Terminology of Type

Typeface: the design of a single set of letterforms, numerals, and signs unified by consistent visual properties created by a type designer. These properties create the essential character, which remains recognizable even if the face is modified by design.

The terminology of TYPE

  1. The baseline

The baseline is the imaginary horizontal line on which most characters sit. The only character that hangs below the baseline q

2. Cap height

The cap height or capline is another imaginary line. This one marks the height of all capital letters in a typeface. Notice that the cap height is below the maximum height of the typeface.

3. Crossbar

A stroke that connects two lines in the capital letterforms of “A” and “H” is called a crossbar.

A horizontal stroke that does not connect two lines, like the one in the lower case “f” or “t,” is known as a cross stroke.

4. Serif

Serif is the name given to the finishing strokes at the bottoms and tops of certain typefaces.

5. Mean line

Another imaginary horizontal line that marks the top edge of the lowercase letters is the meanline (or midline).

6. Bowl

The bowl of a letter is the rounded curve that encloses negative space in a letterform. Examples of bowls can be seen in the letters “D,” “o,” and “g.

7. Descender

The lower portion of a lowercase letter (such as “g,” “j,” “p,” “q,” and “y”) that extends below the baseline of a typeface is known as the descender.

8. Counter

The negative space within a letter is called the counter. In some letters, like “A,”  and “P,” the counter is fully enclosed.

The non-closed negative spaces in letters like “G,” “u,” and “c” are also known as counters.

9. Stem

A stem is the main vertical or diagonal stroke in a letterform. These include the vertical portions of the letters “I” and “H,” as well as all the strokes in the letter “W.”

10. Tittle

Tittle is the name given to the dot above the lowercase “j” and “i.”

11. Terminal

The end of a stem or stroke that has no serif is known as a terminal. Even the ends of some serif typefaces have terminals.

12. Ascender

Some lowercase letters have an ascender, which is an extension that rises above the mean line.

Those letters are “b,” “d,” “f,” “h,” “k,” “l,” and “t.”

13. Leg

The lower angled strokes seen in the letters “K,” “R,” and “Q” are known as legs. These are also sometimes referred to as tails.

14. Ligature

You may have noticed in the Figure that the “f” and “i” of the word “fix” are combined into one character.

This joining of characters is known as a ligature. Ligatures are most often seen in serif faces, and exist to give the spacing between certain characters a greater aesthetic balance.

15. x-height

x-height is the vertical space occupied by the lowercase “x” in a given typeface.

X-height is a key factor in typeface identification, and typefaces with larger x-heights are generally regarded as being more readable