The Anatomy of Type: Introduction to Typography #5

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Just like it’s important to learn the anatomy of a human in order to make informed diagnoses, understanding the anatomy of type will enable you to see what is right and wrong in type, use it effectively and appropriately talk about it with other designers.

Here is a brief overview of 30 anatomical parts of typography that you can begin using now!

1. Ascender

The part of the letter that extends above the x-height of a font as seen in l h f t h d and b.

2. Bowl

A closed curved stroke as seen in b d o p q D O P Q and B which has two bowls.

3. Terminal

The end of an instroke or outstroke that does not include a serif.

4. Leg

Short, descending portion of a letter, seen on a K, R and Q.

5. Crossbar

A short stroke connecting to other strokes, such as the stroke of an A H f or t.

6. Beak

A style of decorative stroke at the end of the arm of a letter, such as a capital T and E.

7. Head Serif

A serif at the top of an ascender.

8. Closed Counter

A closed area of negative space (white space) formed by straight and/or curved strokes.

9. Aperture

An open area of negative space (white space) formed by straight and/or curved strokes in letters such as c f h i s m and n. Also known as an open counter.

10. Open Counter

An open area of negative space (white space) formed by straight and/or curved strokes in letters such as c f h i s m and n. Also known as an aperture.

11. Spine

The main curved stroke of an S.

12. Foot

Detail at the ends of some strokes, also known as a serif.

13. Arm

A longer horizontal stroke at the top or bottom of a letter such as an E or F.

14. Crotch

An acute, inside angle where two strokes meet seen on characters such as v w and y.

15. Bilateral Serif

A serif extending across both sides of a letter’s main stroke.

16. Link/Neck

A stroke connecting the top and bottom bowls of a lowercase double-story g.

17. Ear

The very short stroke at the top of a g.

19. Eye

The closed counter in a lowercase ‘e’.

19. Descender

A stroke which drops below the baseline, as seen in q y p g and j.

20. Bar

A short horizontal stroke such as the middle stroke of an E or F.

21. Hairline

The thinnest stroke of a letterform common to serif typefaces.

22. Body

The main area of lower case letters between the baseline and x-height.

23. Tittle

The dot on a lowercase i or j.

24. Spur

A small projection off a main stroke.

25. Finial 

A tapered, curved end seen on letters such as c e and a.

26. Tail

A trailing/descending outstroke as in j y J Q and R. 

27. Loop

The bottom of a two-story g.

28. Serif

A stroke added as a stop to the beginning and end of the main strokes of a character.

29. Stress

The disparity between thick and thin strokes that alters optical perception.

30. Stem

The main, vertical, full-length stroke of an upright letterform. Also known as a stroke.

Understanding the anatomy of type is just one tool in your typographic toolbelt. To learn more about typography, read the first four articles in this series here, and follow me to stay tuned for #6!