The Anatomy of Type

There may not be a single part of a typeface that does not change at some point or another. The number of fonts & font families, variations and styles are many & go back as far as the origins of the printing press over 500 years ago. Nor will they stop changing with the advent of new technologies and new methods of viewing such as e-readers computers & even wearable tech.

However, the anatomy of the typeface hasn’t changed much and each new font continues to be built around the various parts like a wire frame molding subtly differing sculptures of the same subject.

Introduction to Type

The Anatomy of a Typeface, while seemingly complicated, has some very simple principle parts such as the x-height, baseline, ascender & descender lines, the serifs, terminals & counter among them. Each font can be changed in some subtle & some not so subtle ways.

For instance, by changing the x-height or set width of a font you can change how easy or difficult it reads.
A general classification of fonts include:
  • Oldstyle – 15th – 17th Century.
  • Transitional – Immediately predating the modern period.
  • Modern – 17th Century
  • Slab Serif – 19th Century & the industrial revolution.
  • Decoritive – Short lived success with any visual trick to catch the public eye.
  • Sans Serif – Early 20th Century
  • Script-Cursive – Script, with joined lower case lettering. Cursive, a flowing style but not joined lettering.

The Anatomy of Type


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