Type Basics: Anatomy

Book one was all about the anatomy of typography and the very basics. So, I thought, what are the foundations of a letterform? On Moodle, we had been linked a page that breaks down type, but I wanted to go further and research more into the composition. After all, I am hoping to spend the rest of my life working as a graphic designer so I figured it would be in my best interests to delve further into the field.

My book was all about how you can use typography to your best ability, once you have learnt the basics. I narrowed down the pages in my sketchbook as I knew that if I didn’t, I’d end up with a graphic novel rather than a 16 page book.

Here is the final book layout:


Overall, I’m extremely happy with the style of my books. They work well as a collection, you can tell they belong as a range yet they strive individually. I think the white space works well as the minimalist style really draws you in. The condensed black font contrasts well against the overall white page. I’m really proud of the final designs, I’m glad the books had to be black and white as if it had to be in colour I wouldn’t have any idea where to begin. It was a good starting brief, I particularly enjoyed it.


VoxA-TypI Classification System

The VoxA-TypI system was used to classify fonts based on their characteristics. Now, the typefaces would usually be whittled down to their century e.g. 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th however they were also classified dependant on their letterform characteristics, for example the downstroke, upstroke, forms of serifs, stroke axis, x-height and more.

Devised by Maximilien Vox in 1954 the VoxA-TypI system made it possible to define fonts in just 9 different classifications, bot it was revised and is now an 11 part scheme. However, one major flaw of this system was that many fonts overlapped classifications. For example, the font Gill Sans would be classified as both Lineal and Garald.

The VoxA-TypI system can be broken down into 4 main categories, and then split further into sub categories. Here is a broken down spectrum of the VoxA-TypI system itself:

Classicals: Also referred to as ‘old style’, classical fonts are further broken down into three categories: Humanist, Garald and Transitional. They are characterised by a low stroke contrast, triangular serifs and oblique axis. 

  • Humanist: Humanistic, Humanes, or Venetian Humanist typefaces mimic and/or represent handwriting within the renaissance manuscripts. Humanists include the first Roman typefaces created by Venetian printers during the 15th century and look very formal. Characteristics? Low/hardly any contrast between strokes, heavy and short bracketed serifs, diagonal cross-stroke on ‘e’ and n ascenders they tend to have slanted serifs.


  • Garald: Garald, or Aldine, was named after Claude Garamond, a famous typeface designer, as well as Aldus Manutius whom was a printer and publisher. Garald’s were used to support the orthography and use of proper grammar under the reign of King Francis I in mid 16th century France. Different to humanists as their characteristics included finer proportions and a stronger contrast in stroke weights, as well as using a slanted axis.


  • Transitional: During the 18th century John Baskerville established transitional typefaces, also referred to as Realist, Réales and Baroque. These typefaces take attributions from both humanist and neo-classical typefaces, using characteristics from both.


Moderns: Further broken down into Didone, Mechanistic and Linear, modern fonts are characterised by a simple and functional aesthetic that grew popular during the industrial period.

  • Didone: Also known as modern, they were first created in the late 18th century. They are named after two type-founders; Didot and Bodoni. The contrast between the stroke size is dramatic compared to what had been seen before. The characteristics for didone include a strong contrast between thick and thin strokes, vertical axis for curved strokes, limited to no bracketing on serifs and the terminals often have ball shapes.
  • Mechanistic: Mechanical, Slab Serif or Mécanes grew in popularity during the 19th century; coinciding with the Industrial Revolution. These typefaces were very much popular for advertising as they were easy to read. Characteristics include low contrast between strokes, heavy strokes with rectangular thick serifs and limited to no bracketing on serifs.
  • Linear: Linear fonts were further sub-categorised into grotesque, neo-grotesque, geometric and humanist.

Linear Grotesque: Originating in the 19th century,grotesques were early sans serif fonts which grew increasingly popular commercially. The grotesques feature many unlikely characteristics including an odd distribution of line thicknesses on curved letterforms, a double story lowercase ‘g’, a spur on the uppercase ‘G’, a curled leg on the uppercase ‘R’ as well as a vertical axis.

