Designing Type: Uppercase A

Note: If you have trouble understanding the terminology used in this article, click here.

Serif A


The example above has old style proportions, so the A and O are the same width. However, when modern proportions are used the A is slightly wider than the O.

The stem on the I is thicker than the right diagonal on the A. The left diagonal is thinner than the right.

The top of the A comes to a point, so the letter protrudes above the cap height guideline to mask the optical illusion that the letter is smaller.

Typically the crossbar is set well below the true center of the letter so that the two spaces formed look about equal in area.

If the crossbar is thin, the A will be the same proportions as the V, just inverted.


 

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The inside serifs on diagonal letters are about equal to the I. Outer serifs on diagonal letters, however, require adjustment. While elongating the outer serifs help balance the letter’s wide width, many designers choose to shorten the outer serif to help compensate for the large gap that is created when a straight letter is placed next to it. Because of this gap, the A will be spaced tighter than vertical letters and require additional kerning with round letters such as C, D, G, O, P, Q, S  and diagonal letters such as V and W.

The top point can be finished in a variety of ways. Although the A on the right in the image above has a small flat surface at the top , the letter still extends above the cap height. If there is a large flat surface on the top of the A, the letter will be at the cap height guideline.


DesigningTypeA10Though not equal in weight, both angles on the right and left diagonal strokes will be similar. Differing the angles too much will cause the symmetry and proportion of the letter to be compromised.

The blue lines in the image on the left indicate the center of the letter. Notice the apex and counters are not in the exact center. This is due to the different weights of the left and right diagonal strokes. The more these weights differ, the further the counters will be from the center of the letter.


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The variation in thickness between the right and left diagonal strokes vary from font to font. However, the thicker stroke is always on the right side. Unless you know what you’re doing, this is one rule that should never be broken.


 

Serif A point placement
points

 

 


 

Sans Serif A
SansSerifA

The example above has modern proportions, and therefore the A is slightly wider than the O.

The stem on the I is thicker than the diagonals on the A. In the sans serif A above, both the right and left diagonals are equal in width. Although it is less common on sans serif letters, some designers will make the left diagonal smaller than the right, even if it’s a slight variation.

Since the top of the A does not come to a point and has a substantial flat top,  it is set at the cap height guideline.

The crossbar is thick and adds a substantial amount of density to the letter.  Therefore the interior of the A is wider than the V to compensate for the extra bulk.

As with the serif A, to compensate for the gap caused when placed next to a straight letter, the A will be spaced tighter than vertical letters and require additional kerning with round letters such as D, G, O, P, Q  and diagonal letters such as V and W.


When both the left and right diagonal strokes are equal in width, the angles will be the same. Also, the counters and apex will be in the  center of the letter.

The two identical green lines tracing the inside and outside of the right diagonal stroke in the image to the left show that the angle is consistent throughout the entire stroke.  The same applies to the left diagonal, shown with two identical red lines. This consistency is important to the symmetry of the letter. It is a good idea to always do a final check of these angles when an A is complete to ensure accuracy.

If the upper counter is tight, the diagonal strokes are sometimes slightly tapered toward the apex to open up the space. This should be done with caution, however. Tapering the diagonals too severely can have a very negative effect, causing the angles of the diagonals to be visibly incorrect which will compromise the symmetry of the letter.


Sans Serif A point placement
points


The example below shows a narrow letter where the upper counter was too tight. To combat this the designer added two points, one on the top of each side of the upper counter, which allowed the top point above them to be moved upward, toward the apex. This tapering effect works well to open up the space while still keeping the angles of the lines parallel so the dimensions of the diagonal strokes remain correct.
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