A Typographic Jigsaw Puzzle

This exercise involved constructing the pangram sentence ‘the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’ out of the deconstructed strokes, serifs and bowls of the typeface Baskerville. I started the exercise by typing the sentence in Baskerville and then attempting to identify which letters the different parts were from.

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It wasn’t too complicated to distinguish the parts of each letter although I did initially get confused between the bowl of P and B and the strokes of V and W. However, as I progressed I increasingly noticed differences between the deconstructed typeface and the Baskerville sentence from my computer’s fontbook. Once I had named each part I was able to draw an x, b and p and establish the x, ascender and defender heights.

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I decided to try and put together the whole sentence using tracing paper before examining it again to see if my suspicions about the identity of the typeface increased.

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I scanned in my sentence and set it next to the same sentence typed in Baskerville Regular at a similar size.

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The main differences that I noticed between the two are that the font I have constructed has:

  • A closed tail and a more rounded serif on the g
  • A less rounded tail a the bottom of the j
  • Less pronounced serifs on the s
  • The top of the f is less rounded
  • the tail of the a is less curved
  • the serifs on the x are singles rather than doubles

I did wonder whether my tracing skills and impatience at transferring the shape of the strokes etc had led me to develop a brand new typeface but I think that having noticed the discrepancies when I was looking closely at the original page in the course book it seems more likely to be a slightly different font. I’m planning to ask my tutor about it and see if he can shed any light.

This exercise has certainly made me examine how typefaces are constructed more than I ever have before. It has made me realise how even very small changes to the direction of a stroke or style of a serif can affect the overall look and feel of a typeface. I have a deeper understanding and appreciation for how much thought goes into designing the specific features of a typeface and how many aspects there are to be considered. I had heard of serifs in connection to fonts previously but hadn’t really observed the differences in the bowls, strokes, links, loops, terminals and spurs.

I think it is vital in graphic design to understand the way in which typefaces are constructed and how different characteristics can create or compliment an intended communication. How a font is constructed will ultimately define it’s message… the type style and the shape, colour and proportion of the letters will all work to make it recognisable and this is important for a designer and is particularly impactful in branding and logo design. It is important to understand the effects that serifs or lack of them can have on readability and to understand that the strokes of a script typeface mean they aren’t generally suitable to use as body text.

C Knight and J Glaser make an interesting observation in the smashing magazine.com article ‘When typography speaks louder than words’ about the impact of differing stroke widths in connection to a Jason Munn poster for the US band Liars.

The choice of typeface is also significant; its extreme contrasts of thick and thin strokes point to the contrast between truth and lies.

jason-munn-liars

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