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Recognizing the anatomy of letters

From: Choosing and Using Web Fonts

Video: Recognizing the anatomy of letters

We're going to start this course by zooming in and to looking closely at the anatomy of letters. I want to point out some of the terms you need to know. I'll use these terms throughout the course when we compare and contrast fonts. It's helpful to know the vocabulary for other reasons too. Type designers and font providers use these terms, and when you're reading about new fonts, it will help you to know what they're talking about. In this course I'll focus on the important anatomy; the parts that most obviously change from font to font.

Recognizing the anatomy of letters

We're going to start this course by zooming in and to looking closely at the anatomy of letters. I want to point out some of the terms you need to know. I'll use these terms throughout the course when we compare and contrast fonts. It's helpful to know the vocabulary for other reasons too. Type designers and font providers use these terms, and when you're reading about new fonts, it will help you to know what they're talking about. In this course I'll focus on the important anatomy; the parts that most obviously change from font to font.

Paying attention to these parts can help you narrow down your search when looking for a new font to use. Throughout the course, we'll be looking at a variety of fonts. I'll show them to you using a Web font sheet, which is a page I use for testing fonts. Let's zoom in on a Web font sheet comparing Georgia and Verdana, two popular Web fonts designed for the screen by Matthew Carter. The fonts were designed for maximum readability onscreen, and hold up well cross-browser.

Throughout the course, I'll compare other Web fonts we are considering to one of these two fonts, so you'll see these Web font sheets often. Verdana and Georgia are very different. To start with, one has serifs and the other one doesn't. Serifs are the little strokes that come off the ends of stems and other strokes in the letters. You can see there are head serifs at the tops of letters, and foot serifs at the bottom of letters. You can also see that some fonts don't have serifs.

We call these fonts sans serif, which means no Serif. Related to the serif is the terminal. Terminals are the shapes at the end of rounder strokes, like at the end of the f, a, and c. The x-height is the size of the lowercase x in the font. The x-height goes from the baseline to the meanline in the font. Most of the bowls also come up to the x-height. The bowls are the round forms within letters.

If you look closely, you can see that bowls actually extend slightly above the meanline, and slightly below the baseline. This is because rounder forms feel smaller in text. That's because of all the extra space around the curve. In order to look the same size as other letters, the bowls need to be slightly bigger. Related to the x-height and bowls are the ascenders; they ascend above the meanline, and the descenders, which descend below the baseline.

All letters have space inside of them. This space is called a counter form. When talking about counter forms, we often call them counters, for short. Counters can be closed like this one, or open like this one. The lowercase e has two counters separated by a crossbar. The crossbar doesn't look exciting, but it plays a pretty important role early on in font design. It also helps define how large or small the closed counter is. Also in the lowercase e is the aperture.

Much like counter forms, the aperture is about space; it is the opening in the letter. You'll also find the aperture in the lowercase a and the lowercase c. I've been talking a lot about the space and side letters, but it's also important to look at the space between letters. Letter spacing is not necessarily a part of a letter, but it's still important to look at. If letter spacing gets too loose or too tight, it affects the readability of a font on the screen.

Finally, you should know about stress. Stress is the angle of the thick strokes in the bowl. You can find the stress by drawing an imaginary line connecting the thinnest parts of the bowl. Stress varies from font to font. Some, like Verdana, don't have any stress if the stroke of the bowl is a consistent width. All of these parts of letters play a role in classifying, choosing, and using fonts. With time and practice, you can learn how to use anatomy to choose and use the best Web fonts available.

