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Design Theory 8to14
Page Hierarchy
Typography Part 1
Typography Part 2
Colour Theory
Part 1
Colour Theory
Part 2
Colours by Name, RGB and HEX
Type Face Terms Explained (part 1)
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Type Face Terms Explained (Part 1)

A type face may be named for its original designer (Baskerville, Bodoni, Garamond, Goudy); for its use (Times Roman was designed for the London Times; Century and Avant Garde were designed for Century and Avant Garde magazines); for its characteristics (Excelsior and Paragon were designed for high legibility); or for its designer's fancy (Perpetua, Souvenir, Centaur).

Type faces are also given generic names as well as brand names, e.g. different type-founder's call Times Roman different names, e.g. Times New Roman, Geneva, and English. Type founders' versions of the same type face differ only slightly from each other. Even so you can, for example, seldom interchange one type founder's 10-pt Baskerville with another's, to try to do so would result in a noticeable mis-match with the original setting.

To identify type or recognize a wrong font, you must know what the variables are, because differences amongst the thousands of type faces available today can be minute. Since an untrained eye cannot distinguish even gross differences, you should become familiar with the fundamental features of type that are labeled in the following diagram:

Basic Anatomy of Type

x-height The height of the lower case letters such as `x', `a', `e'.
Ascender The stroke of a letter which rises above the Mean line as `k', `l', `h'.
Descender The stroke of a letter which hangs below the Base line such as `p', `y', `g'.
Mean line The imaginary line which determines the height of lowercase letters; ascenders rise above the mean line.
Base line The imaginary line on which all characters rest; descenders hang below the base line.
Body size Size of the type being used; measured from the end of the ascender to the end of the descender.
Serif Small strokes and cross-lines at the ends of major lines.
Set width Width, in units, allowed for each letter which varies between letters and type faces.
Cap Line The height of capital letters. Depending on type design, capitals may be taller/shorter or same height as ascenders.

Type Categories
All type faces that are to be used in the appropriate print media must be purchased under a number of specific criteria. It is important to know whether a favored type design has the necessary flexibility to be used for a wide range of design and publication needs.

To this end, you must be aware that not all type faces that are used have the same number of variations, or for that matter are available on the output device that you wish to use.

Font
Many of the more popular type faces used today are available in three different alternatives: Commercial font, Expert font and Pi font.

A Commercial type font contains the usual range of characters that are needed for most forms of typesetting, i.e. one complete assortment of alphabet letters comprised of capitals and lower case, numerals, punctuation, special characters, and symbols.

A type font is only available in one specific type face design. Therefore, a type face such as 10-pt Times Roman is considered to be one font and 10-pt Times Bold is another.

Commercial font
Purchasing the same font from two different type foundries may yield the addition or deletion of certain special characters.

In Desktop Publishing, extra care must be taken when working across two or more platforms because certain characters from the same font and type foundry, accessible on the PC platform, are not available to the AppleMac.

Currently, Expert fonts are limited to those fonts which are the most popular type faces. These fonts contain special characters such as `ligatures', `small caps' and `swash' letters that are not normally used, or needed, in the everyday world of commercial typesetting. For certain classes of bookwork and high-class typesetting purposes, their inclusion forms an invaluable addition to the finished result.

Expert Font

Swash Font

Alternate Character Font

Swash Character Font
It is unfortunate that in many cases, the actual number of characters that typefounderies include into some of their expert fonts is small, necessitating the purchase of additional fonts to service particular typesetting needs.

Pi fonts usually contain a collection of special characters such as mathematical, monetary or decorative symbols, etc.

Pi Font Zapf Dingbats
If you have a special need for certain characters, most manufacturers will make a pi font to fit your need using standard characters or even develop new one to suit you. Symbol, Carta, and Zapf Dingbats are examples of common pi fonts.

Family
The last variable in the flexibility (and popularity) of a type face design is whether or not the design has a range of variants. If a number of fonts have the same name and general characteristics of face, e.g. Times Roman, Times Bold, Times Roman Italic, etc. then they are known as a Family.

Font Family
The majority of fonts in common use have at least four variants, i.e. normal, italic, bold, and bold italic. The popular type design used above (Helvetica), has a family of over 50 variants, whereas many decorative and script style fonts such as Algerian, Arnold Boecklin Giddyup and Pepita, do not have a range of different variations and are usually restricted to a single font.

When nominating a type face, the order of description can be thus:

Type Size: 10 point
Type Body: 12 point
Type Family: Helvetica
Type Weight: Bold
Type Width: Extended
Type Modification: Outline
Type Posture: Italic

Type Face Terms Explained (Part 1) | Type Face Terms Explained (Part 2)

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