Typography Dictionary

Aperture 

The opening or partially enclosed negative space created by an open counter.

Apex 

The uppermost connecting point of a letterform where two strokes meet; may be rounded, sharp/pointed, flat/blunt, etc.

Ascender 

A part of a lowercase letter that rises above the main body of the letter (above the x-height).

Bar 

An enclosed horizontal stroke.

Base line

The imaginary line on which most letters and other characters sit.

Character

An individual symbol of the full character set that makes up a typeface; may take the form of a letter, number, punctuation mark, etc.

Descender

A piece of a letter that extends below the baseline.iuu

Font

A collection of letters, numbers, punctuation, and other symbols used to set text (or related) matter. Although font and typeface are often used interchangeably, font refers to the physical embodiment (whether it’s a case of metal pieces or a computer file) while typeface refers to the design (the way it looks). A font is what you use, and a typeface is what you see.

Foot

The part of the stem that rests on the baseline.

Glyph

A non-standard (sometimes decorative) variation of a character that comes as an extra option with a font file.

Italic 

A slanted version of a typeface (slants from left to right); a true italic is uniquely designed, more than a tilted version of the upright (a.k.a. “roman”) typeface.

Joint

The point where a stroke connects to a stem.

Kerning

The horizontal spacing between two consecutive characters; adjusting the kerning creates the appearance of uniformity and reduces gaps of white space between certain letter combinations.

Letter-spacing

The uniform amount of spacing between characters in a complete section of text (sentence, line, paragraph, page, etc.).

Ligature

Two or more letters that are connected to form one character; primarily decorative (the embellishment that connects the two letters is called a “gadzook”).

Serif/Sans serif 

Serif: A short line or stroke attached to or extending from the open ends of a letterform; also refers to the general category of typefaces that have been designed with this feature.

Sans Serif: Literally “without line”; the general category of typefaces (or an individual typeface) designed without serifs.

Stem

The main (usually vertical) stroke of a letterform.

Stroke

A single linear element that forms part of a character; may be straight or curved.

Swash 

A decorative extension or stroke on a letterform; may be part of a letter by design or available either as an additional glyph or as an add-on to the standard character.

Terminal 

The end of any stroke that doesn’t include a serif; includes ball terminals (circular in shape) and finials (curved or tapered in shape).

Vertex 

The point at the bottom of a character where two strokes meet.

x height

The height of a typeface’s lowercase letters (disregarding ascenders and descenders).

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