Linear Neo-Grotesque: Also referred to as transitional, neo-grotesque on the earlier grotesque typefaces. This category contains some of the most famous sans serif designs. Developing on the grotesque designs however the letterforms are much more simple. There is less variation in stroke weight and the lowercase g is now a single story, rather than it being double like grotesque fonts.

Geometric: Created with an equal or almost equal stroke width and are designed using simple geometric forms which are repeated and used throughout the letterform. As a result of this the geometric typefaces are less readable and letters are harder to differentiate from one another. Characteristics of geometric letterforms are little to no contrast between the vertical and horizontal strokes and character shapes are influenced by geometric forms such as squares, triangles and circles.

Humanist: Humanist typefaces are inspired by earlier classical letterforms. The uppercase of humanist typefaces relate to Roman inscriptional letters, and the characteristics of the lowercase are similar to those of Carolingian script. Characteristics of humanist fonts are noticeable contrast between stroke proportions and characteristics match serif typefaces, they are influenced by calligraphic forms and due to this the humanist classification are said to be the most legible and readable of all the sans serif classifications.

Calligraphics: Charaterised by a hand-rendered look, calligraphic typefaces can be further broken down into Glyphics, Script, Blackletter and Gaelic. 

  • Glyphics: Glyphic, incised or incise letterforms are based on engravings in stone and/or metal. As a result they have small triangular shaped serifs or flared terminals. These typefaces focus on the uppercase characters, many of which don’t contain any lowercase letters altogether. Their characteristics include minimal contrast between strokes, a vertical axis for curved strokes and a tapering effect at the terminals and/or triangular shaped serifs.


  • Script: Scriptes or scripts represent cursive writing and as a result they have strong sloping forms, like italic, and letterforms can be connected. Included in this category are typefaces that imitate copperplate scripts. Characteristics of sript fonts appear to be written with a quill and have a strong slope/lean as well as letters often being connected.


  • Blackletter: Blackletter, otherwise known as gothic script, gothic minuscule or Textura is based on the medieval scribe hand-rendered with broad-nibbed pens. First used by Gutenberg for the letterpress. They were used to print body text until eventually Humanist typefaces took over with the invention of movable type in the early 20th century. This typeface was also famous for being used in Nazi propaganda, but it is very narrow-minded to limit the classification of blackletter to the one negative attached to it.


  • Gaelic: Irish character, Irish type or Gaelic script was used as early as the 16th Century. These typefaces originated from Irish scripts found on medieval manuscripts. Gaelic type was used for mainly setting body text and was used throughout Ireland before losing popularity during mid 20th Century. In modern times, Gaelic type is used for decorative purposes rather than commercial advertising or body text, but is commonly found on pub signs and greeting cards.


  • Non-Latin: Famously known as exotics to English printers, the non-latin category was not included in Vox’s original 9 groups. The clear distinction of this category is that the typeface is not based on the latin alphabet. It includes typefaces that are Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Chinese, etc. As the Vox type classification system is very Latin based, non-latin types are very underrepresented


Calligraphy Workshop

Paul Mattock came in to teach us the art of beautiful  writing; calligraphy. The craftmanship that goes into calligraphy isn’t a widely practiced art anymore, but throughout the history of time it proved to be very popular. He taught us about 4 very different types of calligraphy and when they were used:

Unseal: This type of calligraphy is one inch high and usually all in uppercase. It was famously used in bibles and is known as book hand, as this is where it’s usually displayed.

Foundation hand:

Italic: This type of calligraphy can be manipulated. It was introduced and used throughout the Renaissance era by Ludouichio.

Blackletter: Probably the most famous type of calligraphy, blackletter was produced for cost as the typeface was condensed. This would never be used now as the overall look of the page was, in my opinion, horrid. It looked overly cluttered, but I appreciate the art upon it.

Carved slate: This method was used throughout the Roman Times and the process is somewhat different to the others; the letteforms would be carved into stone with a chisel rather than scripted. This was a one shot technique as if you made a mistake, you would have to start all over again. This was probably a trade for the talented craftsman.

