I’m putting letters on a typographic grid complemented by a chart to show and name typographic concepts. The list of terms shouldn’t be exhaustive, but should contain the most important ones, e.g.:

  • the different lines (baseline, midline etc.)
  • open and closed counters
  • ascenders and descenders
  • different heights and widths

I don’t have enough space for a full-fledged »Hamburgefonstiv«: two letters is all I get.

Which combination (majuscules or minuscules) can I use that embodies the most typographic concepts?

An example for Chinese text (without numbering) I already finished (inspired by Zippel 2011, ISBN 978-3-87439-818-3):

enter image description here

  • What about simple icons? An image sample of a part of your design will be useful to help you.
    – user120647
    Jun 13, 2018 at 7:57
  • Which typeface?
    – Lucian
    Jun 13, 2018 at 8:10
  • Does it matter which two "letters"? i.e. are you limited to a specific script/alphabet etc?
    – Cai
    Jun 13, 2018 at 8:13
  • 1
    Oh, I see! Yes, the notification did work. :-) Jun 13, 2018 at 17:58
  • 1
    You may want to consider combinations such as AV which illustrate kerning, though they're quite poor when it comes to descenders, ascenders, etc. Not sure if there are any combinations that would show both.
    – jcaron
    Jun 13, 2018 at 22:22

4 Answers 4


Probably, it doesn’t matter much to your audience whether you use letters they are familiar with, as long as they are clearly recognisable as letters. Hence I suggest Ȩ̂ (E with circumflex and cedilla) and þ̇ (thorn with dot accent):


You get:

  • letter anatomy:

    1. aperture
    2. apex
    3. arm
    4. ascender
    5. bar
    6. beak
    7. bowl or lobe
    8. closed and open counters
    9. descender
    10. neck
    11. overshoot
    12. bilateral and unilateral, bracketed serifs
    13. shoulder
    14. stem
    15. terminal
    16. tie
    17. tittle
    18. vertex/crotch
  • lines and heights:

    • x height
    • cap height
    • baseline
    • ascender and descender lines
    • accent heights
  • several stroke widths

  • glyph categories:

    • uppercase
    • lowercase
    • accent
    • diacritcal mark

As far as I can see, the anatomical components that are missing and not specific to a single letter (there are several terms which only exist to describe the letter g), are leg, spur, teardrop, and tail.

  • Thanks for this very detailed answer. The accents are a very good suggestion. While strictly speaking it doesn't matter which letters I use, I may opt for an alternative to that thorn, even if it means that I lose some information.
    – Philipp
    Jun 14, 2018 at 6:08
  • Hmm, then it really depends on your priorities. Are an italic f or even better ß an option?
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jun 14, 2018 at 7:50
  • Ja, sind sie ;)
    – Philipp
    Jun 14, 2018 at 7:50
  • 1
    @Philipp: In that case, my best quick guess are an Ą̈ (A with diaeresis and ogonek) and an italic ß.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jun 14, 2018 at 8:01

Kind of depends on the typeface being used, but I would show a lowercase b and a p and if possible, an m. This will show the extremes in most typefaces, the tallest, the lowest, the widest.

Another thing you can do without using extra space is to add the uppercase variants in the background with a very thin gray outline or fill.

enter image description here

  • A combination like yours is what I had in mind, thanks for your answer! I will only use two letters, but the outlines are a good idea.
    – Philipp
    Jun 14, 2018 at 6:11

If I have to make it:

  • Group concepts, as you did in the question
  • Choose the inicial letter of the group and an order number
  • For single items, two initials or two first letters
  • In the chart, try to separate groups and single items


Something like that¿?:


  • 1
    I think you may have misunderstood the question. At least, I don’t really see how this answers the question asked. Jun 13, 2018 at 14:49
  • 1
    You are right!!!
    – user120647
    Jun 13, 2018 at 16:11

The characters Qh would, in at least some fonts, cover most of those points. The Q has a closed counter and the h has an open one. The Q has (in some fonts) a descender while h has an ascender. Neither character would typically reach to the maximum descender depth, but h would typically have a maximum or near-maximum-height ascender along with a counter whose size is controlled by the lowercase x height; the top of the Q would line up with the uppercase height.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.