Session 3: Typography

Parts of Letterform

Over the centuries, a nomenclature has evolved that identifies the various components of individual letterforms. By learning this vocabulary, designers and typographers can develop a greater understanding and sensitivity to the visual harmony and complexity of the alphabet.

The following list identifies the major components of letterform construction. In medieval times, horizontal guidelines were drawn to contain and align each line of lettering. Today, letterforms and their parts are drawn on imaginary guidelines to bring uniformity to typography.

Using correct nomenclature is vital to communication, especially technical communication.

Since letters are the foundation of all typographic communication, letter nomenclature is a logical place to begin to build your typographic vocabulary. Here is a video to go through it with you:

Try This:

While no one but you may see this hands on exercise, take the time to do it just as if you were turning it in for a grade. It will help reinforce what you have learned.

1. To practice learning the parts of letterform, print out the alphabet and see if you can point out the parts on each letter.

2. Tremendous diversity of form exists in the typographic font world. Twenty-six capitals, twenty-six lowercase letters, ten numerals, punctuation, and other graphic elements must be integrated into a system that can be successfully combined into countless words.

Letterforms share similar parts. A repetition of curves, verticals, horizontals, and serifs are combined to bring variety and unity to typographic designs using this typeface. Using a media of your choice see if you can design a new typeface.