THE SCOOP The following guide will explain what to look for when searching for letter formations and hidden typography in a public setting. There will also be quick lessons on typographic anatomy and how it can be compared to the basic geometric instruments as well as history on the development of letterforms and how the letters of the alphabet came to be. WHEN YOU SEE THIS ICON, You WILL READ TIPS ON WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN YOU SEARCH FOR HIDDEN LETTERS! WHEN YOU SEE THIS ICON, You learn terminology of typographic anatomy understand letterforms easier! WHEN YOU SEE THIS ICON, You will Learn about the history of letters and why you should care!
so what ?
We exist in a three-dimensional world filled with different forms and objects that surround us and also take up real estate in our environments. These forms have specifically designed functions that they must fulfill. The marvelous industrial world that these forms inhabit is truly a work of, but what if you take a closer look; a look past the basic function and architecture of these formations and try to notice the subtle aesthetic qualities. You will see the fence posts or the street light, or even the crack in the road begin to seem more than just objects, but more like series of detailed and well organized geometric instruments that work cohesively to make up the form we see. The same geometry is applied when developing letterforms. This is how the idea of hunting for letters that were unintentionally created through constructed or naturally made geometry existing in the environment was born.
OKAY COOL. . . 3
KlmNOPQ RSTuVWXYZABCDEFG HIJKLMNOPQ RSTuVWXYZABCD EFGHIJKLMNOPQ RSTuVWXYZA BCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQ RSTuVWX YZABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQ RSTuV WXYZABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQ RS TuVWXYZABCDEFGHIJKLMNOP Q RSTuVWXYZABCDEFGHIJKLM NOPQ RSTuVWXYZABCDEFGHIJ KLMNOPQ RSTuVWXYZABCDEFG
E F H I L T and X
from point A to point B No detours
The first, and most basic, element to search for when looking for naturally occurring letterforms in the environment is the straight line. In mathematics a line is defined as “a straight, one dimensional figure with no thickness and extending infinitely in both directions.” Obviously, this is not how lines exist in the real world since all lines seem to come to two end points, so let’s just call them “line segments.” A large majority of the letters of the alphabet can be made by using lines, some good examples are:
All straight, vertical, or near vertical lines in letterforms are called stems. And any horizontal lines are called bars, but if a bar is connecting two stems together then it is called a crossbar. An example of this would be the center line in an A and an H. The thickness of these lines is called the lineâ€™s stroke.
E F H I LT X CROSSBAR BAR STEM
Take a look at how many lines are here! Thereâ€™s a lot, which means thereâ€™s possibility of finding a hiding letter. The door frame has quite a few lines that all intersect one another. The sign also has a diagonal that could make certain letterforms as well. The bottom of the door looks like a large line with a thick stroke, those should be considered too. And look, even the horizon line is a line. Well duh, the word line is in its name!
Most architecture is designed by the use of grids and precise measurements. Constructions like buildings or sidewalks are two good places to look for hidden lines.
Hey! Looks like there’s an H in the door framework. The letter H is a perfect example of a letterform that is made up of predominately lines. It consists of two stems each on either side that are connected by a third line (or a crossbar). Four right angles do exist in this letterform, but the angles that we’re concerned about are more acute (closed), but let’s save angles for a later chapter. Once you can easily see lines in your space and how they interact with eachother, then linear letters will be much easier to come across. Check out some of these other letterforms that can be found by hunting for lines.
This is the earliest known form of the letter H from ancient Syria from around the 11th century. Their form of the H had three crossbars! Good thing it was narrowed down to just one or it would be much more difficult to find.
SO THIS CROSSBAR WALKED INTO A STEM
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SOMETHING ELSE TO KNOW ABOUT LINES. Not only are lines refereed to as continuous, straight marks but they can also be created in terms of repetition of identical elements following the course of a line. For example, 15 people standing directly next to one another would be a “line” of people. Even when writing this very sentence; all of these symbols are letters which make words, and they are all in a single, straight pattern; that’s what makes this a “line” of text. Repetitive elements are another feature that is very common in both architecture and urban planning as a whole. If you look at the building in the background, there are many rows and columns of identical windows. This repeated pattern allows us to consider those windows as individual lines. Now, if you move your vision closer up into the foreground you notice a repeated decorative element at the top of the tower. This practice is common and promotes symmetry and unity in the architectural design of buildings. But linear patterns don’t have to get all that complicated, it could just be as simple as a line of plants on the ground, planted in a row.
