The Typography Hand Gestures Designer’s Need To Know

Let’s start with the basics. What is a typographic gesture?

A typographic gesture is simply a movement of your hand or finger that helps you with spacing and alignment as you type text. Every designer knows how important it is to have proper spacing between letters, words, and lines of text. Having proper spacing in your designs can make all the difference when it comes to legibility and readability. 

Typographic gestures help designers achieve this by allowing them to place the cursor anywhere on the screen, then press their finger against any letter or space on-screen via touchpad or trackball mouse button; thereby creating an invisible cursor that corresponds directly to their finger’s movements across the keys (or buttons).

Typography hand gestures are movements or shapes that can be used to enhance or reinforce the meaning of the text without using words themselves. In this article, we’ll explore ways you can use hand gestures in your designs to create better typography for your clients’ brands and products.

TYPOGRAPHY | Everything I know about Type in 10 Minutes
1. Hand gestures can enhance typography understanding.
2. Gestures help convey typographic concepts effectively.
3. Gestures aid in communicating hierarchy and spacing.
4. Certain gestures can demonstrate serif and sans-serif differences.
5. Understanding hand gestures improves collaborative discussions.
6. Gestures provide a visual way to explain kerning and tracking.
7. Use gestures to illustrate letterform anatomy to non-designers.
8. Gestures can make typography workshops more engaging.
9. Expressive gestures mimic typefaces’ moods and emotions.
10. Incorporate gestures to teach typography in an interactive manner.


The center is the middle point of a line of text and is usually marked with a dot or a blank space. It’s important to center your text so that it looks balanced and feels inviting. Centered text can be used to draw attention to certain words or even just look elegant.

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As a designer, you know that typography is where all the magic happens. It’s what allows words to come together and form sentences. If you have ever been told that your design looks “too text-heavy” then it could be due to poor baseline alignment.

The baseline is the imaginary line on which most letters rest (the letters on this line are called the x-height). It can also mean the line where those letters sit – in other words, how many lines high your text should be compared with how wide it is.


This is the distance from the baseline to the top of lowercase letters, such as k and l. The ascender is also known as a counter, which you may recognize from reading about counter space (the space between letters). While it’s not technically a letterform because it isn’t part of an alphabet typeface, it is still something worth considering when designing with typography.


The descender is the part of a lowercase letter that hangs below the baseline. It is named for its resemblance to a hand descending or descending from its place on high.

The descender of lowercase letters can vary greatly in shape and length, as well as height relative to other parts of the letterform. This can be seen in the difference between “g” and “y”.

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The height of the lowercase letters in a font. The x-height is set by how tall the lower case letters are relative to the cap height, and it’s an important part of overall legibility and readability. If you increase or decrease your font size, the x-height should stay consistent so that your typeface remains legible.


A bowl is a curved shape that is created by the intersection of the upper and lower bowls. The bowl is the space between the bowl and baseline.

From a designer’s perspective, this means that when you’re working on your typeface, you’ll want to think about how each letterform interacts with its bowl, as well as with other letters in its family.

Counter Space

The counter space is the white space that surrounds a letterform. Counter spaces are opened up when you press down on a pencil, for example, they can get wider or smaller depending on how strongly you apply pressure to the writing instrument.

Counter spaces are used by typographers to determine the width of a letterform; they are like measurement marks in between letters and numbers. Typographically speaking, counter spaces help create balance within words and sentences.

The widths of counter spaces can be manipulated easily with tools such as Adobe Illustrator’s Pen Tool (it has two options: Add Anchor Point Tool and Delete Anchor Point Tool). With these tools, designers can add or remove anchor points to change the shape of any existing curve into another curve with ease!


The terminal is the most important typography hand gesture. It’s used to indicate the end of a stroke (such as a letter), the end of a line, or even the end of a word, sentence, and paragraph. When you point between two letters in upper case and then make an arc with your index finger as if you were drawing an underline above them, you are signaling terminal.

If you want to emphasize something that’s been written in text like this: then using a terminal will help break it away from what’s around it so that it stands out more clearly for your reader.


