The Designer Words Finder

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Anything operates by or created from information or signals represented by binary digits, such  as digital recording. As distinct from analog, in which information is represented by a physical variable (in a recording this may be a via the grooves  in a vinyl player).

Digital Device

Any piece of equipment which operates by means of instructions or signals represented by binary digits such as computer.


An electronic device which can process data (usually binary) according to a predetermined set of variable instructions – a ‘program’.

Error Diffusion

In a digital scanning, the enhancement of an image by averaging the difference between adjacent pixels. In graphics applications this technique is more commonly referred to as ‘antialiasing‘ which, in turn, uses a technique known as ‘interpolation‘.

Application/ Application program

A software program to enable the user to create and modify a documents for a specific purpose, thus distinguishing it from operating system software and utilities (software which improving the functioning of your computer rather than enabling you to create anything). Typical application groups includes those for a page layout, graphics, word processing, and spreadsheets.

Operating System

The software (and in some case the ‘firmware’) that provides the environment within all the software and its user operates. The major operating systems in use today are Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Modern operating systems use a graphical user interface, or GUI (pronounced gooey).


Acronym for a picture element. The smallest component of a digitally generated image, such as a single dot of light on a computer monitor. In its simplest form, one pixel corresponds to a single bit 0 = off, or white, and I = on, or black. In color grey scale images or monitors, one pixel may correspond to a several bits: 8-bit pixel, for example, can be displayed in any of 256 colors (the total number of different configurations that can be achieved by eight 0s and I(s).


The degree of quality, definition, or clarity with which an image is reproduced or displayed, for example in a photograph, or via a scanner, monitor screen, printer or other output device.

Registration color 

Altering an image by modifying pixels to either increase or decrease its resolution, increasing the number of pixels is called ‘resampling up’, wile reducing the number is called ‘resampling dawn’ or’ downsampling.

Sampling/ Sample

Measurement of data – such as pixel – averaged across a small ‘n’ of that data in order to make modifications. For example assessing the density of shadows in an image by taking a sample across a few pixels with an appropriate tool.

Image File

Any digital file in which a graphic image such as a photograph is stored, as distinct from data such as a text file, database file, 3D file, etc. Image file can can be saved in a variety of formats, depending on which application they were created in, the most typical being TIFF, GIF, JPEG, PICT, BMP, and, eps. Confusingly, the data format in which some images are stored is actually text, such as in an EPS graphic which is saved in ‘ASCLL’ (TEXT) format, but the file is still an image file. not to be confused with a ‘disk image’ which is the content of a volume stored in a single file.

Indexed Color

An image ‘mode’ of a maximum of of 256 colors which is used in some applications such Adobe Photoshop, to reduce the file size of ‘RGB‘ images so that they can be used, for example, in multimedia presentations or Web pages. This is archived by using an indexed table of colors (‘a color lookup table’ or CLUT‘) – either an existing table using a known palette of ‘safe’ colors or one constructed from an image – to which the colors in an image are matched. If a color in the image does not appear in the table, the application selects the nearest color in the pattern called ‘dithering‘.


A symbol attached to a letterform to indicate pronunciation of a word usually in that language, but also used to indicate particular pronunciation, such as in dictionaries.

Quotation / Quote marks; quotes 

Inverted commas and apostrophes, either single (‘ ‘) or double (” “), used before or after the word or phrase to indicate that it is a quotation, title, jargon, slang, etc.

Typesetter’s quotation marks

The traditional ‘curly’ quotation marks and inverted commas used in typesetting, frequently abandoned in DTP software.  

Alphabet length

The measurement, in points, of the entire length of the 26 alphabet characters of a font of any one size set in lower case. Therefore 39 characters have a length of 1.5 alphabets.

Body Size 

The size in points by which type is measured. Originally, this meant the body of the peace of metal on which the character sits, but in computer typography it means the size of a font, without leading.


The size, in points by which type is measured from the baseline, required to accommodate a font. The ascent value is determined by the font designer and is the value used by many page-layout applications for landing and aligning boxes.  


