3 Type Facts You Don’t Know, But Should

Back in 1979, we were taught the old-fashioned way, and everything was done by hand. You had to understand all aspects of typeface design and letterforms. You learned how each letter was created and how they fit together perfectly. So here are three facts about type that you don’t know.

Printing Plate

Margie Jones. That name had many a Parsons’ student, me included, cursing under our breaths and panicked at the same time. She was our Typography I & II professor. To say she was tough would be an understatement. But she was good, really good. She held us to a high standard and never let us off the hook.

And you could spot Margie Jones’ students a mile away. All you needed to do was simply look at their work compared to other students who didn’t have her. It always rose above.

Back in 1979, we were taught the old-fashioned way — with rapidograph pens, Letraset rubdown type, Lucy machines and a strong lupe. Everything was done by hand. You had to understand all aspects of typeface design and letterforms. You learned how each letter was created and how they fit together perfectly.

There were no computers. No InDesign, Illustrator or Photoshop. You had to not only have great creative skills; you needed excellent hand skills too. It was hard, but you learned how and why you did things.

Thank you Margie Jones!

Here are three facts about type that you don’t know and, sadly, many young designers also might not know.

1. Round Letters Go Above and Below the Line

This is one of my favorite tests of young designers to see their knowledge of type; to let me know if they paid attention in class or how good their professor was.

Round Letter Above Below

Look at the example above. Notice how the round letter will rise above or below the base, ascender and x-height lines. Why?

If the round letters did not go above and below, the round letters would appear to look smaller than the rest of the straight letters. See the example below:

Round Letters Smaller

The reason for this: When the round part of the letters just touch the base, ascender and x-height lines, there’s less surface area as compared to the straight letters. To make the letter optically correct, you must have the round letter actually go above and below the base, ascender and x-height lines. This is just one of the many optical fixes that typography uses.

Author: Patrick Fultz

Patrick Fultz is the President/CCO of DM Creative Group, a creative marketing firm producing work across all media. He’s an art-side creative, marketing strategist, designer and lover of all things type. His credentials include a degree from Parsons School of Design with 15 years of teaching at his alma mater, over 40 industry creative awards, and he previously served as President of the John Caples International Awards. Always an innovator, Fultz was credited with creating the first 4-color variable data direct mail piece ever produced. He continues to look for innovative ways to tap the powerful synergy of direct mail, the web, digital and social media.

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