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It occured to me that in all fonts I know of, different characters have a different height. Why is this so? Are there fonts where all characters have the same height? If so, is there a name for this class of fonts?

Some more details:

Of course it is understandable that a letter like Q needs to go below the baseline, such that it lines up well with other characters like O.

enter image description here

Still, is there a font where no character exceeds the baseline?

Second case, and this one is actually more interesting for me, it seems that letters like I, T etc are in general shorter than "rounder" letters like C or O.

enter image description here

Zoom:

enter image description here

The rounder letters only overshoot the baseline by a few percent, but still this is quite annoying in certain cases; so I would like to know the reason for this, as well as any possible workaround, best of course a reference to a font where this does not occur, but also any explanation of this phenomenon.


I did find this question about the same symptom, but it does not address the underlying issue at all.

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    Are any specific letters of special interest such as acgtu? I find your question a bit mis-leading. You are asking a theoretical question about typographical design. Rather, since you are using letterforms as charting symbols, define your specific, quantitative, non-verbal requirements: must be fixed "mono" width and scalable vertically in increments for the fractional font (letters) a, c, g, t, u., etc. – Stan Jul 8 '18 at 5:31
  • If ö and o were the same height, it would look super weird... – Joonas Jul 8 '18 at 7:42
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    @Joonas: ...and yet there are quite a few typefaces where they (or at least the uppercase versions) are the same height, with the body of the Ö squeezed down to make room for the umlaut dots. And yes, it does tend to look pretty weird, especially in contexts where there's no obvious reason for it. – Ilmari Karonen Jul 8 '18 at 9:27
  • what about that German License Plate font ? – Fattie Jul 8 '18 at 18:34
  • @Stan Don't pay too much attention to the Sequence Logos I mentionned somewhere; it was more to show potential use cases, not my actual use case. This question is really to understand the issue of different heights (which some answers have already helped clarifying) and to possibly find fonts that don't have that. If the scope needs to be narrowed down one may limit this to the letters mentionned/shown in the question. – ImportanceOfBeingErnest Jul 9 '18 at 0:34
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Capitals with curves are designed slightly larger than the other letters to counteract an optical illusion, which otherwise would make those letters look too small, even though in reality they wouldn't be.

Here is an example. The top image is the original unaltered font. The bottom I have altered to make the top and bottom of the C match the letters A and E exactly.

enter image description here

You may be able to find a font which has been designed that way, however it wouldn't be a good design if the letters look wonky (even though they aren't).

  • Oh, with those letter you chose, this becomes pretty apparent. Any idea for workarounds, or fonts that don't show this kind of beautifying feature? Is there a name for this kind of design element under which one might find fonts that don't possess this? The use case is of course not to please any reader, but more a technical document where the size of the letters carries a certain meaning. – ImportanceOfBeingErnest Jul 7 '18 at 19:08
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    I don't recommend a workaround. Letters are designed that way deliberately. My workaround to create the image above was to alter the outlines of the fonts manually in vector image editing software. – Billy Kerr Jul 7 '18 at 19:10
  • Sure, so you can manually do this with any graphics software. The point is more to be able to create many Sequence Logos without a complicated adjustment procedure per letter. So independent of your recommendation this is already happening a lot in certain fields of science. ;-) – ImportanceOfBeingErnest Jul 7 '18 at 19:16
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    @ImportanceOfBeingErnest: Honestly, for that use case, I wouldn't bother trying to exactly match letter heights. Sequence logos are meant for quick visualization at a glance, not for accurately showing frequency differences as small as a few percent. At that level of precision, they have other issues, like the different outlines and visual weights of the letters. If you really need such precision, consider enclosing all the letters in boxes, or just get rid of the letters and use a classic stacked bar chart instead. – Ilmari Karonen Jul 8 '18 at 9:42
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    (Also, since you only need four or five different letters, you totally could hand-edit them.) – Ilmari Karonen Jul 8 '18 at 9:42
24

The construction of fonts changed after the 50s with the Swiss International Typographic Style.

The International Typographic Style has had profound influence on graphic design as a part of the modernist movement, impacting many design-related fields including architecture and art. It emphasizes cleanness, readability, and objectivity.

Many of the early International Typographic Style works featured typography as a primary design element in addition to its use in text, and it is for this that the style is named.

If hand-made typography was the first design, and letters constructed on a grid appeared in the 18th century, then the 20th century and particularly the Swiss Style brought photographic reproduction as a crucial element for the design of its typography. Making giant photographic copies of each character, they could more easily find all the optical elements to modify to improve their designs.

  • The rounded strokes exceed the limits of the baseline and the x-height so as to appear to be the same size as the characters with straight strokes.

But there are many optical rules: it's difficult to list them all, but just talking about the simple capital E:

  • The three horizontal strokes of the capital E have different length
  • The four strokes of the capital E have different thickness
  • The center stroke of the capital E is slightly above the middle

animation demonstrating the above points

This happens with every character of the typefaces designed at this time like Helvetica, Frutiger and Univers, and from there all the classic fonts were redesigned, or rather restructured.

