A Closer Look At Type

Published Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 by Mike Erickson in Typography

We all love type and use it daily, but have you ever looked really close at how it was designed? The details of a well designed typeface often go unnoticed, so lets take a closer look.

When you see a professionally designed typeface everything looks well balanced aligned and perfect. You may think that all the characters have the same height and weight but this is not always true. This effect is an optical illusion that typographers must master and is only achieved through practice and attention to detail. In general, no matter what style the type is, most typeface’s carry the same attributes for optical reasons.

Some letters like the O and C here are slightly taller and extend below basline.

Lobes are usually slightly wider than the stems.

Same applies to lowercase letters shown above. Usually lowercase rounded letters ride slightly above the meanline and extrude below the baseline.

Square typeface have the same treatment but it's less obvious.

Obviously it’s much less of an issue when using a more square typeface. In general the sharper the apex and vertex of your characters and how oblique, rounded, or squared your letters are makes a major difference in designing your typeface.

Now that you’re armed with this added insight, you’ll be able to appreciate a well designed typeface even more and be able to modify it into your own custom type while maintaining the elements that make the typeface work.

  1. Mike rock says:

    Great post Mike … and awesome new look ….

  2. Mike, Thanks, I appreciate it. Drop in again.I hope to be adding new stuff soon.

  3. sean farrell says:

    Hey Mike, Thanks for your insight on these. I was always wondering why some fonts have some letters higher than others.

  4. Hey Thanks Sean. I’m thinking of doing at least a few more on typography.

  5. nido says:

    You must post more of these for sure… 2min reading and I feel like I have just learned a worlds worth…

    like the old Chinese saying goes huh… “a single conversation with a wise man is better than 10years of school”

    Keep em coming mate…

  6. Nido, Thanks so much coming from such a wise logo designer.

  7. Bruce says:

    Great post Mike … and awesome new look ….

  8. sean heisler says:

    Good stuff, Mike. Thanks for posting.

  9. Thanks Sean. Thanks for stopping in.

  10. imran says:

    MIKE is just brilliant 🙂 !!!

  11. Josh Hayes says:

    Keep the typographic posts coming Mike!! Crucial Stuff 🙂

  12. Hey Josh, Thanks I will do so.

  13. Steve says:

    Hey Mike, Thanks for your insight on these. I was always wondering why some fonts have some letters higher than others.

  14. This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I enjoy seeing websites that understand the value of providing a prime resource for free. I truly loved reading your post. Thanks!

  15. Johan says:

    I work with marketing thank you for this information I will think about using this style or way of thinking in designing our next logotype.

    Great with new approaches!

  16. Thanks Mike, Appreciate your efforts on this critical part of logo design.

  17. @Steve, your welcome, just some of the finer details often go unnoticed.
    @Ultrasound, me too 🙂
    @Johan, thanks hope it helps.
    @WP Themes, I’m thrilled it helped you.
    @Craig, Thanks, it’s often overlooked in the “logo design”,(especially custom typography) business.

  18. Ali says:

    This is great stuff straight from the book. I read similar stuff in an old design book I had from early 90s. Well done!

  19. Thanks Ali. Yeah Old School stuff.

  20. Adele says:

    There’s always a science behind great design! I’ve yet to tackle my own customization of a typeface, but this may help quite a bit.

  21. DesignBuddy says:

    Nice Read. I really need to get into typography creation. I can see how it works to your advantage Mike; your logo designs are great. I just recently saw the movie “Helvetica”; which has some pretty interesting takes on typography.

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