The process of estimating the amount of space or number of pages that will be required to accommodate copy to the typeset, traditionally, this was done either by comparing the character count to that of a printed sample of the font to be used (at the correct size, weight, leading, measure, etc.), or by using the typefounders copyfitting tables which were produced for every font the foundry manufactured. Nowadays, page-layout and word-processing applications provide instant and accurate calculations of coppy length.


In traditional typesetting the process of calculating, for costing purpose, the amount of typesetting that will be required to complete a job. In mechanical typesetting, the cast-up entails estimating not only the time to set up actual characters, but also estimating the amount of white space required for word spaces, extra leading and white lines, since these take up compositing time as well as requiring extra metal for spaces between the type.

Accent Characters

The Keys of a keyboard which generate accents in particular typographic letters. The keys are usually used in conjunction with ‘modifier’ keys, such as shift, option, and control, or a combination of these. 


A type character which is used to group phrases or lines of text. The brace at the start of the, phrase or on the left side of the block text is called the open brace ({), as distinct from from the close brace (}) at the right side or end. Not to be confused with ‘bracket’ or parenthesis.  

Dumb Quotes

Used to describe ‘prime’ marks when they are used, erroneously, as quotation marks or apostrophes. In some computer or applications, prime marks appear by default when the ‘quote’ key is typed, unless preferences are set to substitute true quotation marks (called) ‘smart’ or ‘curly’ quotes).


A traditional term for a type size of 6 points. The name is still sometimes used (although increasingly rarely) as an alternative term to indicate 6 point landing.


A sequence of three dots (…) used within text to indicate a pause, or that part of a phrase or sentence has been left out. An ellipsis can be generated by a single keyboard character.

Type synopsis/ specimen sheet 

A printed sample of a font showing the full character set.


A type character (a ‘case’ or treu fraction), or assembly of type character (a ‘piece’ or ‘built’) which denotes part of a whole number number, such as 1/2.

Special Sorts

Characters not usually included in a font or type, such as fractions or ornaments.Also called ‘peculiars’ or ‘pi characters’ (not to be confused with ‘pie’ type, which is accidentally mixed type).

Superior character 

A figure or letter that is smaller than the text size and aligned with the height of the capitals. Superior character are distinct from superscript which appears above capital height. ‘Also called cock-up figueres ‘, ‘cock-up letters’, ‘superior figures’ or ‘superior letters’.


Figures or letters that are smaller than the text size and raised the height of capital letters. As distinct from ‘ superior character’ which are aligned of capital letter height.

Split fraction

Type for fractions. This comes in two parts, the upper bearing a number only, and the lower a numeral and a dividing line above it.

Medical and pharmaceutical symbols

Typographical symbols representing: dram, drop, gallon, grain, minim, of each, ounce,print, recipe, scruple, semi, signa, etc.

Punctuation mark

A system of marks used to clarify text and separate sentences.  

Extended character set

The character available in a font other than those that appear on the keyboard, such as accent, symbols etc., and which are accessed by combinations of key strokes. 

Didot point

The unit of type measurement used in Continental Europe, devised by Francois-Ambroise Didot in 1775. A didot point measures 0.343mm (0.0148in), compared with the Anglo-American point of 0.35mm (0.013837in). Twelve Didot points are referred to as a ‘cicero’ or ‘Didot pica’. 


The adjustment of the space between adjacent type characters to optimize their appearance. Traditionally, kerned letters were those which physically overhung the metal body of the next character – particularly important in italic typefaces. The roman versions of the most metal fonts were designed so that they did not require kerning. Kerning should not be confused with ‘tracking’ which is the adjustment of the space over a number of adjacent characters. Also known as ‘mortising.

Point (I)

The basic unit of Anglo-American type measurement. In the past, no twi printers could agree on a standard system of type measurement, therefore type cast in one foundry could not be mixed with that cast in another. However, in the mid 18th century, the french typographer Pierre Simon Fournier introduced a standard which he called a ‘point’.This was further developed but Francois-Ambroise Didot in to a European standard (‘Didot Point’), although this was not adopted by either Britain or the US. The Anglo-American system divides one inch in to 72 parts, each one a ‘point’ (mathematically, one point should equal 0.013889in but, in fact, it equals 0.013837in, with the result that 72 points equal only 0.996264in. The European didot point equals 0.0148in and 12 of these for unit measuring 0.1776in). There is no relationship between the Anglo-American point and the Didot point, and neither of them relate to metric measurement. The introduction of the computer as a design tool has established a new international system. However, on the computer one point measures 0.013889in, and 72 points equal exactly one inch – no coincidence, then, that computer have a standard resolution of 72dpi.


