Anatomy of a Typeface Character

Last update at 04 · 11 · by milo

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Anatomy of a Typeface:

fonts and typefaces were two different things — the typeface was the specific design of the letters, say Times New Roman or Baskerville; while the font referred to the particular size or style of that typeface, say 10 point regular or 24 point italic (each created as its own collection of cast metal letters and other characters).

Anatomy of a Typeface Character


The terminal (end) of an instroke or outstroke is often a serif or a stroke ending. A seriffed terminal may be described as a wedge, bulbous, teardrop, slab, etc., depending on the design of the type. Typefaces may be classified by their look, of which the weight and serif style – whether serif or sans-serif – are key features.[9] Some designs also have spurs, which are smaller than serifs and appear on angles rather than at a terminal, as on e or G.

  • Aperture

    Opening at the end of an open counter

  • Arm

    A horizontal stroke not connected on one or both ends.

  • Ascender

    An upward vertical stroke found on lowercase letters that extends above the typeface’s x-height.

  • Baseline

    The invisible line where letters sit.

  • Bowl

    A curved stroke that encloses a letter’s counter.

  • Counter

    Fully or partially enclosed space within a letter.

  • Crossbar

    A horizontal stroke.

  • Descender

    A downward vertical stroke found on lowercase letters that extends below the baseline.

  • Diagonal Stroke

    An angled stroke.

  • Ear

    A small stroke projecting from the upper right bowl of some lowercase g’s.

  • Finial

    A tapered or curved end.

  • Hairline

    The thin strokes of a serif typeface.

  • Ligature

    Two or more letters are joined together to form one glyph.

  • Link

    A stroke that connects the top and bottom bowls of lowercase double-story g’s.

  • Loop

    The enclosed or partially enclosed counter below the baseline of a double-story g.

  • Lowercase

    The smaller form of letters in a typeface.

  • Serif

    “Feet” or non-structural details at the ends of some strokes.

  • Shoulder

    A curved stroke originating from a stem.

  • Small Caps

    Uppercase characters that appear as a smaller size than the capital height of a typeface. Short for “small capitals”.

  • Spine

    The main curved stroke for a capital and lowercase s.

  • Spur

    A small projection from a curved stroke.

  • Stem

    Primary vertical stroke.

  • Tail

    A descending stroke, often decorative.

  • Terminal

    The end of a stroke that lacks a serif.

  • Uppercase

    A letter or group of letters of the size and form generally used to begin sentences and proper nouns. Also known as “capital letters”.

  • x-height

    The height of the main body of a lowercase letter.

Typography is the art and technique of arranging type in order to make language visible.


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