Here we have a beautiful letter T. Because the flower arrangements happen to be very similar, we can consider it a line, even though it is a small one. And since there is this applied symmetry, the top bar seems to connect to the stem rather nicely. Now, if one side had a flower arrangement and the other had a street lamp then this T might not look right. This technique for identifying lines requires repetition of identical or, at least, very similar elements to be successful. Even though it may be a little more difficult than finding a letter using ordinary lines, if you can manage to find one using this repetition technique it may result in a very gorgeous discovery.
OKay...Moving on . . .
...FORWARD THAT IS.
XYZABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQ RST uVWXYZABCDEFGHIJKLMNOP Q RSTuVWXYZABCDEFGHIJKL MNOPQ RSTuVWXYZABCDEFGHI JKLMNOPQ RSTuVWXYZABCDE FGHIJKLMNOPQ RSTuVWXYZA BCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQ RSTuVW XYZABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQ RST uVWXYZABCDEFGHIJKLMNOP Q RSTuVWXYZABCDEFGHIJKL
THINK OUTSIDE THE CIRCLE
Another easily understood geometric instrument that helps in the search for letterforms is the shape. The common definition of a shape is “the quality of a distinct object or body that has an external surface or outline of a specific form or figure.” As the definition suggests, both the outline and the surface area of a shape can be used to form letters. This gives us many opportunities to find the letters that can easily be constructed from simple shapes. Some examples of good “shape” letters are:
D o Q R and U
Many of the ancient typographers developed their letterforms by observing forms that were occurring in nature. While the letters as we know them today have changed and evolved from their earlier forms, the techniques discussed in this book are by no means new; they have been around for centuries. Natural formations like mountains, rivers, lakes and trees were analyzed in order to establish some lettering systems, and in some cases things like astral star alignments and even the human body were used for letterform inspiration.
Human Body â€” Da Venci
OD H A 16
The letter O is the only letter that has maintained its basic shape through the centuries. It has always been a circle.
There are actually multiple circular shapes in this trash can. There is a thin outline on the outside and a thick circle further in that is represented by the brown plastic. Then there is the outline of the hole itself which looks like a large circle opening which means that even the negative space of the opening can be considered a shape. These shapes make the letter O.
AN O is pretty easy. 17
OQCUD R BOWL
Just like in the previous example, negative space, like we saw in the trash can opening, can be consider a shape form as well. The same logic is applied with analyzing letters. Any space that is enclosed by curved lines is called a bowl. The negative space that exists within these enclosed spaces is called the counter. This negative area surrounding a letterform can be altered by variation of a letterâ€™s stress, which is the direction and thickening of a curved stroke line.
One of the easiest ways to spot a shape letter is to keep an eye out for solid plains of color or texture. Think of these plains as the letters counter space. This brown iron base for a tree make a nice looking letter D!
Shapes can be found in almost every ornament that exists in an urban environment. Shapes allow for architectural designers to apply artistic elements to their works and easily add to the possibility of forming a hidden letter. For instance, that comfy looking chair to the right has a very decorative design the just happens to be shaped like an R!
NO TIME T O R ELAX! WE ’ ve GO T TO k ee p moving!
Q RSTuVWXYZABCDEFGHIJKLM NOPQ RSTuVWXYZABCDEFGHIJ KLMNOPQ RSTuVWXYZABCDEF GHIJKLMNOPQ RSTuVWXYZAB CDEFGHIJKLMNOPQ RSTuVWX YZABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQ RSTu VWXYZABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQ R STuVWXYZABCDEFGHIJKLMNO PQ RSTuVWXYZABCDEFGHIJKL MNOPQ RSTuVWXYZABCDEFGH
We’ve talked about lines and how the can be used to create letterforms, but what about angles? An angle is simply an intersection of two different lines. The understood definition of the word angle is “A shape, formed by two lines diverging from a common point called the vertex.” There are many instances in the formation of letters where two lines cross paths, thus forming and point. Some examples of these letters are:
G K M N V W y and Z
T ak ing a SHAR P turn
The planks on this gate represent three lines. The diagonal line moving across the center meets with both the upper and lower plank at two points, thus creating two angles and the letter Z!