A typographer’s and printer’s unit of linear measurement, equivalent to 12 points. One inch compromises 6.0225 picas or 72.27 points. Computer applications, however, use the PostScript value of exactly six picas, or 72 points, to the inch. 


The width of a justified typeset line or column of text, traditionally measured in picas, points, Didots or ciceros but now commonly in inches and millimetres as well. Also referred to as ‘line length’.

Letter spacing/ letter fit

The adjustment of space between type characters (from that allocated by the font designer) by kerning or by increasing or decreasing the tracking. 


A ‘blank’ (nonprinting) spacer piece, used singly or in multiples, to create the space in the text. Deriving from metal typesetting, which used graded units of size, a standard word space, called a ‘mid’ space, measures one-quarter of an em, although in computer applications it is sometimes possible to define this to your own preference. 

Text type/matter

Any typeface of a suitable size for printing a body of text, usually in a range of 8pt 10 14pt. Also called ‘composition sizes.


A design found in decorative fonts of curving systems, leaves and flowers, originally deriving from the islamic ornamental depiction of the acanthus vine.

Block letter

Originally, type characters cut from the wood block and used for printing and embossing. Nowadays, the term is used to describe large, gothic sans serif letterforms. 

Blooming letters

Large display capitals engraved in wood characterized by stokes formed by stalk, leaf and flower motifs. As distinct from ‘floriated’ initials – capitals set against a background of leaves and flowers.

Entrelac initial

A traditional decorative initial that that is incorporated into a larger design or tracery and appears at the start of a chapter.


A traditional term used to describe a typeface with characters of language not based on Roman letterforms – Hebrew or Arabic, for example.


Traditionally, the printing surface of any metal type character, but nowadays used as a series of family name for fonts with similar characteristics, such as ‘modern face’.


A ‘running script’ – that is, lettering that is formed without raising pen from paper. This style of writing developed into a script used, up until the early 16th century, for diplomatic and administrative documents and which, in turn, inspired the first italic typefaces. 

Cyrillic alphabet

The characters used for writing and printing the Russian and Bulgarian languages. 


The generic term for a group of display typefaces with heavy slab serif contrast in the thickness of strokes.

Outline letter/outline font

A type design in which the character is formed of outlines rather than a solid shape or, alternatively, a font ‘style’ option in many applications which renders just the outline of a font without filling it in, usually with appalling results.

Finial letter

A type character designed to be used only as the last letter in a word or line, usually incorporating some kind of decorative flourish (‘swash’).

Elephant face

A bold, fat typeface.

Floating Fleurons

Decorative type elements used to make up panels with a pattern or border.

Font family 

The complete set of characters of typeface design in all its sizes and style. A typical font family contains four initial fonts: roman, italic, bold and bold italic. As distinct from a ‘typeface’ or ‘font’. Also known as ‘typefamily’.

Font found 

Originating from the word ‘found’ – as in ‘type foundry’ – a font is traditionally a complete set of type characters of the same design, style and size. For example, 10 point Baskerville Old Style Italic is a font. On a computer, however, although each font is a unique design and style, any size can be rendered from a single font file. There two formats: PostScript Type I, which comes in two parts – bitmapped screen fonts and outline ‘printer’ fonts; and truetype, in which each font is a single file.

Inline lettering

Any type design incorporating a white line. The line follows the outline of the character, and is drawn inside its shape. Also called ‘white-line black letter’.


A term sometimes given to typefaces derived from letterforms common to Western European countries, especially those with heavy, wedge-shaped serifs.


Any draw or designed alphanumeric character whether used as a typeface or as a hand-drawn script.

Magnetic ink characters

Characters that are readable by an MICR machine.

Missal caps

Decorative black-letter capitals.

Modern face

A typeface characterized by vertical stress, strong stroke contrast and thin, unbracketed serifs – Bodoni and Walbaum, for example.


A design comprising interwoven character, usually two or more.

