TypeTalk: Parts of a Character

TypeTalk is a regular blog on typography. Post your questions and comments by clicking on the Comments icon above.

Q. Can you explain some of the terminology for the parts of a character that would be most useful to know?

A. The operative word in your query is “useful,” as most explanations of the anatomy of a typeface (or parts of a character, as I like to call them) list many more terms than you need to know for everyday usage.

Here are the most commonly used (and most useful) terms when talking about type and the differences between one typeface design and another:

Baseline: The invisible line on which the flat part of characters sit.

Cap height: The height of capital letters from the baseline to the top of caps, most accurately measured on a character with a flat top and bottom (E, H, I, etc.).

x-height: The height of lowercase letters usually based on the lowercase x, not including ascenders and descenders.

Ascender: The part of a lowercase character (b, d, f, h, k, l, t) that extends above the height of the lowercase x.

Descender: The part of a character (g, j, p, q, y, and sometimes J) that descends below the baseline.

Stroke: A straight or curved line.

Bowl: A curved stroke that creates an enclosed space within a character (which is then called a counter).

Counter: The partially or fully enclosed space within a character.

Terminal: The end of a stroke not terminated with a serif.

Love type? Want to know more? Ilene Strizver conducts her acclaimed Gourmet Typography workshops internationally. For more information on attending one or bringing it to your company, organization, or school, go to her site, call The Type Studio at 203-227-5929, or email Ilene at info@thetypestudio.com. Sign up for her e-newsletter at www.thetypestudio.com.

Tags
Posted on: August 11, 2010

Ilene Strizver

Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a typographic consultant, designer, writer and educator specializing in all aspects of visual communication, from the aesthetic to the technical. Her book, Type Rules! The designer’s guide to professional typography, 4th edition, has received numerous accolades from the type and design community. She conducts her widely acclaimed Gourmet Typography Workshops internationally. For more information on attending one or bringing it to your company, organization, or school, go to her site, call The Type Studio at 203-227-5929, or email Ilene at info@thetypestudio.com. Sign up for her free e‑newsletter, All Things Typographic, at www.thetypestudio.com.

5 Comments on TypeTalk: Parts of a Character

  1. Thanks for the definitions. I demand that everyone learn these words and their meanings.
    Why? Because it’s damn near impossible to discuss fonts with people who don’t understand the language!
    Thanks again. As an added thought, perhaps it would be a good post topic to write about the anatomy of fonts and any relationships to CSS (for web designers).

  2. Thanks for the definitions. I demand that everyone learn these words and their meanings.
    Why? Because it’s damn near impossible to discuss fonts with people who don’t understand the language!
    Thanks again. As an added thought, perhaps it would be a good post topic to write about the anatomy of fonts and any relationships to CSS (for web designers).http://www.eluxuryc-mall.com/chanel.html

  3. The dashed line representing the x-height is misleading. In this case it is actually representing the “mean line.” x-height should be an arrow as seen in the cap height.

  4. Technically you are absolutely correct, and while that would have been a more accurate illustration, I’m assuming that the readers will be able to infer the meaning from the illustration, having read the text above it.

    Ilene

    .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

    T H E T Y P E S T U D I O
    Westport, CT
    203.227.5929
    http://www.thetypestudio.com/

  5. Thanks for the definitions. I demand that everyone learn these words and their meanings

1 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Evolution of a Logo: Malinda Says So – Fat Dog Creatives

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*