Anatomy of Typography for Designers

Anatomy of Typography for Designers

Typography is the art and method of arranging type to make the written language more appealing. It's the responsibility of a designer and is about much more than making the words legible. The selection of typeface and how you make it work with your layout, grid, basic color schemes, design theme and much more will make the difference between a good, bad and a great design. If you’re looking to start on a new career in typography, or purely want to know more about the way type design affects our everyday lives, then graphic design courses in Delhi is going to be perfect for you.

To understand the important principles and concepts of typography is the first step to being a successful typographer. The utmost basic and important element of typography is the letter, and each letter of the alphabet is distinguished by its unique shape, or letter form. Thus, it’s necessary to possess some basic knowledge of the terminologies before we step into the arena of type.

Important Typographic Anatomy Terms

Baseline of a Text
It is a line which is invisible and where all the letters sit. Descender on letters such as g or p extend down below the baseline or curved letters such as c or o extend ever-so-slightly below the baseline. It is the point from which other elements of type are measured including x-height and leading. It is also significant in the alignment of drop caps and other page elements.

Cap line or Cap Height
It is that imaginary line that marks the upper boundary of capital letters and some lowercase letters’ descender. The line to which capital letter forms extend above the baseline. It refers to the height of capital letter forms that are flat.

Maximum X-height
The space that exists in the vertical direction for the lowercase “x” in any typeface is known as X-Height. In other words, it is the distance formed between the baseline and mean line of the body of characters in lowercase. The fonts with greater X-heights are easier to read, so the X-Height is very important in the context of font shapes. Maximum x-height means maximum readability so designer should select a typeface which has maximum x-height.

Lowercase Ascender
It is an upward vertical stroke mostly founded on lowercase letters that extends above the typeface’s x-height. It is the specific part of a letter that extends beyond the top of the mean line, such as the letters ‘b’, ‘d’, ‘f’, ‘h’ ‘k’etc.

Descender in Typography
It is a downward vertical stroke generally found on lowercase letters that extends below the baseline. It is generally the specific part of a letter that extends below the baseline, such as the letters ‘g’, ‘j’, ‘p’, ‘q’ and ‘y’.

Leading or Line Spacing
It is the vertical space between lines of text. In other words, it may also be referred to as the Line Height, which is the spacing between sentenced text. Leading is very important. It can directly impact the readability long blocks of text. If you decrease leading, then lines get closer to each other, making a block of text appear more compacted. Decreasing the amount of leading can cause descenders and ascenders to collide, and this could have an adverse effect on readability. If the leading is increased, then it can reduce the pace of a piece of text and add more white space. It gives a relaxed feeling when reading those text blocks. If leading is too much, then it can cause continuity problems, as the eyes of the reader is required to travel a greater distance between lines of text. You’ll have to increase leading to improve the readability of the text block, in case if you increase word-spacing (the space between each word),

Serif Typeface
It refers to the general category of typefaces where a short line or stroke attached to or extending from the open ends of a letter form. They are designed with a decorative feature at the end of each letter, although some letters have the exception. These typefaces are considered traditional and often used in printed matter like books are set in serif typefaces.

Sans Serif or Sans Letterform
Literally “without line”; the general category of typefaces (or an individual typeface) designed without serifs. These typefaces are designed with a geometric finish with no additional or decorative features. These kinds of typefaces are considered modern and minimalist and are currently trending. In print media, sans typefaces tend to be used more often for headlines than body text. On screen, however, sans typefaces are generally more readable.

Round, Pointed or Flat Apex
It is the uppermost connecting point of a letter form where two strokes meet; it can be rounded, sharp/pointed, flat/blunt, etc. For example, the uppercase letter A or M where the left and right strokes meet is the apex.

Horizontal Arm
A horizontal stroke that does not connect to a stem on one or both ends. The top of the capital T and the horizontal strokes of the E are examples of arms.

Bar or Crossbar
It is also known as crossbar. An enclosed horizontal stroke. The horizontal stroke in letter such as A, H, e, and f.

Round, Closed or Oval Bowl
The closed, round or oval curve of a letter.  It is an enclosed space within a character is created by a curved stroke. For example, letters like d, b, and g.

Counter or Closed Space or Aperture
An enclosed or partially enclosed area of white space within a letter; could be bounded by curves, strokes, or stems of some letters such as d, o, and s. It may be sometimes be used to refer only to closed space, while partially enclosed spaces in m, n, or h are the aperture.

Cross Stroke Typography
It is a horizontal line or a stroke that extends across/through the stem of a letter. It intersects the stem of a lowercase t or f. It varies from an arm and a crossbar because it intersects/crosses over the stem. The, thickness, varying positioning, and slope of the cross stroke is a recognizing feature of many type designs.

Ear or Decorative Curl
A small stroke found on the upper right bowl of some lowercase g. An ear is a decorative curl usually on the upper right side of the bowl.

Link, Neck or Terminal
It can be defined as a stroke that connects the top and bottom bowls of lowercase double-story g. It is usually curved and small stroke that connects the bowl and loop of a letter. It is also known as neck or terminal.

Ligatures or Decorative Characters
When two or more letters that are connected to form one character; primarily decorative. Some ligatures sin typography signifies particular words such as the AE or æ. This is used, in case of improving the appearance of type are usually character pairs or triplets that have features that tend to overlap when used together. Altering the shape of the characters or creating a smoother transition or connection between characters is created by connecting crossbars, removing dots over the i, or otherwise.


Typography Shoulder
A curved stroke extending down from a stem. It is the curve at the beginning of a leg of a character, such as in letters “m”, “h” and “n” in the picture shown below.

Stem or Vertical Strokes
The full-length vertical strokes which are the main and heavy part of the letters are termed as stem. For example, in uppercase letter “H”, there are two stems.

Tail , Decorative or Descending Stroke
A descending stroke, often decorative. For example, decorative stroke or the descending on the letter Q, often curved diagonal stroke on K or R is the tail. The descender on some of the letters like g, j, p, q, and y are also called tails.

Graphic designs are meant to show any brand in a visually engaging manner.  They need to be extremely user-friendly. This makes the purpose of typography essential for a design. Typography makes the letters come to life in your design. It has a great impact on how the designs are received by people. It solidifies any brand image. It combines the both art and science to give the best effect to your designs. So, make sure your innovative design ideas are used with the help of some great typographical decisions. And the best way to learn them is by joining best graphic design institutes portfolio to learn the impact of good/bad typography in a design.