Monospaced (font)

A font in which the type characters all occupy the same width space (as on a typewriter), as distinct from proportionally spaced fonts, which are more common. ‘Courier’ is a monospaced font. Also called. ‘fixed-width fonts’.

Old face

A type design characterized by its diagonal stress and sloped, bracketed serifs, for example Gramond.

Optical (type) font

Fonts used in some methods of optical character recognition, having character shapes which are both distinguishable by computers and readable by people. The most common OCR fonts are ‘OCR-A and OCR-B’, the latter designed by Adrian Frutiger. 

Outline letter/outline font

A type design in which the character is formed of outlines rather than a solid shape or, alternatively, a font ‘style’ option ion many applications which renders just the outline of a font without filling it in, with appalling results. 

Publicity face

A traditional term for display sizes of typefaces, used for advertisements, catalogues, etc.

Sans serif

Generic description of type designs that lack the small extensions (serifs) at the ends of the main strokes of the letters, and which are usually without stroke contrast. Also called ‘lineal type‘.


A typeface to designed to resemble handwriting.

Shaded letter

A type character filled with cross-hatched lines rather than solid tone.

Shadow font

Characters given 3D appearance by heavily shaded areas beside the main strokes.

Slab/square serif

In certain type designs, notably egyptian, serifs which are of almost the same thickness as the uprights.

Square capitals

Capital letters adapted from Roman lapidary capitals. They are thick, and finished with wide, square serifs. Also known as ‘quadrata‘.


The method used by calligraphers to achieve and elaborate freehand embellishment without the use of guidelines. Perfect in 1065 by Jan Van Den Velde. Also referred to as ‘by command of hand‘. 

Text letter

Traditional black or gothic letterforms.


A classification of typefaces that are neither old face or modern, such as Baskerville and Fournier. 


Originally, an individual text character cast in metal (called a ‘stamp’ by compositors), but laterly any letter, numeral or ornament draw ina huge varity of designs (each one a ‘font’).


The term (based on ‘face’ – the printing surface of a metal type character) describing a type design of any size, including weight variations on that designs such as italic and condensed. As distinct from a ‘type family’, which includes all related designs, and a ‘font’, which is one design of a single size, weight and style. Thus ‘Baskerville’ is a type family, whereas ‘Baskerville Bold’ is a typeface and ‘9pt Baskerville Bold Italic’ ia a font.


A type design reflecting the rounded letterforms of the ‘majuscule’ (capital) script found in medieval manuscripts.

Venetians types

A style of typefaces design that appeared in the 15th century, characterized by the wide set of the lower-case letters and bold serifs.

Vox classification

Devised by Maximilien Vox in 1954, a method of classifying all typefaces, according to their visual characteristics, into ten categories. These are: ‘Humane‘, derivatives of roman letters of the 15th century, sometimes called ‘Venetians’, such as Centaur and Cloister; ‘Garalde‘, old-face designs such as Bembo and Garamond; ‘Rèale‘, redesigns of old-faces (called ‘transitionals’), such as Baskerville and Times Roman; ‘Didone‘, so-called ‘modern’ faces such as Bodoni and Walbaum; ‘Mecane‘, faces with even strokes and slab serifs, such as Rockwell and Lubalin Graph; ‘Linèale‘ , all sans serif faces such Futura and Univers; ‘Incise‘, faces with a chiselled effect, ‘Scripte‘, calligraphic, copperplate scripts letters and also brush letters (as distinct from scripts) such as Albertus and Klang; ‘Fracture‘, black letter types such Franktur and Old English.

White letter

An early description of roman type, used to distinguish it from a black or gothic letterform.

Wood letter/type

Individually carved letterforms, a precursor of metal-based type.

Body Type

The type used to setting the main text of a book.


The art of writing, based on handwriting from Roman times and embracing such scripts as half-uncial, Carolingian, Chancery script, humanistic, and their derivatives. The word derives from Greek for ‘beautiful writing’.


The traditional method of generating type characters by using machines which, fitted with a would or ‘matrice’ (mat), would cast the type characters from hot molten metal. Type would either be cast as individual characters using a ‘Monotype’ machine, or as complete lines (‘slugs’) using a ‘Linotype’machine.

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