He briefly mentioned calligraphic artists from the 20th and 21t century whom would most likely cater to our design tasted as we’re the next generation of design so we will most likely be drawn towards contemporary design, or at least I am. Paul mentioned a few names of traditional and contemporary calligraphers and I did some research into them:

Thomas Ingmire: Ingmire partakes is an expressionist form of calligraphy, not traditional. Born Ft. Wayne, Indiana in 1942, Ingmire received a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from The Ohio State University and a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of California, which both involved intense graphics and fine art studies, however, he has since travelled across the globe teaching workshops. Today he resides in sunny San Francisco and focuses on the creation of artists books. Personally, I am impressed with Thomas Ingmire. When you think of the word calligraphy you think of perfect scriptured letterforms, but Ingmire has taken it that step further and made it completely his own.

Donald Jackson: One of the worlds most famous Western calligraphers, Jackson is most-famous for being a scripture to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and he was even awarded the Medal of The Royal Victorian Order due to his service. He is the artistic director of The Saint John’s Bible, which also includes work from Thomas Ingmire. No two guesses would tell us that Donald Jackson is a traditional calligrapher, mostly due to him being the personal calligrapher of Her Majesty the Queen and, let’s be honest, she’s somewhat of a traditionalist. That being said, Jackson’s work is astounding. The letterforms are perfect and the flow of the curves is true art; Donald Jackson is what you call a craftsman.

Susan Scarsgard: Rocker of rounded glasses and all-round arty Susan Scarsgard is another creative calligrapher, amongst many other noble titles such as designer, artist and author, archivist and manager: quite the lengthy job history. She can be referred to as a 21st century calligrapher whom focuses on the artistic and creative side of calligraphy; the art itself. You can see where design comes into her work, she definitely uses grids and guides.

Claude Mediavilla: Born in the South of France, Mediavilla has a personal touch within his calligraphic work. For some reason it really draws me in, perhaps because of the different colours he uses or maybe because of the handwritten look his work emits; either way, his work is outstanding and the fact I can personally relate to it is a sign that is a great designer.

Andre Breto:

Tom Kemp: Another traditional calligrapher, a true craftsman, Tom Kemp’s work reflects on history and how letterforms used to be. Now, I’m drawn to contemporary design, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate his work. I think it is beautiful, but I much prefer work from Thomas Ingmire.

My calligraphy outcomes:

We began by using a range of materials and resources to make marks on the page, just to see what outcome we achieved from them.

Texture from a sponge



A range of textures from different materials
Textures created from a plastic fork


This was a great introduction as it got me thinking about planning and processing. What tool will give me what outcome? If I want a thinned stroke can I use this, or shall I use that? Do I want to create a traditional piece or a contemporary piece? These are all questions I imagine that calligraphers past and present asked themselves, and this session put me in the mind frame of a calligrapher.


After experimenting, we moved to creating actual letterforms with calligraphic tools. We focused on the Neuland alphabet, created by Rudolph Koch. It was interesting learning from an individuals typeface as you want to get it right, so you don’t discredit them. However, that is easier said then done, especially when it is your first time practising something as precise as calligraphy. I used what is known as an automatic pen, very common in the industry and very hard to use at first. To be as precise as possible we had to create a grid system to work within thus having restricted movement. Here is my final Neuland mimicked alphabet: IMG_0720.JPG

After learning the strict techniques that come with calligraphy, like always keeping the nib of your pen horizontal, it becomes easier to use. Although my final alphabet isn’t perfect, to create something very similar in under 30 minutes after just being introduced to the tools and techniques, I’m satisfied, and rather impressed. Paul then told us to let out our creative system and write words, but to still use the Neuland alphabet as a guide. This was my piece, not so creative but rather functional: img_0721

Overall, this was one of my favourite sessions we’ve had. It combined both traditional and contemporary techniques, which I think are rather important, especially when it comes to being a well-rounded graphic designer. I will take a lot away from this session, like not to be too much of a perfectionist, as I’m still learning and developing upon my skills. To say I’ve tried and tested calligraphy will always impress me, never mind future clients. With practice, I believe I could develop upon my basic skills and become somewhat of a mediocre, however I’d most likely follow in Thomas Ingmire’s footsteps rather than Donald Jackson as Ingmire’s work looks to be better suited to me. My favourite outcome of the entire day was the alphabet created with a plastic fork. I think the number of lines really gave the alphabet a depth that I hadn’t seen in any of the named calligrapher work. It just goes to show that you aren’t limited to ‘art’ supplies, you can create with anything around you.