Knowing this, with the exception of some more current designs, all the original fonts designed prior to this time - the beginning of the 20th century or before, do not have optical adjustments. As an example, the Art Deco Style Fonts:

Kino from Mifonts.com

KinoFont

Chorus Line from wfonts.com

enter image description here

In the 90s there was a movement in architecture, cinema, fashion, advertising and industrial design that defied all the established rules: Deconstructivism. In graphic design it was called Trash Design and one of its great challenges was to destroy all of optical typography's arrangements or at least create fonts with no such rules. The main exhibitors of those fonts were the magazines Emigre, Mondo2000 and RayGun. Although they seem very casual design typographies, they are classics today.

Senator from myfonts.com

senator

Lo-res from myfonts.com

Lo-res

Citizen from myfonts.com

citizen

Oblong from myfonts.com

oblong

A special trick to find fonts without x-height difference is to look for fonts with rounded caps strokes:

rounded

Modula Rounded from myfonts.com

modula

Compact Rounded from fontke.com

compact

Fonts whose lowercase design relies strongly on a structure with a double horizontal parallel axis:

parallel axis

Comsat via t26.com

Comsat

NeuBank NF via myfonts.com

neubank

Or with orthogonal modular structure:

The classic Data 70 via myfonts.com

data

Russell Square via myfonts.com

russell square

Or display fonts, like:

BigBand from wfonts.com

BigBand

Black Tulip from myfonts.com

enter image description here

Creating fonts with the same height for all the characters means eliminating the ascender and descender strokes and matching cap height and x-height. This makes it difficult to find specimens with differentiation between upper and lower case letters. There are a few exceptions:

Velvenda Cooler via dafont.com

Velvenda

Herald Gothic via findmyfont.com

Herald

  • 2
    Thanks for the ideas. (Of course using the letters that show the issue in the images would have been more insightful. ;-)) – ImportanceOfBeingErnest Jul 7 '18 at 19:58
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    That touch of history.... Bravo! – Rafael Jul 8 '18 at 0:07
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    Bravo! That's impressive. – AndriuZ Jul 11 '18 at 18:43
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Q: Is there a font that has the same size for every character?
A: There is for every character in the font itself; but there's not one for every existing character. The fonts are incomplete, in effect.

Q: Why is this so?
A: Every character within a font is unique for readability. We must be able to differentiate one from the other to form readable combinations (words) that coincide with a unique meaning for each combination.

Our desire for continuity and uniformity is satisfied by the optical appearance of a font's component characters.

Typographers have modified the appearance to LOOK "right." The various slight irregularities metrically allow the appearance to be correct visually.

Q: Are there fonts where all characters have the same height?
A: Of course.

The appearance of some kinds of lettering must be compromised metrically to comply with practical physical display restrictions. While not classified as high-quality fonts, their applications are specialized; but, they are often used for novelty applications in advertising and such. Their readability is high for their designed use while their legibility is moderate.

Q: Is there a name for this class of fonts?
A: There are various ones. They fall into the Novelty classification:

For examples:

Punch or impact (DYMO™) lettering has a fixed height for all glyphs. DYMO

LCD panels also present a fixed height font

LCD

Dot Matrix fonts are also fixed height in various grid densities. Here is a 7x7 grid.

Dot Matrix

Early Laser Diode thermal printers burned a fixed-height readout into receipts. This is based on a 6x8 grid.

LD thermal printer

My Commodore VIC-20 displayed a fixed height font on its elderly screen

VIC-20 Lettering

  • An observation: all of your examples show capitals only. Strangely enough, the OP did not think of that (because how else can you differentiate between COS and cos?). – usr2564301 Jul 7 '18 at 21:05
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    @usr2564301 Guilty! I was lazy and in a rush to post samples. L/c letters can be accommodated by shifting the baseline up for descenders such as g to fit within the grid. You'd typically see such stuff on early digital watches or calculators with limited display space. – Stan Jul 7 '18 at 21:17
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Any Chinese font would be the answer and I'm typing this to meet the minimum character requirement.

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    +1 for "and I'm typing this to meet the minimum character requirement". – Simon Jul 8 '18 at 15:10
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    Hi Fontguru, Welcome to graphicdesign.stackexchange. Any? Chinese font would… That's it? No examples? No clarification? Please, throw us a fish. As it is, this is not a very illuminating answer. The OP has made comments regarding application (Sequence Logos) requirements. Please address that within your answer. As it is, yours is rather cryptic. Your expanded edited answer should easily satisfy minimum character requirements without adding "bubble-wrap" to protect the contents. – Stan Jul 8 '18 at 15:10
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    Do Chinese fonts in general contain the usual ASCII letters? Appart this "answer" seems pretty useless and wrong in general, e.g. this "sentence" shows that there is still some difference in height. – ImportanceOfBeingErnest Jul 9 '18 at 0:46
  • This does not provide an answer to the question. Once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post; instead, provide answers that don't require clarification from the asker. - From Review – Luciano Jul 9 '18 at 11:35
  • @importance Yes, Chinese fonts usually contain the latin alphabet. Often they contain latin characters that are half-width and full-width, sometimes rotated for vertical use, and/or designed to be layed out in a grid. – Yakk Jul 12 '18 at 15:36
0

You may be interested in seeing this image, which shows a digital font in traditional style which I believe was intentionally drawn with almost no overshoot. (It's based on a historical model.) Notice how in words like 'homme' or 'envie', where you have a round letter or 'v' sandwiched by straight verticals, that letter looks like it's floating above the baseline.font image

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