. Its not uncommon to have a strategy for both present in layouts. Informational text is more common and the form responds to long traditions and conventions of size, spacing, and established habits of organization on the page. In a book or website it is information

design that takes thelead. On a poster or motion graphics expression could lead. The ratio is determined by the deisnger and the needs of the communication. An emphasis or hierarchy must be clear and decisive so the roles each plays in the communication are clear. In design, things are not equal.

gn W ee

size + case + weight


Wegne r

Hans J. Wegner is considered to be an important innovator in traditional furniture design as well as a pioneer in Danish Modernism. He earned fame with his exclusive, perfectly crafted chairs, which often drew on traditional

of forming laminated wood, although only on a two-dimensional level. A preliminary Skalstol prototype from 1949, with its three separate shells, was probably a forerunner of the Eamess Lounge Chair

As the Skalstol demonstrates, a traditional notion of ones role can also yield great originality and elegance.

Han s

models and were made by hand. After participating in Low-Cost Furniture Design, the 1948 competition held by the MoMA in New York, he began working with the relatively new process

Eamess Lounge Chair from 1956. It already features the intelligent, highly stable leg construction which consists of just two pieces of laminated wood and thus saves material inputs.



1 9 6 3



weight + case + color


63 19

ered nsid tor a is co ner t innov ign g e n W es orta s J. re d nHan an imp furnitu a in D l e to b ditiona ioneer rned a a p e r t a e s perin m. H ell a ive, as w odernis exclus hich w is M , h ish l airs ith ew d ch ditiona fam crafte n tra ly fect drew o n ofte

, ood ed w inat wo-dit lam a g n rmin relim ly o of fo ugh on el. A p type v o to alth ional le l pro ree o s t h ly men Skals ith its t robab y w r as p ss ina 1949, lls, w e Eame e m h o s fr th e arat r of sep runne ir a re a fo nge Ch u Lo

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of tion l no . nce iona t a i g d le ra ,at nd e s a e y t it tra inal ons orig dem reat ol g t s d l l ie Ska so y he n al As t le ca o r s one

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irad , a t ield s e trat also y ons em le can d tol es ro e. kals anc on e S ion of eleg h d t an As al not lity ina tion g i r at o gre

hair ures t ge C oun ady fea L ess alre Eam 1956. It , highly which n nt from tellige structio ieces e by in mad con two p us ere ating in , the le leg t d th s w ju a d b n ip n d n ig of sta els a r partic re Des ists ed woo uts. d s o n e u t t o m p ld f a c urnit d. A min n he ial in han -Cost F petitio York, of la mater s w ave Lo 948 com in New h the s it A 1 the e MoM rking w s s h o by t gan w roce e wp b e n e h ly e iv t rela

n s er a H e gn

We gne r
g of formin gh process d, althou oo w ed laminat dimension otw a only on iminary el pr A al level. ype l protot Skalsto its three ith w , from 1949 as probshells, w separate of the er nn ru re ably a fo Chair e ng ou L Eamess . from 1956 the iny features It alread le leg ab st ly , high telligent conch hi w tion construc eces of st two pi sists of ju d thus wood an ed at in lam . ial inputs er at m s save

considegner is Hans J. W rtant po an im ered to be onal in traditi r to va inno ell sign as w de re itu furn h r in Danis ee on pi as a He earned . sm ni Moder ive, his exclus fame with , ted chairs af cr tly perfec drew on n te of which s and al model tradition nd. After ha by e t were mad Low-Cos in g in participat n, the ig es D Furniture held by petition 1948 com York, ew N in A the MoM with ng ki or w he began ely new the relativ

We gne r

Bene t Skals tol

e n g e

1 9 6 3

Ben e Skal t stol

9 1

H ans

3 6
l o t s l a