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Typography essentials

Design + Sketch App — Medium | Drahomír Mach

A quick insight into the typography world

Hello beautiful reader, I am glad that you are here again to get some logo design tips. Today we are going to talk about typography.


Typography and logo design

Today I would like to explain to you what typography is. The ultimate purpose of this article is to show you that there are rules connected with a good type. A good designer needs to be aware of the rules. Once one is aware of the rules one can even break them to make the design even more interesting.

What is typography then? Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable, and appealing when displayed. Legibility, readability and visual attractiveness are crucial attributes of a good logo design (read more about logo design essential here).

Anatomy of typography

Every character consists of several parts and each part of the character has its own name. It is good to know that there is a specialised vocabulary to make it easier to talk about typography. There is no need to memorise it by heart but it is good to have general knowledge about it to be able to discuss the topic with others. See the whole Type glossary here.

Anatomy of typography

There are definitely some nice terms that one can easily remember. If I had to pick one must-to-know it would be the serif. A Serif is the little line that trails off a letter shape. We distinguish between the serif typefaces (Times New Roman, Baskerville, Caslon, Garamond and Bodoni) and the san serif fonts without the trailing lines (popular san serifs include Helvetica, Arial, Geneva, Tahoma and Verdana).

Details making the difference

When it comes to design it’s all about the details that you have perhaps never noticed. Let’s take a look at some of the interesting rules connected with a good type.

Curved letters and pointed letters are always drawn above the cap/mean line and below the baseline. It is the only way to draw them to make them appear as they have the same size.

Anatomy of typography

Take a look back at the picture above again. You can clearly see that the bowls of the characters b and p are a bit above the mean line and a bit below the base line.

Compare the two texts in the picture below. The upper one is the correct version and the one which is optically balanced. It follows the rule saying that pointed letters are always drawn above the cap/mean line.

On the other hand, if all the letters have the same height the letters a and o appear much smaller than the letter h as you can see in the picture below.

Anatomy of typography

I really like hand-lettering and there is one crucial rule to follow when doing that. Whenever your hand goes down the paper with the pen the line you draw is thick and vice versa. The same rule is applied on the serif fonts very often.

Feel free to try to write the letter M and break this rule. Draw thinner lines when going down and thicker when going up. The result would not be visually very pleasing and even an amateur can see that there is something wrong with the letter.

Anatomy of typography

Optical vs mathematical adjustments

Math is great and it helps a lot when it comes to design. But you should be careful to apply math on letters. It is tricky how our brains and eyes percieve reality.

There could be a significant difference between mathematically and optically balanced design.

Horizontal strokes are thinner in order to get a balanced design

The T on the left side has unadjusted strokes. It means that the horizontal and the vertical part of the letter T have the same width. However our eyes think that the horizontal stroke is a bit thicker.

The T on the right side of the picture has adjusted strokes. The horizontal stroke is a little bit thinner then the vertical stroke. That little adjustment makes the letter T optically balanced.

Center line should be adjusted above the mathematical center

The letter e is a perfect example of how math could be misleading when it comes to typography. The e on the left has the middle stroke exactly in the middle (in the mathematical center). But it appears that the upper part of the letter e is a bit taller than the lower part.

That is why you need to place the middle stroke in the optical center of the letter, which is slightly above the mathematical center, to make your design visually pleasing.

Curved strokes need to be adjusted in order to get a balanced design

Let’s take a look at the letter o. Letter o seems to be easy to draw. It is a circle, right? It is actually not that easy. Curved strokes are usually thicker at their midsection than vertical strokes in order to achieve an even appearance.

And the letter X? That is just two lines crossing each other in the middle, right? No, not really. If you draw the letter X that way it gets very busy in the middle section. All you need to do to fix this disbalance is to adjust the strokes to make the letter optically balanced and a bit thinner in the middle.

Adjusted strokes make the letter X visually pleasing

I hope that the examples above helped you understand that there is something behind the letters. And it is worth being aware of these facts. Please, note that this is not an all-in-one article trying to cover everything about typography.

Do you have any additional thoughts on the given topic? Feel free to get in touch to share your opinions. Or are you looking for a logo designer? Let’s get in touch then!

Thank you for taking your time to read my article. I hope that you find it useful. I am looking forward to see your thoughts in the comment section below.


Typography essentials was originally published in Design + Sketch on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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