Saturday, September 6, 2014

Glyph design: the lowercase t





The letter ‘t’ seems visually tricky to design, though it is actually one of the easier letters to make. In many sans serif and a few didone typefaces, the entire letter can be derived from the ‘f’ with minimal modification. This is generally not true in transitional and “older” type, though the cross stroke can still be inherited from the ‘f’, and the letter’s finial is easy enough to draw, making the ‘t’ a rather low hanging fruit in terms of type design.
Components of a lowercase ‘t’
Components of a lowercase ‘t’
The ‘t’ is not a complex letter. It consists of a single vertical stem that terminates in a curved finial extending about as far as its cross stroke does. The finial is almost always somewhat right-skewed (meaning it’s sharpest part lies to the left of the middle of the letter) and except in decorative typefaces, it never has a blob or serif. The shape is often reminiscient of the shoulder of the ‘n’ or ‘u’. The stem of the ‘t’ is crossed by a cross stroke—it is almost always identical to the one found on the ‘f’, though rarely, it lies a fraction of a hairline higher than the cross stroke on the ‘f ’ does. The most interesting part of the ‘t’ is the relation between the cutoff of the stem and the left side of the cross stroke.

Left to right: Garamond, Sabon, Minion Pro, Libertine, Proforma, Bodoni
Left to right: Garamond, Sabon, Minion Pro, Libertine, Proforma, Bodoni
It’s usually good to have some sort of parallelism between the cutoff and the cross stroke. In very old style typefaces like Garamond and Sabon (and a few transitionals like Times), the cutoff and the cross stroke are combined into one triangular blob. More modern style typefaces have ‘t’s with more flat-cut tops, and less tapering on the cross stroke. But they usually still preserve the parallelism between the two cuts, which is what I did with Floribunda’s ‘t’.

Also note that the ascender of the ‘t’ is not as tall as those of the other ascending letters like ‘b’ and ‘l’. It rarely extends more than halfway to the ascender line.

Other than that, that’s basically all there is to making the ‘t’. The letter does often have sharp stems which sometimes benefit from bevelling though.