Here we’re going to take a look at font anatomy.
Firstly we’re looking at the Baseline, X-Height, Ascenders & Descenders (tap the image to enlarge) – which shows how each letter sits when words are written. You’ll notice the bowl of the ‘g’ hangs down past the baseline and the ascender of the ‘f’ reaches up above the x-height. The overshoot on the ‘a’ occurs when a rounded or poised letter extends past the x-height slightly and this is to create the visual effect that all the letters are the same height when in fact they are not. Magic!
The letters themselves can be broken down further still into different parts, a bit like a puzzle. These parts give fonts their mood, style and features and also how readable they are. You can take a look at some of these later in the Blog under ‘Typography Vocabulary’.
A little history…
Let’s take a look back in time…. in the 1400’s Guttenberg invented movable typefaces, which gave the world a cheaper way of obtaining the written word. Before this time everything had to be done over and over again by hand, which was of course very costly. By the 1700’s many type designers emerged creating their own typefaces which are still used today, big names such as Caslon, Baskerville, Didot and Bodoni. And in 1957 probably the most loved typeface of our time ‘Helvetica’ was invented by a Swiss designer Max Miedinger. Skip to today and we are totally spoilt for choice – an abundance of typefaces are available to us from internet libraries. Adobe and Google are some of the latest on the block – offering web safe font families too.
And the photograph here is of my Grandad. When he was 18 years old learning how to set up the font blocks for newspaper printing at The Mirror. He’s at the far back on the left. I feel very lucky to have been given a beautiful heirloom from my Grandad’s typesetting days; a ‘vintage brass pica’ – also known as a typesetting ruler (see it above in Fig/1).