Punctuation Part 5:
Tall & Thin

The last post, Part 4 of this series, focused on quotes, including the ‘ ‘ ’ ‚ “ ” „ ′ ″ ‹ › « and » glyphs. In this post I’m covering the more or less vertical punctuation, / \ | ¦ ( ) [ ] { and }.

All of these glyphs have thinner strokes than the alphabetic glyphs. These glyphs generally align with the ascender line and dip below the baseline. And these glyphs seem to generally have the same height… much of the time… depending on the typeface.


The | or vertical bar (sometimes called a pipe) is thinner than the downstroke, and usually visually similar in weight to the upstroke. Since it’s vertical, it will appear thinner, so to match the crossbar on the H or A, it needs to have a bit more weight added.

For a font like the one I’m designing here, using the thin side of the marker is too dramatically thin, since this is a very low contrast typeface. Using the full width of the marker is too much. So I just have to build up and thicken up the line to get it to look balanced with the letters. This will probably end up getting adjusted some more when I test the font. It just has to be seen in context.

The bar is supposed to be 1 em high, traditionally. But like the em dash, it varies based on what looks good, or the designer’s whim. Some faces (Optima, Myriad) go a full em. Some faces (Helvetica) only go cap height, which is a bit short in my opinion. Many faces, however, make them the same height and alignment as the brackets.

The broken bar (¦) is the same as the vertical bar, but with a gap in the middle. Unlike the vertical bar, the broken bar is not 1 em high, even when the vertical bar is. Again, some faces go shorter (*sigh* Helvetica), but many make it the same height as the brackets, and some go a little longer than brackets, but not a full em. It’s up to the designer’s eye.


The forward slash ( / ) and backslash ( \ ) tend to have about an 18° angle away from vertical. The thickness is visually the same as the vertical bar. The height is the same as the brackets in some cases, but many times shorter. They tend to align with ascender height, and some are a little below, but still above cap height. Again, it’s up to the designer.

For the Protest typeface I’ve decided to align them with the brackets, and make them the same height.


The parentheses ( ), square brackets [ ], and curly brackets { }, are all the same height and alignment, and the same visual weight. Square brackets are often just called brackets, and curly brackets are sometimes called braces. The open and close versions are all reflections of each other over the y-axis.

As far as alignment, they tend to line up vertically at the ascender line. They typically drop below the baseline. While some drop as far as the descender line (Helvetica, Arial, Franklin Gothic), many end somewhere midway between baseline and descender (Myriad, Lucida Sans).

The reason for this alignment is that the brackets typically center around x-height characters. Since the bulk of Latin-based scripts occur in the zone between baseline and x-height, the brackets tend to look right if they center vertically around characters this height.

Up Next

That’s it for the punctuation series! The next post will begin a series on mathematic symbols. Originally this was going to be a 2 part series, but I deceided to expand it to 3 and add some other symbols.

I didn’t think a typeface meant to mimic protest posters would ever need square root, pi, or other such symbols. But thanks to Trump in the White House, the U.S. has had protests in defence of things like science and facts. Many of these posters prominently feature symbols such as integral, sum, or delta (the symbol for change) for puns, or use the square root sign (also called radical) for imaginary numbers. So I’ll be adding those in.

  • Mathematic Symbols
    1. + − ± × ÷ = ≠ ≈
    2. > < ≤ ≥ % ° ⁄
    3. √ ∫ ∂ ∞
    4. ∑ ∏ Δ π
  • Diacritics






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