Terminally interesting lowercase a's...

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

Hi there:

Unfortunately, I'm not as fluent as much as I'd like to be in the anatomy of letters. Here are a few lowercase a's that have interesting characteristics that I'm not sure how to describe using the proper jargon. This post is spurred on by recent release of Droid from Ascender. It has a peculiar terminal affectation that I have seen many times before, but now is the time to learn all about it. Esprit is probably the first instance I can think of. There are also other design features I'm interested in. Here are the subjects:

1. DTL Unico
There is not a sharp point in this entire letter (except in the inkwell). Its smooth like it's from letterpress. What would a type designer call this global treatment of smooth curves?

2. DTL Dorian
The circled area is the first example in which the terminal looks like a brush stroke and comes to a sharp point in the inside of the counter. What are these terminals called? The arrow points to an area that has been purposely made bulbous. What is that feature called?

3. Ascender Corp. Droid Serif
The second example of that terminal treatment. The arrow points a slab spur which definitely enhances readability and sturdiness for low-res display and printing. Is slab spur the correct term?

4. Type Culture Latienne
The third example. The arrow points to an area (spur, tail?) that is pointed upwards. What do we call that?

5. Linotype Really
This one looks like it would have been like the others but the terminal has been chopped. Just interesting thats all, no question. :-)

Thank you all for responses,

Mike Diaz :-)

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

Echo, Echo, Ehco, Ehco...

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

Aww come on I really want to know what these things are called... I checked all stuff too


jupiterboy's picture

You could add Dolly to your list.

What if there isn't any terminology for what you are talking about?

William Berkson's picture

Mike, people do sometimes create descriptions of these kinds of variations, but I don't think there are any standard names.

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

Jupiter & William> If I was Matthew Carter describing lowercase 'a' to Erik Spikermann, what words would he use? I'm sure there has to be a standard lexicon understood from one professional to another. I'm just going off the very specific language I see type designers use describing their designs. :-)




Mikey :-)

SuperUltraFabulous's picture


Thanks Paul :-)

Sye's picture

i really like lowercase a's... nice...

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

Thank you Simon!

I’m glad someone else likes my favorite letter.

Mikey :-)

paul d hunt's picture

well i'm not sure 'brushy' is a technical term, but it works for me in trying to describe these types of treatments.

eliason's picture

Would anyone call the circled part of #4 a foxtail?

William Berkson's picture


Yes, I think that's a good name for that shape.

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

I like that too.


That is:

What Would Erik Spikermann Say?

Mikey :-)

hrant's picture

Here's what I would call those features:

#1: Flattened teardrop; the footserif: soft, or rounded.
#2: Cusp (the whole thing: flattened foxtail).
#3: Modest foxtail.
#4: Foxtail.
#5: Shear (the whole thing: sheared teardrop).
Dolly: modest foxtail.
Laurentian: foxtail.
Esprit: exaggerated foxtail.

As you can see I rely on "foxtail" a lot, even though I only
heard it recently: http://typophile.com/node/46990
I thing it basically means "cuspy teardrop", which has
become the terminal du jour.


SuperUltraFabulous's picture

Thank you Hrant!

I have wondering the answers to questions for some time.


Mikey :-)

hrant's picture

New terminal style: dolphin terminals!


Nick Shinn's picture


SuperUltraFabulous's picture

HA! Dolphin terminals!!!!!!!!


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