Anatomy of Type

Overlap

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.

Overlap to discover the remarkable range that exists between historic families of type even though they have the same point size. What does this mean for the designer? When it comes to mixing families of type what can be done and what cannot be done? What are the only 2 anatomical attributes that all families share?

counter

foot serif

Dragonfly
serif ear arm loop decender stroke eye link

Capline

Meanline x-height Baseline

Dragonfly Dragonfly

shoulder

stem

bowl

ligature ascender

spur

Legibility word

Single Letter Counter Forms

This is a study in legibility of a word. The exercise teaches us that when the bottom half of the word is covered it is more legible that when the top is covered. More of the distinctive attributes of letters are in the top half since we write from top to bottom.

Fundamental

to

all

typographic

design

The counterform is a new entity 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 letter. An awareness of this inter-relationship of form and counterform is essential in typographic design.

is the interplay between letterform and background. Every letter form deffines a particular counterform. Form and counterform are reciprocal values and completely interdependant and intergral to a letter’s completness as a design. The counterform is not just what is left over in the background.

Dragonfly Dragonfly Dragonfly

Legibility Letter

Structure of Letters

While upper and lower case letters are distinct in structure, they all are built by combining 4 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, sans serif or serif. An entire alphabet can be categorized using only six basic underlying visual combinations of strokes as the example illustrates.

Single letter_form and counterform

Two letters_form and counterform

stroke categories

LC HLIFTE

UC lirjft

KNMYW

k

XV

wxyv

AZ

z

RUDBJP

mngabdhqp

CQGO

ceos

Cropping Studies

Typographic Kinetics

This is a study of how much of the letterform can be removed and still read the word. The exercise teaches us to recognize what is distinctive about each letter.

When creating a visual hierarchy in typographic space, a designer balances the need for harmony, which unifies 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 have a counterpoint relationship when they have contrasting characteristics, such as size, weight, color, tone, or texture. Counterpoint relationships bring opposition and dissonance to the design.

denotes counterpart relationships denotes counterpart relationships

Form/ Counterform

The Structure of Letters

Every letter has a personality you can identify. Fragmentation is not the goal in and of itself. Everything is adjustable and it’s a case-by case decision of how far to go. The form you seek is one where you are still able to read the word. So this determines the degree of fracture. It’s the “part”(letterform) to”whole” (word). Both must be juggled to value. You can’t 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. Discovery, experimentation, success and failure are part of any assignment.

H
denotes counterpart relationships denotes counterpart relationships

Typographic Page with a Chair

Typographic Page with a Chair

Type generally falls into two primary categories; informational and or expressive. It’s 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 the lead. On a poster or motion graphics, expression could lead. The ratio is determined by the designer 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.

weight + face

weight + face

Typographic Page with a Chair

slant + size size + weight

size + value weight + slant

Typographic Page with a Chair

Multi-Page Typographic Layout and the Grid Type generally falls into two primary categories; informational and or expressive. It’s 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 the lead. On a poster or motion graphics, expression could lead. The ratio is determined by the designer 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.

The 1974 Ikea Skopa Chair by Ole Gjerlov-Knudsen / Torben Lind is a really stylish Danish made bucket type chair originally made for outdoor use.

weight+case+color

The SKOPA chair is developed by a supplier that usually makes plastic buckets and bowls, creating a chair in which form and function are not compromised by an unorthodox solution.

The chair stands approximately 2ft tall. The seat cushion measures 17inches across.

size + weight

Born in 1930, Knudsen trained as a cabinate maker serving his apprenticeship under Ludvig Pontoppidan. In 1952 graduated from the Kunsthandvrerkerskolen (School of Arts and Crafts and from the furniture Departement of the Danish Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1955.

Wordplay

Wordplay refers to creating typographic equivalents for words. In this exercise, we used contrasting words and one typeface. Using simple changes in spacing, sizing and placement of letters on a page, the work not only conveys the word’s meaning but expresses it as well.

Wordplay

Wordplay

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