The loop is the curved line that connects the bowl and the shoulder. It’s usually about the same size as the bowl and width of it as well.

The loop can be either thick or thin, depending on your font choices. If you want it to be thicker, then make sure you add more weight to your character or make sure that it’s a bold style (which would automatically make it appear larger).

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Eye Or Aperture

You’ve probably noticed that many letters have a little eye or aperture, like the one in the “o” and the “d.” In typography, this is called an eye. The word itself comes from Old English (i.e., Anglo-Saxon) and means “to see with.”

So what does it mean for letters to be seen? It means that they should be legible! If a letter can’t be read because its opening is too small or obstructed by another element of the design or even just because it’s not positioned properly on the page it will look ugly and unreadable. In other words: bad typography!

Ear Or Lobe

You’ll hear designers talk about the ear and lobe of a letter.

The ear is the part that hangs below an x-height (the distance from the baseline to cap height). The lobe is just another way of saying “ear.” For example, in this example of a lowercase “e,” the lobe/ear extends below the dotted midline but doesn’t go past it:

And here’s what it looks like when you extend beyond the dotted midline:

Shoulder And Backstroke

Shoulder and backstroke are two strokes that can be used together to form the stem of letters. They begin where your stroke ends, as its letterform.

The backstroke is the stroke that begins at the end of the stem and connects it back up to its ascender. It’s also known as an “ascender” or “tail” because it connects a lowercase letter with its uppercase counterpart when paired with a capital letter: Cc!

The shoulder is essentially a variation on this concept; instead of beginning at the end of your initial stroke, you start from somewhere around halfway up it and then curve down diagonally before meeting again in what’s called an “elbow.”

Bar And Crossbar (Or Cross Stroke)

The bar and crossbar are a part of the character. Therefore, we can’t separate them as we do with other strokes. For example, if you wanted to write “A”, but all you had was “a”, then it would be impossible to create this letter because you don’t have any way to connect these two strokes.

The same goes for our bar and crossbar; they’re combined into one single stroke when you write out your word or phrase.


The tail is the part of a letter that extends below the baseline and descends below other letters. It’s a characteristic found most often in serif fonts, as well as handwriting.

Tails are also sometimes used to create contrast between different letters in cursive writing, such as “k” and “t” or “m” and “n”; however, they can be used on any number of letters to add visual interest to a word or phrase (like how you might use mergers to make your writing look more professional).

Spine Or Waistline

You’ve probably heard the term “spine” when it comes to typography. The spine refers to the centermost part of a letterform or wordmark. It’s that line that connects both sides of a letter, and it often gives your design an extra touch of visual interest.

There are many ways you can use spines in your designs, so we’ll go over three popular ways: using them for aligning type; using them as guides for geometric shapes, and creating negative space around them by adding more white space than usual.

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Drop Cap (Or Drop Initial)

The drop cap is a special character that can be used to emphasize the first letter of a paragraph, as well as make it larger than the rest of the text. For example, if you have a story about a man named John who is eating steak for dinner and then starts complaining about how much he hates his life, then you could use drop caps to draw attention to how he’s feeling:

John looked at his plate full of perfectly cooked medium-rare steak with disgust. “I hate everything about my life right now,” he thought miserably, taking another bite of meat.

Ascender Line

The ascender line is the line of a letter that extends above the x-height or baseline. The ascender line can be thick or thin depending on its application in your design. Letters such as “h” and “f” have thick ascender lines while letters like “g” and “y” have thinner ones. 

If you want to make sure that your typography looks great, it’s important to get this right! Also remember that when designing with different fonts from one another, each one will have its unique characteristics including its unique ascender line-height (and other options).

Descender Line

A descender line is the part of a letter that extends below the baseline. Descenders are found in many letters but are most commonly seen in lowercase g and y. There’s an old typography myth that says you can determine whether a letterform has a descending stroke by looking at its serifs (small finishing strokes). If there are none, then it must be a descender!