Hybrid letterforms

We were tasked to create hybrid letterforms within InDesign. I was given the letter S and I decided to work with my chosen font from the BAGD101 sessions; futura. The font futura is pretty much what it says on the tin; futuristic. You’d place it on the cover for a sci-fi film or a new channel 4 documentary about robots. I really like contemporary methods and design, so for me, this was an obvious choice within the brief and for this task. I wanted to see what I could create with it. Now, an S is a flowing letterform with it’s curvature and slender shape, this is something I wanted to focus on throughout the creative process.  This was my starting point:

screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-19-23-34We were then told to size it to the page, duplicate it and remove half of the letterform. It would all make sense later.So we did just that using the pathfinder tool within InDesign which I had never used before, it’s pretty nifty. Then we were told to swap computers with somebody randomly. Kevin chose to develop upon my letterform and I chose Sarah.The first letterform must continue as it’s original letter. For example, I chose Futura and Kevin could have chosen Comic Sans, as long as he used an S. I believed his method of thinking was taking the told half of a futura S, rotating it and reattaching it. As for the creative letterforms, he really hit the nail on the head. He created an A and B using half forms of other letters in different typefaces. I think the B works extremely well as it flows yet the drastic change in width adds personality, you can always count on Kevin to be creative.




Legibility within Typography

Readability is rather important when using typography, I mean, that is the whole point of having type. However, having block after block of text can be rather boring, unless you’re an avid reader. Manipulating typography is something  I’ve always enjoyed, but in this instance we had to still make the characters readable and distinguishable. Legibility all comes down to your choice of font, sizing and placement on a page, however, as this project was just down to looking at how one can manipulate type and still make it legible, I don’t have to worry about these things yet, but it should be on the forefront of my mind when we begin to design our books.

Circular pattern

I began with a circular pattern and, to be honest, this didn’t do much other than give me a 60’s era aesthetic. However, I really like the pattern within the ‘M’ and this comes down to the placement of the circular pattern. If I was to do it again, I would maybe look at the overall lettering placement ratio to pattern, this would give me a better final piece.


I knew that this font wouldn’t be easily manipulated. I decided to eradicate the counters which I believe helped a little, but I really do like the overall look of this type. It looks somewhat futuristic, almost like a font you’d see used on a poster for a sci-fi film. The thin crosshatch works well within the typeface I chose, this is probably my second favourite piece created during this session.


This is my least favourite piece. I had the idea of overlapping text so I used the word ‘CREATE’ vertically layered on top of the alphabet and although it has interrupted the typography, I really don’t like the final outcome. It has no real method behind it, it seems rather sporadic and that’s not who I am as a designer. Maybe it would have been better has I layered the word ‘create’ horizontally instead, but I guess trials and tribulations like this are what make you a better designer in the end.

Crosshatch 2.0

This was a basic sans serif crosshatch design using a the good ol’ line tool. Overall, not my best. I prefered the smaller crosshatch I had previously done, but again, this is all down to personal preference.


This is by far my favourite piece. I experimented with a 3D look using a dual-tone color palette, but this didn’t really achieve the look I wanted. But then after adding the white diagonal lines layering the lighter blue alphabet, I achieved my initial design idea. This is my best piece overall as I believe it was the closest to the idea I had imagined before I started creating, the colour scheme really works and the diagonal lines adds to the depth I had wanted.

Classifications of Type

During Neil’s presentation he mentioned the following classifications and I thought it best to start doing my own research to prepare for book 2: Type Classification. These are the mentioned classifications and some distinguishing features I found:

  • Humanist: They derive from a strong calligraphic influence and they began to replace Blackletter during the 1400’s. Humanist fonts are often considered ‘the backbone of today’s most popular fonts’. Notable personality this typeface has is bracketed serifs whilst also having a low contrast between thin and thick strokes.


  • Garalde: Previously known as Old Style, Garalde characteristics move towards more upright letters and straighter crossbars compared to that of Humanist typefaces. The serifs are said to be more carefully formed as well as having  more variation between thin and thick strokes.


