Some glyph or character shape terminology in font design
Some glyph terminology
First we better define glyph. To be honest, I’ve never gotten this straight. To me it is just another term for a character or letter. Technically, it is typespeak for variations of a character. An A, an A with a swash, A small cap A might be considered three glyphs of the letter A. In my font design books, a glyph has a separate design window for a character in a font.
Before we get into category specifics, we need to define a few descriptive terms to help you see some of the differences between the categories. The terms are a little esoteric, but I think you will find them helpful to categorize things in your own mind. We’ll use them in class characteristics.
- Stems: the vertical strokes in letters like H, K, L, R and so on.
- Bowls: the rounded parts of letters like B, D, G, O, P, and even C And S, according to some.
- Crossbars: the horizontal strokes on A, H, E, & so on.
- Serifs: decorations at the ends of stems and crossbars which come in thousands of variations.
- Head And Foot Serifs: the serifs at the top and bottom of a stem as in H, L, K, & D.
- Adnate Or Bracketed Serifs: serifs that flow smoothly (often gracefully) out of the stems.
- Abrupt Serifs: cross strokes at the end of stems with no bracketing.
- Terminals: the endings of the curved portions of letters like A, C, R, C, G, & so on.
- Lachrymal: terminals that are tear-drop shaped.
- Stroke: the lines that make up the characters—from the old assumption that letters are calligraphic and drawn with separate strokes of a pen or brush.
- Modulated Stroke: a stroke that varies in width as it proceeds around the letter form.
- Axis: the angle at which the pen was held to produce the modulated stroke of calligraphers.
- Humanist Axis: the axis for normal right-handed calligraphic penmanship.
- Contrast: how much the stroke is modulated.
- Aperture: the openings of curves on letters like a, c, e, s, & so on.
- Slope: how far italic and oblique letters slant in degrees.
There are many more, but this will be enough for our purposes at this point. As you can see, type gets very technical. The differences will seem insignificant to you now, as you start. But they are really very important. Aperture, for example, tends to control the friendliness and readability of a font. Axis changes from a comfortable, humanist writing angle to a mechanical vertical strongly influence our reaction to the warmness or coolness of a font. But we’ll discuss these things as we go through our discussion of font classifications, giving you examples so you can see the differences.
- A Practical Approach To Classifying Fonts (bergsland.org)