Exercise 01.01: Positive and Negative Anatomy


The key to under­stand­ing let­ter­forms is under­stand­ing the rela­tion­ship between pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive forms. By select­ing, edit­ing, crop­ping and rear­rang­ing found let­ter­forms, you will expand your knowl­edge of the first ele­ment of typog­ra­phy, the let­ter­form itself.


By cre­at­ing com­po­si­tions that study indi­vid­ual anatom­i­cal forms up close, you will rec­og­nize the sub­tle vari­a­tions in form. Sec­ondly, you will cre­ate a set of com­po­si­tions that chal­lenge the viewer to deci­pher between fig­ure and ground. Lastly, you will cre­ate a pat­tern of black and white ele­ments that cease to be seen as black and white and begin to be seen as a vari­able shade of gray.

Background Reading

  • Bringhurst, p 1–24, 45–60, 271–298
  • Dab­ner, p 62–91
  • Kane, p 1–73.


This assign­ment uses skills sim­i­lar to those used in the pre­vi­ously com­pleted Let­ter­form Shape Cube exercise.

Part One

Iden­tify the same part of a let­ter­form on four (4) dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters, selected from the AFFEE or the Adobe Font favorites from a pre­vi­ous exer­cise. For exam­ple, find four let­ter “g’s” and iso­late the same bowl. Using the com­puter and Adobe Illus­tra­tor for each of the four let­ters, mask each form so you fill a 4 x 4 in square, test­ing your ideas as nec­es­sary. Next, reduce the size of the form two more times by a third each time and then enlarge the same form two more times by a third each time. Do not worry if the parts of the let­ters extend beyond the bound­aries of the box at this point. Repeat the process for the remain­ing three let­ter­forms until you have a total of twenty (20) com­po­si­tions. Now, edit the group down to four com­po­si­tions total, one for each of the orig­i­nal letterforms.

Part Two

Cre­ate a pat­tern from a min­i­mum one pos­i­tive com­po­si­tion and one neg­a­tive com­po­si­tion which appears gray when viewed from a dis­tance. Your basic pat­tern will have 4 — 4 in x 4 in tiles. Repeat this pat­tern a sec­ond time with 16 — 2 in x 2 in tiles. Finally, repeat your pat­tern with 64 — 1 in x 1 in tiles.

Save the three PDF files from Part Two in the appro­pri­ate D2L dropbox.


  • The fol­low­ing rubric posted on D2L will deter­mine exer­cise score: Exer­cise Grading


Font install, Lay­ers, Rec­tan­gle Draw­ing tool, Pathfinder Palette, Sav­ing, file struc­ture, PDF creation


Adobe Fonts, Font Book, Adobe Font Folio Edu­ca­tion Essen­tials, Adobe Illustrator,


As defined by cor­re­spond­ing cal­en­dar item, drop­box, dis­cus­sion or con­tent topic description.