  • Transitional: also known as Realist, these typefaces were characterised by the vertical sway of the letter ‘O’, having greater contrast between strokes and straight head serifs that are oblique. Transitional fonts marked the beginning of the transition between old style and modern typeface design in the late 18th century, these fonts withhold characteristics of both classifications. Transitional faces are more upright than Garalde typefaces, usually with either a vertical or slightly inclined stress as well as having more contrast. Traditional was established by John Baskerville in the mid 18th century.


  • Didone: Used in the late 18th century to the early 19th century, Didone (or Modern) fonts were a radical break from that of traditional fonts. They are distinguished by their very high stroke contrast with unbracketed, straight serifs and vertical axis. It’s somewhat of a stylistic font that reflects the time period it was used. They are distinguished by their extreme contrast in stroke size, from thick to hairline thin within a curve.


  • New Transitional: New transitional display a complex, hybrid mix of features

    that were not previously seen within the evolution of form. As the typefaces have a thicker stroke than that of Didone, they were a production result as there was a huge problem with printing during the 19th century. Their sturdy structure enabled easier printing onto thinner paper, and it’s readability overtook Didone typefaces by far as New Transitional fonts were cleared to read as smaller print.


  • Slab Serif: Slab serif fonts are renown for their squared serifs that are imperceptible to the stroke weight. They were popular throughout the 19th century as they were used for decorative purposes. This is because the font stands out; it’s bold, clear and in your face, you could hardly miss it. Although they were used for headlines and advertising, slab serif fonts were legible at smaller point sizes due to their thorough form.
  • Grotesque: Popularised during the 19th century, Grotesque was the first commercially popular sans serif typeface style. The name derives from the German word ‘grotesk’. The first sans-serif typefaces were known as grotesque, as in ugly, due to their rejection of the purity and elegance used throughout historic serif typefaces. Unlike previous serif fonts, grotesque were squared and the contrast is even. Grotesque fonts were very close to previous serif fonts, the only thing missing is the serif. One distinguishable mark of grotesque fonts are that many of them have the bowl and loop ‘g’ found in Roman fonts.


  • Neo-Grotesque: Neo-grotesque fonts emerged during the 1950’s as a result of the growing influence of Swiss Typographic Style. Neo-grotesque was influenced by geometric letterforms and merged the style with grotesque letterforms which, in turn, achieved better legibility. Stroke weight is more like a geometric form than that of grotesque typeface as there are straight terminals which achieve a simplistic, minimalist yet stylistic aesthetic.


  • Geometric: Another example of trend setting, geometric typefaces are based on geometric shapes; triangles, squares and circles. An example of this is lower case ‘o’ and ‘a’, the o is a perfectly round circle as is the a, it just has a line attached to the right-hand side to form it’s tail. Geometric typefaces are renown for being simplistic and stylish, yet very modern. However, their one downfall is that it’s simplistic and clean nature means it does not make for good body type as it’s readability is narrow compared to that of serif fonts. These fonts are my personal favourite as I like their minimal persona and fonts such as Futura have proven their worth throughout time. I personally believe that they’re the type of font you can use for almost anything, they’re multipurpose and this is something you need within the design world.


  • Sans serif Humanist: Whilst designers were creating neo-grotesque fonts, others wanted to focus on the human aspect of type previously used throughout history. This resulted in humanist fonts being more calligraphic and are more likely to be used as body font as they’re easy to read. They’re defined by stroke modulation to achieve a friendly and personal look. They have a greater contrast in strokes compared to other sans serif fonts adding to the calligraphic influence.


  • Glyphic: Distinguishing features of glyphic fonts are that of it’s triangular serifs or the flaring strokes where the letterform ends, vertical axis for curved lines and hardly any contrast within the stroke width. These typefaces look similar to Roman inscription within stone, rather than hand drawn.


  • Script: Script fonts derived from 17th century formal writing types. They are often defined by it’s handwritten aesthetic, it’s a somewhat personal typeface due to it’s elegant and detailed aesthetic. They wouldn’t be used for body text, but for wedding invitations. They can have adjoining strokes between letters, or not, and can sometimes have a flat-tipped pen style look.


