A quick dive into typography Pt.2

In first part of this course on typography, we’ve talked about history, difference between typeface and font and styles of typefaces. Today, I want to continue with mood, weight, style and anatomy of typefaces. If you missed first part, here is a link. Now let’s continue.

Proportional and monospaced typefaces

At first, we have to know how to recognize proportional and monospaced types. Characters in proportional typefaces takes up as much of space as is needed for the natural width of that character. For example, an “j” will take up less space than “w”. One example of proportional typeface is Times New Roman. As you might guess, in monospace, every character takes exactly the same space. When you have a narrower character, it will simply get a bit more spacing around. One example of monospace typeface is Courier New.


Mood of a typeface that tell us how individual typeface should be used. This means that different typefaces have different moods, sometimes very different. Most used moods are formal or informal, modern or classic (also traditional) and light or dramatic. Some typefaces have very significant moods. Some fonts like Times New Roman will always be a traditional. This also makes them very useful for some kind of work like, in case of traditional fonts, correspondence (mostly business). As an example of modern mood font take Verdana.

Some typefaces are more transcendent then others and their mood is dependent on the content and typefaces you used them with. Great example can be Helvetica.

Weights and styles

Within the majority of typefaces, you’ll find more than one style and/or weight. We can differentiate weights as light, thin, regular, medium, bold, heavy or black. These values refers to the thickness of the strokes of every character.

To simplify it, we have three main styles which you can find: italic, oblique, and small caps. Small caps are often used for headings or subheadings to add variety to your typography if you are using a single typeface.

Italic and oblique are often confused. These two are distinct styles. Oblique type is simply a slanted version of the regular characters. On the other hand, italics are slanted like obliques, but are actually a separate set of characters, with their own unique letterforms.

The anatomy of a typeface

Now, let’s take a look at anatomy. The different letterforms within a typeface share a some common characteristics. These characteristics can help you to determine whether two or more examples of typefaces will work together. What are the basic parts of a typeface?


The baseline is the invisible line that all the characters stand on. Rounded letters sometimes sit just a tiny bit under the baseline, and descenders always drop below this line. A given typeface will have a consistent baseline.


The meanline is the height of most of the lowercase characters within a typeface, and is generally based on the lowercase “x” if there are varying heights among the lowercase characters. This is also where the term “x-height” comes from. The cap height is the distance between the baseline and the top of uppercase letters like “A”.


The stem is the main upright of any letter, including the primary diagonal. It’s could be considered the anchor of the character.


This is any horizontal part, which are sometimes also called arms.


The bowl is curved part of a character that creates an interior empty space. The inside of a bowl is a counter.


The ascender of a lowercase character is any part that rises above the meanline, such as the uprights on the letters “d”, “h”, and “b”. Descenders are the parts of a lowercase character that drop below the baseline, such as in a “p”, “q” or “g”.

Serifs are the extra flourish at the end of a stroke on serif typefaces. Some typefaces have very pronounced serifs, while others are barely distinguishable.


The aperture of a character refers to the opening at the bottom of some characters, such as the uppercase “A” or lowercase “m”.


An ear is a decorative extension on a letter, as highlighted on the “g” above.


Hairlines are the thinnest part of a serif typeface.


Crossbars are horizontal strokes, as found on the uppercase “A” and “H”.


Terminals are only found on serif characters, and are the end of any line that doesn’t have a serif.


Loops are found on some lowercase “g” characters, and can be fully closed or partially closed.


Spurs are tiny projections from curved strokes, such as on some uppercase “G” characters.


Links connect the top and bottom bowls of a double-stacked lowercase “g”.


The spine is the curved stroke found on the letter “s”.


Tails are sometimes-decorative descending strokes, as seen on an uppercase “R”.


Finials are the tapered endings of some strokes.


Shoulders are any curved stroke that originate from a stem.



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By Alex Devero

I'm Founder/CEO of DEVERO Corporation. Entrepreneur, designer, developer. My mission and MTP is to accelerate the development of humankind through technology.

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