It’s been a few weeks since my last post, but I want to get back on top of it, so here we go! Today we are diving right into counters. In typography, counters are the partially or fully enclosed space in a letter. Counters come in all shapes and sizes and, because of that reason, play an important part in legibility.
Due to the large, open counters that give a typeface a portion of it’s legibility a direct byproduct is usually a taller x-height to accommodate the larger counters. Taller x-heights (usually) result in an overall increase in legibility, thus causing a direct correlation between counters and x-height. Finally because the majority of the letters we read are lowercase, the overall effect is a positive step in gaining better legibility.
Below is an example of a typeface with small counters and a typeface with large counters. When set in body copy, it is easy to see how typefaces with larger counters (therefore larger x-heights) are more legible.
What’s the Point?
Counters have a direct impact on x-height and because of that, impact the overall legibility of the typeface.
Counter: the partially or fully enclosed space in a letter. Examples include a,b,c,d,g,o,p,q.s,A,B,C,D,G,O,P,Q,R, and S.
To the next topic that is! Today we are discussing leading (pronounced led-ing). Leading also known as line spacing gets it’s name from the days of metal type in which typographers would physically insert thin pieces of lead between lines of type to achieve the desired spacing. In digital typesetting, this is done automatically; however, can (and usually should) be adjusted manually for the optimal legibility. The default standard is 120% of the type’s point size. Meaning, if the type is set in 12pt then the leading is 14.4pt. If the type is set in 10pt then the leading is 12pt or in shorthand 10/12.
Leading is measured from baseline to baseline and that extra space is important to let our eyes not only rest, but stay focused on the current line. If the type is set 12/12 (also called set solid) it can be difficult to read.The ascenders and descenders seem to mash together causing our eyes to jump lines.
Before auto leading, text blocks were normally spaced with 2 extra points of lead. Whether it was 8/10, or 10/12, or 12/14 the 2 points of space would allow our eyes to stay on the line and provide even color space to the page.
With the advent of digital desktop publishing, software took control of auto leading. Using the spacing standard of 120% of the type’s point size, this formula works well on a large variety of sizes from small to medium sizes. As with all automatic type tools, some manual adjustments need to be made (especially at large point sizes.
Finally, type that is set too loosely can be difficult to follow as well. As I am sure most of us were trained in school about double spacing, this is not good for legibility (that trend was for teachers to correct things in between the lines. How it became the standard is beyond me.) It forces the eye to search for the next line and causes a washed out color when set in large bodies of copy.
What’s the Point?
Leading, also known as line spacing, is measured from baseline to baseline and is important to the overall color of the page.
Leading: The distance between the baselines of successive lines of type.
10/12: Shorthand for 10 point type with 12 points of leading.
120%: The digital standard for auto leading. This works well until large point sizes.
Awwww, snap. Here we go. What we will be discussing today is the relationship between points, picas, and inches. What are points and picas and how do they relate to inches you ask? Well here we go…
To the left is a 1 inch line. Dividing that line are 72 smaller lines. These are called points. Points are the smallest unit in typography and many people are familiar with them sense they usually select a point size in their word processor (Think 12 point Times New Roman). There are also 6 larger hash marks hanging ragged left. these 6 hash marks are pica marks. Picas (pronounced pie-ka) are also a typographical unit of measurement composed of 12 points. A pica is equal to 12 points and ⅙ of an inch. Thus, 6 picas is equal to 1 inch (and now you know why the site is called 6picas)
So now does that mean if someone sets a title in 72 point type the letters will be 1 inch high? No. As counterintuitive as it sounds, 72 point letters will not be an inch tall. Looking back at the post Typography 101, letters reside in an em square. If the type size is set to 72 points the em square will be 72 points high. Meaning, from the descender to the ascender roughly 72 points or 1 inch. I say roughly because although the type designer lays out the type in the square, it doesn’t necessarily mean he/she used all the space within for their ascender and descender (including the overshoots). 95% of the time; however, the line height of a 72 point typeface will be an inch high. For example, highlighting the em square in the background, one can see where the baseline , cap-height and the descender are in relation to the overall square.
So What’s the Point?
Although 72pt is equal to an inch, 72 point letters are not an inch tall, but the line height usually is.
point: The smallest unit of measurement in typography (12 points to a pica or 72 points to an inch) Bonus: The point was invented by Pierre Simon Fournier
pica: (pronounced pie-ka) A unit of measurement corresponding to 12 points or 1/6 of an inch.