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An Introduction to Type

Type anatomy



The basic typographic element is called a character, which is any individual letter, numeral, or punctuation mark. The capital letters are called caps, or uppercase (u.c.) characters. Small letters are called lowercase (l.c.) characters. Numbers are called numerals or figures.

Modern, or lining numerals are cap height.

Oldstyle numerals have ascenders and descenders.


Special characters

Pi characters are special characters used for:

Math signs

Punctuation marks

Accented characters

Reference marks

On Macintosh computers, special characters can be viewed for any font with the Key Caps utility under the apple menu.


Ligatures are character pairs which have been re-designed as optional single characters.

Standard characters set in Adobe Garamond. Ligature characters set in Adobe Garamond Expert and Adobe Garamond Alternative.


Character components

Typographic characters have basic component parts. The easiest way to differentiate characteristics of type designs is by comparing the structure of these components. The following terms identify some of the components referred to in the next chapter.


The lowercase character stroke which extends above the x-height.

The horizontal stroke on the characters ‘A’, ‘H’, ‘T’, ‘e’, ‘f’, ‘t’.

The imaginary horizontal line to which the body, or main component, of characters are aligned.

The curved stroke which surrounds a counter.

A curved line connecting the serif to the stroke.

Bracketed serifs with cupped bases

Brecketed serifs with flat bases

Unbracketed serifs

The amount of variation in between thick and thin strokes.

Minimum contrast

Extreme contrast


The empty space inside the body stroke.

The lowercase character stroke which extends below the baseline.

The bottom part of the lowercase roman ‘g’.

Sans serif
From the French, meaning “without serif”. A typeface which has no serifs.
Sans serif typefaces are typically uniform in stroke width.

Tapered corners on the ends of the main stroke. Serifs originated with the chiseled guides made by ancient stonecutters as they lettered monuments. Some serif designs may also be traced back to characteristics of hand calligraphy. Note that serif type is typically thick and thin in stroke weight.

The part of a curved stroke coming from the stem.

A stroke which is vertical or diagonal.

The direction in which a curved stroke changes weight.

Oblique, or angled, stress

Semi-oblique stress

Vertical stress

The end of a stroke which does not terminate in a serif.

The height of the body, minus ascenders and descenders, which is equal to the height of the lowercase ‘x’.

Avant Garde


Goudy Oldstyle

X-heights vary among typefaces in the same point size and strongly effect readability and gray vaule of text blocks.



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