Crossbar

Now that the website is back up (happy New Year to you as well support staff thanks for the hard work), I wanted to round the year out on a small, but important aspect of typography — crossbars. A crossbar is usually defined as the horizontal stroke of the letters A and H. Sometimes, the crossbars are lumped into a horizontal stroke or an arm. Although few type people use the crossbar to define the T,F,A,H,E, and sometimes the (capital i); type design purists define the crossbar as only the A and H.

crossbars

In addition to those who adhere to the broader definition, there are some who don’t consider the capital i to have crossbars. The capital i in many serif and slab serif faces contain serifs that although mimic short arms, are just the serifs on the vertical stroke. Nonetheless, as technology moved forward and the typewriter was invented and the era of monospaced typefaces began. Type designers, who now had to fit a M and an capital i together on same width metal blocks faced some challenging issues. A solution was to extend those serifs to make arms or to add arms on the top of san serif faces. This solution fixed the unsightly space and allowed the reader’s eye movement to be more fluid. After a few years and due to the popularity of typewriters, people became used to seeing large arms on the capital i and type designers began experimenting with them in their designs. Below is example of the different capital i that appear in typefaces. (monospaced, modern, grotesque, old-style) It is because that adaptation from the original the capital i is not considered is not considered by some to have arms (crossbars).

solutions

From here on in, we will be referring to the crossbar in it’s purest form — only as the horizontal stroke that connects the A and H. Following the rough guide of the typeface’s x-height, the location of the crossbar is dependent on the style of the typeface. Ranging from low x-heights (think art-deco typefaces) to very tall (handwritten and display typefaces) the crossbar usually sits right above the x-height and is slightly thicker than any vertical stroke of that letter. Due to the imperfection of the human eye, the crossbar is never perfectly centered on the x-height. Doing so would cause our eye to see it too low and look slightly of center.

What’s the Point?

  • A crossbar is the horizontal stroke in an A and H
  • Sometimes crossbar is used interchangeably with arm or horizontal stroke.
  • Crossbar in pure form only refer to the A and H
  • Crossbar in a more generalist sense include T,F,A,H,E and sometimes the capital i.
  • The Crossbars (or arms) on the capital i were a result of the a solution for monospaced typefaces.
  • Crossbars usually roughly follow the x-height and are usually slightly higher than the x-height.