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white space compensation or other reasons in N, M, W etc.

Posts: 8
edited September 4
Hello,

when I was drawing Ns, Ms, Ws etc. symmetrically (in the first row of the first picture) I've been told to put for example the right Stem of the N nearer to the diagonal stroke (second row). So the white space between the left stem and the diagonal is bigger than the white space between the right stem and the diagonal. And voila: The N looks better now!

Then I realised that the same thing occurs in other letters. So it's about balancing the white space, right? But I don't get how it really works or if there is some kind of theory behind it I didn't heard of. And maybe I misunderstand something and now it's a good time to get it right.

And is it the same 'problem' here? Or is this a type history topic?

I'm happy for every piece of information, big thanks!

• Posts: 398
Interesting topic, but my suspicion is nobody knows.

What you're doing is letting the diagonal protrude the thin line. That's fine, but not necessary. For example in the N, you could have a wide apex on top, and a narrow (pointy) apex on the bottom-right, to get the same white-space effect. That's how it's done in most typefaces.

The M and W are all about balance. You (usually) want them to look like a structurally sound building. Imagine them carrying some weight and not breaking.
• Posts: 1,391
In the bottom image, you just reinvented Cormorant.
• Posts: 897
For the N the important thing is the counter space—if the top white triangle looks bigger than the bottom white triangle, the letter will look upside down. And, an optical illusion will mean that even if the triangles are even, our eyes will see the top one as bigger.

The same principle extends to some other letters, notably S, but is not wholly universalizable to letters like a and e. Depending both on style and on conditions of reading, a and e can properly have quite even or quite uneven counter ratios. But within a font, whichever ratio one has, the other should relate.
• Posts: 137
If I well understand your request, I think you will find something interesting in this book. To me it has been really helpfull when I drew my first typeface. https://www.amazon.com/Designing-Type-Karen-Cheng/dp/0300111509
• Posts: 8
The M and W are all about balance. You (usually) want them to look like a structurally sound building. Imagine them carrying some weight and not breaking.
That's a good visualisation for me I think! Thanks Jasper
• Posts: 8
Depending both on style and on conditions of reading, a and e can properly have quite even or quite uneven counter ratios. But within a font, whichever ratio one has, the other should relate.
This is interesting, because some fonts got an a with a middle bar visually positioned in the vertical center of the letter but also got an e with a middle bar positioned above the center. I thought it was wrong but I didn't had a consistent answer against it. Thanks Craig!