Understanding angles in letterforms is as simple as understanding the difference between up and down. When and angle is formed and the lines meet at a top point, the angle is called and apex. When two lines meet at a bottom point, then the angle is called a vertex. The space that exists in the corner created by the two lines is called the crotch. The letter G is an interesting character because it is a round form that also includes and small right angle at the end of its curve called a spur. This makes it one of the most difficult letterforms to find.
You can find the angles of letterforms in the environment using two methods. First off, the object you are looking at my have a direct angle that is made by two lines joining. The A made from the sign above is a good example of a direct apex, but you can also have indirect angles. Tale a look at the M. The lines do not follow upward to met to a common point, however their is an â€œimplied pointâ€? in the center of the curve. The line diagram will reveal to you how the M shape can be made of these windows. There are no actual points, only implied ones that suggest implied angles.
The implied points are in the center of the archways above the two windows and AT the bottom of the central column. Even though these windows can be read as an M that just looks kind of curvy, it is very important to understand how the letter is based off of the principle of an angle. This foundations allows typographers to develop all sorts of interesting interpretations of this particular letter from.
The same principle can be applied when looking at a vertex. There can be a direct vertex that involves two lines meeting at a common point or an â€œimpliedâ€? vertex that represents a point which connects two imaginary lines. The only difference is, the vertex points are on the bottom of the form where as the apex points are on the top.
ca n yo u s p ot t he i m p l i e d po i nt s on t his W ?
G UAR D YO U R C R O TCH! One more important aspect of angled letterforms to keep in mind is the potential of finding a crotch. A crotch looks just like every other angle weâ€™ve seen but the point does not exist on the bottom or the top of the letter form. Usually the crotch angle connects the two joining lines to another line. For example, the letter Y has a point at the bottom of the two diagonal lines in the upper half of the letter, but this point also connect these lines to a stem that travels down and away from the angle.
The letter K has the most crotches of any letter in the alphabet. With three angles making up its form, it is a very tricky letter to find. Try looking in a place with lots of joining lines, but they canâ€™t all be perfectly straight because the angles in a K are not right angles.
RIGHT ANGLE? RI G H T ON ! 30
G CG The letters C and G didnâ€™t always have their well known curved look, in fact they had quite the opposite form. They actually were both first developed as angled lines by ancient Syrians. Both letters were represented by the same mark, which was a a long down stroke with a smaller stroke on the top.
BCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQ RSTuVW XYZABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQ RST uVWXYZABCDEFGHIJKLMNOP Q RSTuVWXYZABCDEFGHIJKL MNOPQ RSTuVWXYZABCDEFGHI JKLMNOPQ RSTuVWXYZABCDE FGHIJKLMNOPQ RSTuVWXYZA BCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQ RSTuVW XYZABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQ RST uVWXYZABCDEFGHIJKLMNOP
T TH I W
W! O L F HE
The fourth, and final, instrument used to identify hidden letterforms would be the gradual curve also known as an ellipses. This is an expansion of both the line chapter and the shape chapter as it combines elements of both geometric properties. A curve is, in itself, a line and it outlines a shape pattern, but unlike a shape, it has no surface area and therefore has more in common with a line. The only distinguishing features a curve has from a line or an angle is that is does not form a straight line between two points and it does not create a sharp corner like in an angle. Examples of a curve in letter forms include:
B C J P and S
The S and the C are very unique letters when compared amongst the whole group. These are the two letters that donâ€™t have any straight vertical or horizontal strokes in their compositions. They are manufactured entirely of curved lines. The S to the left was found on the entryway to a very decorative building. Wherever you come across ornate and elaborate decoration there is a great chance that you will find a large array of curvilinear forms present. This kind of design happens to be carved stone curved in a decorative pattern, only a small portion of it makes up an S form.
W ÎŁ S
Originally, the letter S was developed to look like the letter W. It would only change a few centuries later when the Greeks adopted the letter and gave it the Sigma symbol, which still didnâ€™t look anything like we know the S to look today!
There are over 40 distinct sounds (or phonemes) in English. Because we have just 26 letters to represent those sounds, most letters stand for more than one sound. The consonant C, for example, is pronounced differently in these three words cook, city, and (combined with h) chop.
Another good location to look for curved letter forms would be in nature areas. It is extremely rare to find perfectly straight lines or exact angles in nature. Plants have curved vines and roots, trees have curved branches and leaves, rock formations usually have slight curvature in their formation. This means that earthformed, curved letterforms are ripe for the picking. This C was found on the trunk of a tree. Apparently this mark was left after a large branch was removed.
