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Typography: Part One

by | Jun 20, 2010 | Articles | 4 comments

There are many different ways to classify typefaces. They come in many different weights, widths, and contrasts, and have different x-heights, ascenders and descenders. They may also be set to different angles, such as an italic version, or a script typeface. This is the beginning of a series that I am going to be going over in the next few weeks, exploring the world of typography.

First, it is good to go over the different parts of a typeface. Below is a chart of the different parts of a typeface. They are all important, but the big part to remember when looking at a typeface when choosing it based on structure, is the x-height. X-height is the distance from the base line to the meanline, or the height of the lowercase letter x. This determines how high the other lowercase letters are. This effects the readability and the application in which the typeface is used. This also changes the entire look of the typeface completely.

Why care about the differences in these parts? The main reason is that there are so many variations from typeface to typeface, that knowing what to look for can help you make a decision, depending on the application of the typeface. In the example below, there are 15 lowercase letter g’s. They all have the same basic structure, but the loops are different shapes, the ears are structured differently, and the links in the middle are also different sizes and thicknesses. If we are just comparing one typeface, think about the vast differences when comparing the fifteen different typefaces. In a capital R, the shoulder may be mainly flat and stay within the  cap height, or it may be rounded and slightly bulge upward, past the cap height. The cap height is the basic overall height of the capital letters.

These differences are compounded by other deciding factors to the look of a typeface, such as weight and width. Notice that the 2nd g on the bottom row is naturally thicker than the other typefaces. There are so many different parts and aspects to type and typography, that there is a lot more to cover. Be sure to come back for the rest of this series, and to see the differences and things to consider when choosing your typefaces.

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