Monday, October 6, 2014

Design notes: miscellaneous capital letters ( U B S )

At this point, I’ve covered almost all of the “hard” letter forms, and by now, you should be familiar with many of the subtle and mundane rules of type design. So it makes more sense now to just release a few design notes on each of the remaining letters pointing out some oft-overlooked features of their letterforms.


  • This letter is about the same width as the ‘N’ and the ‘V’.
  • Like the ‘M’ and ‘N’, the ‘U’ defies the typical calligraphic stress rules. While some typefaces such as Cambria follow the rules strictly, making ‘U’s with two thick stems, it is overwhelming convention to make the upstroke a hairline, just like in the ‘N’. In fact, the stems are often exactly identical.
  • While this varies somewhat, usually the bowl of the ‘U’ is a hairline as well, with stress only appearing left of the letter’s minimum. In other words, as you trace the letter from left to right, the stress disappears at the minimum, just as you’d expect calligraphically, but when the curve comes back up to finish out the letter, the stress never reappears.
  • The left stroke is usually identical to the top half of the ‘I’ glyph.
  • Curve onset usually occurs about a two-thirds the way down the letter. The bowl usually occupies a rectangle with sides in a 2 : 1 ratio.


    •  This letter can be made somewhat easily by duplicating the bowl of a ‘P’ . If your typeface has very diagonal stress, be sure to check that that has been preserved when you do this.
    • The upper bowl is slightly shorter than that of the ‘P’ ; the lower bowl is a bit wider. The two meet at the median of the ‘H’.
    • The joint where the two bowls first meet needs a slight ink trap (a deepening of a crease) to prevent a dark spot from forming there, optically.
    • The bracketing present on the lower left corner of the ‘D’ is also there on the ‘B’.


    • The letter ‘S’ is extremely similar to its lowercase version. You can make it by simply scaling up the lowercase ‘s’.
    • Remember to correct for weight, since the scaled up ‘s’ will almost certainly be too heavy to pass as a capital ‘S’.
    • The serif on the ‘C’ is a good reference for correcting the serifs on the ‘S’.