+
Size

Size

Description:

In this lesson you will learn how to measure type.

(more)
See More
Try a College Course Free

Sophia’s self-paced online courses are a great way to save time and money as you earn credits eligible for transfer to over 2,000 colleges and universities.*

Begin Free Trial
No credit card required

25 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

221 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 20 of Sophia’s online courses. More than 2,000 colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.

Tutorial

Video Transcription

Download PDF

Hi, everyone. My name is Mario. I'd like to welcome you to today's lesson on size. So today, we're going to learn how to measure type. So, as always, feel free to pause, fast-forward, and remind throughout the lesson. And when you're ready to go, let's get started.

As I said, we're going to be learning how to measure type, and in this lesson, we'll focus on the current digital standards in the US primarily used for printed documents. So, keep that in mind, because web design, sign making, and other industries and countries use other measuring systems. With that in mind, let's continue.

Type is measured by point, picas and inches-- and here's what that looks like. And just a heads up, this is not to scale, but it's large enough so that you can see the difference in measurements. So point is the unit used when measuring letter forms and a point measures 1/72 of an inch. Type is measured vertically from the bottom of the descender to the top of the ascender, so those are two new words for us, and we'll get to what those are in just a minute here.

A pica is the unit used when measuring the length of a line-up type, and there are six picas in an inch-- so, not too tough. Now, as I was explaining what a point was, I threw in those two new words like descender and ascender. So let's talk about what those are. An ascender is the name for the part of the topographic character that extends above the mean line or any character which has a ascender.

So the red line here is what's called a baseline, which is the implied horizontal line upon which the topographic character sits. So, pretty easy. It's where the characters sit. The black line you see here is called the mean line, which in a lowercase letter is an implied horizontal line which falls across the top of the letter x. So you can see, it sits just atop our lowercase x here. And then, this area in red would be the ascender or ascenders, and were you to draw a dotted line, that would be your ascender line where the ascender extends to.

As you might have guessed-- descender, then, is the opposite. It's the name for the part of the topographic character that extends below the baseline of any character which has descender. So again, in this example, the descender is that portion of the p character that extends beyond the baseline.

You can easily recognize whether a character could be classified as either one, but not both. So, a character is only an ascender or a descender. In this example, removing our chichi, you can still point out that some ascenders would be f, l, k and a descender would be the q. I mentioned earlier that the mean line is the implied horizontal line which falls across the top of the letter x-- like we saw earlier-- and that leads us to x-height, which is the vertical distance from baseline to the mean line in a lowercase letter.

So in this example, you can see there are three different font types, but they're all the same point size, which is 99 for this example. And it's a pretty drastic difference across some of these typefaces, and the x-height can be a really significant distinguishing character between many typefaces.

Well everyone, that concludes today's lesson. So let's finish off with our key terms-- baseline, mean line, ascender, descender, x-height, point, and pica. Hope you've enjoyed this lesson with me today. My name is Mario, and I will see you next lesson.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Baseline

    The implied horizontal line upon which typographic characters sit.

  • Mean Line

    In a lower case letter, an implied horizontal line which falls across the top of the letter x.

  • Ascender

    The name for the part of a typographic character that extends above the mean line or any character which has an ascender.

  • Decender

    The name for the part of a typographic character that extends below the baseline or any character which has a descender.

  • X-Height

    In a lower case letter, the vertical distance from the baseline to the mean line.

  • Point

    The unit used when measuring letterforms. A point measures 1/72 of an inch. Type is measured vertically from the bottom of the descender to the top of the ascender.

  • Pica

    The unit used when measuring the length of a line of type. There are 6 picas in an inch.