1. Letterform

Lower case ‘a’ from Adobe Caslon Pro, superpos...

Lower case ‘a’ from Adobe Caslon Pro, superposed onto some guides. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

letterformletter-form or letter form, is a term used to mean a letter’s shape.

In one sense, letterform applies strictly to the design of individual letters (characters). In typography, “letterforms” is often used to describe the study and design of individual letters while typography applies to the design and use with letterforms. As such, “letterform” applies not only to letters but to any graphic elements of a script, typeface or font (including numbers, symbols and punctuation).

In another sense letterform applies to the individual shapes of letters that gives a text an aesthetic. In this way, medieval scholars, for instance, may discuss the particular features of a script that give it distinction and definition among other scripts. (http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/medievalbook/letterforms.htm)

anatomy_of_typography_by_yordanh-d2w81ptDepending on context, similar terms are sometimes used interchangeably—especially character but also sign, glyph and grapheme.

The history of letterforms is discussed in fields of study relating to materials used in writing. Epigraphy includes the study of letterforms carved in stone or other permanent materials. Paleography is the study of writing in ancient and medieval manuscripts. Calligraphy treats the letterforms of decorative writing, usually in ink. Typography includes the arrangement of letterforms designed for metal print or computer. More broadly letterforms may be discussed wherever letters appear stylistically—in graffiti for example.

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Your first task is to find 3 distinctly different letterforms where the choice of each of them helps  or augments the overall message/meaning. In other words, there is a successful match between the designer’s choice of the typeface (because of its letterform) and the message these characters are applied to. This “message” could be an ad, story, documentary, promotional, or informational piece. Find these examples from any printed or print application (book, magazine, brochure, newspaper, poster, pamphlet, etc) not online. Be sure that this match is successful because of the specific ways that the characters are shaped or formed, not primarily because of color, size, alignment, picture, special effect, etc.

Photograph each of your examples, import and place them into a single page layout. Add a paragraph describing the reasons for your choices. There should be a separate page for each example giving you a total of 3 pages. Your description should focus on specifics of the shape and form of the letters/characters and how those shapes compliments the meaning or feeling of the story or context you have taken them from. Print these and bring them to next class.

Also, ask yourself if there is anything you might do to improve the relationship between the choice of typeface/letterform and the message it is applied to for each of your examples.

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