Curved letter forms have a few new aspects to them we have not seen yet. Anytime you see a curved line that exists in the center of a letter, that curve is known as the spine. You can ensure that it is a spine by making sure that the curve crosses the median, or the center of the letters total height. Now, if the curve exists on the top or bottom of a letter it is called a shoulder. These curves will not be crossing the median, but rather be adjacent to either the Cap Height (top) or the Baseline (bottom) of the letter.
While it has been said that curves are easily found in decoration and nature, they also have their place in the design of basic fundamental architecture too. Many objects and structures exhibit curvature and use it to provide a smooth and symmetric balance to their form. However, these curves often will have to be countered by some vertical and horizontal lines to maintain the desired structure, security and function. The letters B and P are good examples of this phenomena. While both exhibit curves lines, they each require a single vertical stroke in order to become a complete letter. Keep this in mind when looking for thee letters and other that are similar. Also, the curved lines in letterforms are always sphericle. Itâ€™s much more difficult to make a letter out of a curve that is too wide or too narrow. Try and find symmetrical curves, youâ€™ll have better luck!
Looks like this is a back alleyway with lots of lines, shapes and angles! But wait, can you find the curve? No dumpster diving required!
OU A R O U ND AND AR
Itâ€™s a J, made out of a drainage pipe! This is another example of a curve that requires a vertical stem as well. You can analyze these curved letters further by imagining the different grid lines the curves can rest on like the Cap Height, Baseline and Median. The curve on a J is at the bottom of the letter so imagine that their is an invisible line where the Baseline should be. You can now see how the J would rest on a grid line and if it seems comfortable then you know you have found a good letterform! Any kind of piping can result in some interesting curved letter forms. Drain pipes, like this one, as well as sewage, electrical and other kinds of piping must have curved forms in order to function properly, therefore the can easily end up making letters like this J.
OUND. . .
S O WH AT N O W ? You have now learned about the four basic geometric instruments the you can use in order to help you find the different parts to form the shape of the individual letters. You have also learned about the anatomy of each of the letters, a bit of the history of the alphabet and many useful tips to help the search for letters in the environment.
S O , Her e is y o u r f irst chall enge! Letâ€™s test your observation skills and see if you can answer these quick questions:
QA: What ki nd o f st o re w a s t h e l e t t e r A l o c a t e d in fr on t of? QB: What w as t he fi r s t l e t t e r p h o t o g ra p h s h o w n in th is book? Qc: o ne let t er â€™ s pho t o g ra p h w a s n o t s h o w n . W h i ch on e was it?
Tur n t he page fo r t he answers
QA: W hat ki nd o f st o re w a s t h e l e t t e r A l o c a t ed in fr on t of? ANSWER: A Shoe Store. QB: W hat w as t he f i rs t l e t t e r p h o t o g ra p h s h o w n in th is book? ANSWER: Letter X (check out the cover). Qc: one let t er â€™ s ph o t o g ra p h w a s n o t s h o w n . W h ich on e was it? ANSWER: Letter I.
If you managed to answer all three questions correctly then you are more than prepard to move forward with your search for hidden letters! Make sure to keep this guide handy and refer back to it when you have any questions.
HIDDENTYPOGRAPHY Photo Journal
HIDDENTYPOGRAPHY Cut and Paste you found letterforms into this photo journal.
m n o p
u v w x
NOPQ RSTuVWXYZABCDEFGHIJ KLMNOPQ RSTuVWXYZABCDEF GHIJKLMNOPQ RSTuVWXYZABC DEFGHIJKLMNOPQ RSTuVWXYZ ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQ RSTuVW XYZABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQ RST uVWXYZABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQ RSTuVWXYZABCDEFGHIJKLMN OPQ RSTuVWXYZABCDEFGHIJK LMNOPQ RSTuVWXYZABCDEFG
Eric A. Norton VISC 402 Design As Author - 2011 Patrick Dooley Camera: Canon PowerShot SX20 IS Typefaces: Mensch MENSCH MENSCH MESNCH Archer Archer Archer Sources: “Getting it Right with Type” by: Victoria Squire “From A to Z: Qucik Facts About the Alphabet” by: Richard Nordquist - About.com “Developing an Awareness of Typographic Letterforms” by: Ladislas Mandel
A Guide for finding, analyzing and understanding Hidden Letterforms and Public Typography.