Hello, and welcome to this week’s edition of Tuesday’s Type Tip. Today we delve into the seedy side of typography with the letter “X.” The “x-height” of a typeface is the distance from baseline to meanline. The meanline runs across the tops of the main bodies of lowercase letters, excluding ascenders & descenders. This critical distance helps determine a typeface’s identity and influences its legibility.
The letter “X” is used for this measurement because it has a flat base and top. (Unlike those degenerate curved letters that screw everything up.) *See last week’s post for more on the beautiful but challenging letter “O.”
Although the letters below are set in different typefaces, they’re all the same point size! It boggles the mind.
Note that letters with serifs (above left) tend to have smaller x-heights when compared to their sans serif cousins. (More on the fascinating nature of serifs in a future post.)
Now check this out:
See how the type in the upper two paragraphs appears less dense than in the bottom two? That’s because type with a small x-height has longer ascenders and descenders (protruding/danglin’ parts of lowercase letters such as d, y, h and g). This factor creates more white space between lines of type.
Are you impressed? Well, you should be.
So that’s it for this edition of Tuesday’s Type Tip. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s feature, WTF Wednesday, where we’ll explore the darker side of graphic design.
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