Each of the twenty-six upper- and lowercase letters in our alphabet has a distinct structure, but all are comprised of only four elemental strokes: vertical, horizontal, diagonal, and curvilinear.
It was the Greeks who created this system of standardization approximately 3,500 years ago. In addition to imposing geometric order on the irregular letterforms they adopted from the Phoenicians, the Greeks established the use of a baseline and uniform letterspacing. (It would be another two millennia before the Frankish king Charlemagne mandated the adoption of three additional guidelines still in use today: ascenders, descenders, and a common x-height.)
As a natural extension of their play, our children Cate (age 11) and Lukas (age 8) created a code for their own use they call the Puffoglyphs. They intuitively broke down the Latin alphabet into its four stroke variants and then recombined the component parts to create new, “encoded” typographic forms.
American designer Willi Kunz explores the four elemental strokes in his 2003 Typography: Formation + Transformation. Of the illustration we feature from his book, Kunz notes that “Even though the individual forms are abstract, the forms begin to suggest a typographic composition.” The dynamic that Kunz articulates, Cate and Lukas experienced through an act of play. [AW]