That said, this isn’t always true. For example, look at the uppercase W and lowercase l both have no serifs; however, they still have descending strokes! The main difference between these two letters is their angle of incline: while W has an angled ascender (the part above the x-height), l has very little or no incline at all.

Cap Height

Another important thing to know about type is the cap height, which is the distance from the baseline to the top of a capital letter. It’s measured in points (pt) and can be positive or negative. If you’re using a font with a cap height of 2, this means that your capitals are 2 points from their baselines.

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Final Thoughts

It’s important to reiterate that this guide is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all the hand gestures used in the design, but rather a set of the most commonly used ones. These gestures can help you communicate about typography in the design process. Also, can help you communicate with your team and clients more effectively and provide context when looking at projects from different angles.

Communicate meaning; Let’s say you want to convey the message: “This is bold.” You could point to your bold text, or you could draw a circle with your index finger and place it inside the text box. 

The latter gesture has much more impact than pointing because it shows how bold type looks on screen it creates an image in people’s minds that they’ll remember and relate to the content at hand (a strong visual memory).

Communicate ideas; If you’re discussing different concepts like scale, color palette choices, or navigation elements and need a way to compare them quickly without writing out descriptions on paper or using images from other projects (which can be confusing), use gestures! 

It’s easy for a designer without technical knowledge about coding to understand what these annotations mean without having any prior knowledge of what was changed between versions of each screen; all they have to do is look at where those arrows appear onscreen!

Whether you’re a designer or just someone who loves typography, spend some time familiarizing yourself with these hand gestures so that you can improve your communication skills!

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources for further exploring typography design:

Typography Design Tips
A collection of tips and techniques to enhance your typography skills and create visually appealing designs.

Beginner’s Guide to Typography Basics
An introductory guide covering fundamental typography principles every designer should be familiar with.

Typography Tips for Design Professionals
Fifteen valuable typography tips tailored to design professionals, helping you elevate your typographic designs.

People Also Ask

How Do I Use The Gestures?

The gestures are meant to be applied in the design process, but they can also be used to communicate about typography. You should use them on a whiteboard and/or on paper with other designers, or even when talking by phone or through chat software. 

When working with other designers, everyone involved (the designer who creates them and their associates) needs to understand that these aren’t rules or laws; they’re simply tools that can help us get our point across better by using some visual aids.

How Do I Apply The Gestures?

You’ll need paper, pen(s), and preferably a whiteboard if possible! The best way is probably just to start drawing “a little bit” bigger than what you want your outcome size (in pixels).

What Is The Difference Between A Capital Letter And A Lowercase Letter?

In typography, capitals (also known as majuscules) are used to indicate the beginning of sentences, proper names, foreign words, acronyms, and initialisms. Lowercase letters are used for everything else.

What Is The Difference Between Ascender And Descender?

The ascender is the part of a lowercase letter that extends above the cap-height. In some cases, it’s also known as the “overhang”. It can be seen in letters like b, d, f, and h. On the other hand, descending letters are those that touch or go below the baseline (or x-height). Letters such as p and q fall under this category.

What Is The Difference Between A Baseline And Capital?

These are two different ways to refer to the height of letters. The baseline is where most letterforms sit, while capitals are taller and usually not as often used in the text.

What Is The Difference Between A Baseline And A Cap-Height?

A cap height is a distance from the top of one letterform, such as an uppercase “H” or lowercase “g,” down to its line terminator (which can be another character or just space). It measures how tall each letterform will be when set at full size. 

This differs from the baseline because it accounts for ascenders (the part of certain letters that extend above their lines) and descenders (the parts that reach below their lines).

What Is The Difference Between An Ascender And A Descender?

Ascenders are those parts that extend above their lines; they include letters like lowercase bs, ds, fs, hs, ks, etc., which aren’t technically considered capital forms but act like them because they take up more room than other punctuation marks do when setting type by hand. 

Descenders are parts beneath each line of text such as lowercase jokes or yz’s these may not even reach down but instead fall somewhere near where your baseline would be if there weren’t any extra characters extending into each word’s margins.

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