Working with an edged pen may not suit everyone who wants to create letterforms, but it certainly explains the historical formation of letter weight. It is assumed that most Roman Inscriptions in the first century began life as brush lettering (hence the serif?). It is for this reason that it is worth studying Foundational and Italic, but at the same time, students would want to begin drawing and copying letters by hand.
Capitals letters have many peculiarities not shared by minuscules.
i) Easy reading: A line of Capital letters is far more difficult to read fluently.
ii) Rhythms: These letters developed as individual letters, not as a cursive script, so without the natural flow, there are many subtleties to make them “hang well” together.
iii) Widths: If, say, the L was as wide as an O, there would be a huge gap in the middle of a word. So this is sorted out by narrowing the L and pushing the adjacent letter closer to it.
iv) Weights and pen angle: If the same pen angle was used throughout, N would be a very heavy dense letter and Z would be super-light in comparison to other letters.
v) Flow: By making horizontals lighter in weight, the E is more comfortable and the B will fit into the same height much better.
vi) Consistency – Horizontal bars are usually in the same position in Trajan Caps -i.e. resting on the halfway line; but in the A it is dropped to make it visually balanced.
vii) It is a common mistake for beginners to make capital letters the same height as ascenders. they are shorter (unless the ascenders are stunted)
viii) And then there is the weight: If lettering is to be reduced for reproduction, the letter weight (X height) and serifs need to be chunkier.
Once one understands these and many more nuances, one is better equipped to design a cohesive alphabet.
I remember Freda Sack of Foundry Types saying (in her own words) : “The aim in designing an alphabet is so that no particular letter jumps out and disturbs the overall harmony”
and in my own words – “unless on purpose”, as Burgert did)
|“t” reproduced with permission from Tom Perkins|
|Tom Perkins: detail of a final drawing for a letter carving|
And one more thing: You know Ben Shahn (one of my dearly beloveds) used all those funny naive scripts with odd N’s and “painfully copied” decorative versals? Well, he began by learning drawn letters and could also draw the most immaculate Trajan O with consummate ease! So there!