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This video is part of

Image for Choosing and Using Web Fonts
Choosing and Using Web Fonts

89 video lessons · 7028 viewers

Laura Franz
Author

 
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  1. 4m 41s
    1. Welcome
      1m 2s
    2. What you should know before watching this course
      1m 52s
    3. Using the exercise files
      1m 47s
  2. 14m 55s
    1. Recognizing the anatomy of letters
      4m 17s
    2. Understanding font classification
      4m 38s
    3. Finding and testing web fonts
      3m 41s
    4. Identifying common problems in fonts
      2m 19s
  3. 43m 43s
    1. Understanding Venetian fonts
      4m 0s
    2. Identifying a Venetian font
      4m 46s
    3. Understanding handwritten letters
      3m 22s
    4. Choosing a Venetian font
      3m 47s
    5. Creating a Typekit account and building a kit
      3m 43s
    6. Adding a Venetian font (Calluna) to your kit
      2m 51s
    7. Applying Calluna to your web site
      5m 54s
    8. Troubleshooting Typekit fonts that don't load
      2m 2s
    9. Changing styling as necessary to improve the readability of the text
      4m 25s
    10. Working with more than four styles in Typekit
      5m 22s
    11. Looking at how using a Venetian font affects the look and feel of a web page
      3m 31s
  4. 32m 53s
    1. Identifying an Old Style font
      6m 26s
    2. Choosing an Old Style font
      4m 30s
    3. Applying Crimson Text to a web site using Google web fonts
      3m 8s
    4. Changing styling as necessary to improve the readability of the text
      9m 20s
    5. Making various weights and styles work correctly across different browsers
      5m 16s
    6. Looking at how using an Old Style font affects the look and feel of a web page
      4m 13s
  5. 21m 12s
    1. Identifying a Transitional font
      5m 10s
    2. Choosing a Transitional font
      6m 36s
    3. Applying PT Sans to a site via Typekit
      2m 57s
    4. Changing styling as necessary to improve the readability of the text
      2m 59s
    5. Looking at how using a Transitional font affects the look and feel of a web page
      3m 30s
  6. 16m 58s
    1. Identifying a Modern font
      7m 50s
    2. Choosing a Modern font
      4m 0s
    3. Using Typekit to find and test web fonts
      5m 8s
  7. 26m 52s
    1. Identifying a Slab Serif font
      4m 30s
    2. Choosing a Slab Serif font
      3m 58s
    3. Deleting a font from your Typekit
      3m 1s
    4. Exploring a font with multiple weights and styles
      9m 41s
    5. Looking at how using a Slab Serif font affects the look and feel of a web page
      5m 42s
  8. 26m 52s
    1. Identifying "Other" Serif fonts
      5m 28s
    2. Choosing "Other" Serif fonts
      10m 12s
    3. Using a font without an italic
      7m 6s
    4. Looking at how using an "Other" Serif font affects the look and feel of a web page
      4m 6s
  9. 20m 34s
    1. Identifying a Transitional Sans Serif font
      4m 29s
    2. Choosing a Transitional Sans Serif font
      5m 14s
    3. Changing styling to improve the readability of text
      6m 31s
    4. Looking at how using a Transitional Sans Serif font affects the look and feel of a web page
      4m 20s
  10. 31m 23s
    1. Identifying a Geometric Sans Serif font
      2m 51s
    2. Choosing a Geometric Sans Serif font
      4m 33s
    3. Downloading a free font licensed for use on the web
      3m 53s
    4. Using Font Squirrel to create an @font-face kit
      5m 12s
    5. Adding the @font-face syntax to the CSS
      2m 57s
    6. Implementing the font family in the CSS
      5m 29s
    7. Changing styling as necessary to improve the readability of the text
      3m 56s
    8. Looking at how using a Geometric Sans Serif font affects the look and feel of a web page
      2m 32s
  11. 21m 3s
    1. Identifying a Humanist Sans Serif font
      4m 18s
    2. Choosing a Humanist Sans Serif font
      7m 23s
    3. Changing styling as necessary to improve the readability of the text
      5m 32s
    4. Looking at how using a Humanist Sans Serif font affects the look and feel of a web page
      3m 50s
  12. 18m 28s
    1. Understanding handwritten fonts
      3m 4s
    2. Choosing a handwritten font
      8m 17s
    3. Looking at how using a handwritten font affects the look and feel of a web page
      7m 7s
  13. 33m 2s
    1. Understanding what to look for when pairing fonts
      6m 58s
    2. Using one font for headings and another for text
      6m 6s
    3. Using different fonts for different kinds of information on the page
      8m 38s
    4. Mixing and matching fonts within text
      3m 48s
    5. Looking at how using two fonts affects the look and feel of a web page
      7m 32s
  14. 23m 34s
    1. Understanding Script fonts
      2m 19s
    2. Choosing a Script font for display use
      8m 12s
    3. Changing styling as necessary to improve the form and placement of letters on the page
      3m 33s
    4. Choosing a second font to pair with the Script Display font
      3m 42s
    5. Incorporating a second font with the Script Display font
      2m 53s
    6. Setting fallback fonts
      2m 55s
  15. 26m 38s
    1. Understanding Wood Type fonts
      3m 25s
    2. Choosing a Wood Type font for display use
      8m 35s
    3. Changing styling as necessary to improve the form and placement of letters on the page
      4m 57s
    4. Choosing a second font to pair with the Wood Type font
      2m 28s
    5. Incorporating a second font with the Wood Type display font
      4m 42s
    6. Setting fallback fonts
      2m 31s
  16. 14m 58s
    1. Choosing an Art Deco font for display use
      2m 45s
    2. Changing styling as necessary to improve the form and placement of letters on the page
      3m 51s
    3. Choosing a second font to pair with the Art Deco font
      2m 37s
    4. Incorporating a second font with the Art Deco display font
      2m 57s
    5. Setting fallback fonts
      2m 48s
  17. 27m 38s
    1. Choosing a Futuristic font for display use
      5m 33s
    2. Applying the Futuristic font and changing the styling as necessary to improve the form and placement of letters on the page
      6m 40s
    3. Choosing a second font to pair with the Futuristic font
      2m 48s
    4. Incorporating a second font with the Futuristic display font
      4m 21s
    5. Setting fallback fonts
      2m 22s
    6. Looking at the set of four ads
      5m 54s
  18. 7m 29s
    1. Exploring resources and goodbye
      7m 29s

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