10 Indispensable Typography Terms, Illustrated

Earlier this summer, Fontsmith put together a lovely and informative poster entitled “The A-Z of typographic terms” featuring an alphabetical visual glossary of typography terms, a project intended to publicize its new typeface FS Aldrin.


See the full poster at Fontsmith.com

Not only did we think it was a pretty clever marketing move, but the poster itself is gorgeous—we were quick to print a copy for our wall.

Here’s what Phil Garnham, Type Design Director at Fontsmith, had to say about it:

As type designers we can get immersed in an insular typographical bubble at times. It’s easy to forget that our language, the lingo, words and terms that we use to discuss, critique and refine our designs is under the constant pressure of discourse and scrutiny within, often redefining itself. We thought that it would be an interesting project to research and illustrate a few of the key words that we use everyday here in the Fontsmith studio but then before we knew it we were up to nearly 80 terms! Unable to cut the list down we’ve prepared this infographic that lists all the vocabulary in one place. Our new typeface FS Aldrin is used on titles and description info. It’s technical and precise shapes seemed perfect for conveying all of the terms in a succinct but also amiable tone of voice…

Each of the individual typography terms is so nicely visualized that we thought we’d take a closer look at a few of them:

Typography Terms from Fontsmith:


Semi-transparent pixels along the edges of letterform outlines to smooth jagged edges



Decorative stroke at the end of the arm of a letter, similar to a serif but more pronounced


Bilateral serif

Serif extending to both sides of a main stroke



A single character (number, letter, mark or symbol) is represented by a glyph



An area partially or entirely enclosed in a letterform or symbol like an ‘o’, ‘p’ or ‘c’



Two or more letters joined together to form one glyph



Tapered or curved end on letters like the bottom of a ‘c’ or ‘e’ or the top of a double storey ‘a’


Old style / Hanging figures

Numbers aligned with the lowercase, traditionally used for body text setting.



Exaggerated decorative serif, terminal or tail.



Height of the lowercase ‘x’ which is used as a guideline for the height of unextended lowercase letters


Want to see more? Check out more of the typography terms and a larger version of the poster here.

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Online Workshop: Typography 101 – Letterform Design II 

This class will help you to learn the details of typographic perception through basic letterform design. This workshop doesn’t just show you how a letterform is created, you will also get hands-on experience designing all of the lowercase letters of the alphabet. Learn more and register.