  • Blackletter: Based on early manuscript letterforms, it’s famous for being used in the Gutenberg bible. Previous to this it was used all over Europe from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance period. Blackletter is an ornamented style of typography, known for it’s stylistic letters and bold forms as well as it’s highly contrasting strokes. Blackletter was popularised in Germany during WWII as it was used for Nazi propaganda. However, it is now identified with newspaper headings, such as The New York Times. It’s also used as branding on Corona beer bottles as well as the Disneyland sign in California. It has a a large contrast between stroke widths and can look very calligraphic.


  • Decorative: Decorative type styles have no set characteristics and are probably the most diverse classification. They usually reflect on the time period or culture in which they were created, but even this is completely down to the individual’s artistic freedom whom is designing the type. Usually used for signage and headlines, these fonts aren’t very structured. In one sense, they’re made just to look pretty, for example graffiti.


  • Contemporary: Contemporary fonts bare resemblance to that of decorative typefaces in the sense that they take inspiration from the current time period, fashion, trends, music and culture. They are all diverse and unique. One very famous example of a contemporary typeface is Blur, created by British designer Neville Brody in 1991. He developed the typeface by blurring a grayscale image of an already existing grotesque font and making vectors from the results.


  • BC (beyond classification): These fonts are renown for having no rules, structure or guide to follow. What is known as a ‘catch-up group’ these fonts are heavily influenced by technology and are usually designed for being looked at on a computer screen.



Welcome to the Futura…

Futura; the font, the myth, the legend. Designed by German typeface designer Paul Renner in 1927; Futura successfully became one of the most-used and adored fonts of the 20th century. Commissioned by the Bauer Type Foundry, Futura became associated with the Bauhaus due to it’s geometrical shapes, although there is no proof that there was a solid link between the two.

Let’s talk about it’s design. I’m a fan of simplicity; I like geometrical, systematical and symmetrical design. With this being said, when we were given the list of fonts I was particularly taken by that of Futura. It has a futuristic feel which still applies today, although it was designed in 1927; it’s the pinnacle of a timeless font. For me, sans serif fonts are way ahead of the game when it comes to typefaces as I believe that serif fonts are historical and traditional, and although that’s rather lovely, I believe that we should be moving forward, which is exactly what Paul Renner achieved when he created this font. He avoided creating any non-essential elements and instead made use of basic geometric shapes; circles, squares and triangle.

With it’s geometrical design, Futura established itself within the 20th century rather quickly. Paul Renner, although not associated with the Bauhaus, shared many of it’s values and views; believing that typefaces should have their own personality and express a modern view, rather than being a resurrection of previous typefaces; something I believe too as reviving a previous font could be considered modern day plagiarism, anybody whom knows about the Helvetica/Ariel debate will understand where I’m coming from. Futura has a modern and contemporary feel, reflecting from it’s sleek and crisp appearance. It is a good heading font, although it’s legibility and  easy-to-read aesthetic makes it a good typeface for body text.

When released, Futura had 3 weights; light, medium and bold but was expanded in the 30’s to include condensed, oblique and book adaptations. Today, The Futura type family has over 18 different weights and styles. However, the Macs within university only come equipped with 4; condensed medium, condensed extrabold, medium and medium italic which is a shame as I particularly like the lighter fonts within the family. You can see the rest of the family here.

I was surprised when I realised that Futura scripted in the use of ligatures within their type family. This being said, I really like the flow within their font when using ligatures as it adds to Futura’s renown sleek aesthetic. As it’s a contemporary font, the use of ligatures is used for that of a decorative marker, rather than a purposeful one, but it still blends in well with the rest of the font, compares to some fonts where sometimes they can look out of place.

Today, Futura is somewhat of a typeface celebrity, being used on many different corporate logos, advertisements and it has even been to the moon. Can you believe a font has accomplished more than me and you? Astounding. The infamous typeface is used for companies like Absolut Vodka (a personal favourite), Louis Vuitton, Costco, Hewlett-Packard and has even been used in film; 2001: A Space Odyssey. Let’s talk about space, and how this font has accomplished more than me. In 1969, Apollo 11 visited the moon and Futura was chosen as the font to be used on the commemorative plaque they would leave to commemorate their mission.


The Field Guide to Typography by Peter Dawson