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Ligatures are Fun

By Edited Nov 27, 2015 1 1

My desk is a mess. I'm really jealous of people who can clean up, because that is a quality I lack.
So if you would see my desk first, you wouldn’t believe how precise I am as a graphic designer. In any case, I am great on the square millimeter.

I designed this brand for a special product of a Dutch video-company. It’s a combination of a script font and a serif font. And has two ligatures.

The story of your life
Credit: Design: Hannie Mommers, Mommersontwerp

In the old days

In the old days of lead typesetting, some combinations of letters caused big problems. The f , for instance, had a flag that hung over, making it a vulnerable part of the letter.
If the next letter was an i, the curl of the f and the tip of the i would clash against each other, which could demolish the f. Such a letter pair was redrawn as a new symbol, called a ligature.

Lead typesetting
Credit: HM

A well-known ligature over here in Holland is the old florin sign fl. Other ligatures are:

  • the character that is used in email addresses, the at-sign: @
  • the ampersand, also called et-sign: &

In some fonts, the origin of the ampersand, the e and the t, is still recognizable.

Credit: HM

Modern times

Nowadays ligatures are not current. Computer typesetting does not require ligatures any longer. Although programs like Adobe InDesign give you a choice to use ligatures in your text.

I love combining old knowledge and new techniques, which is the reason I make ligatures myself sometimes.

In “The story of your life” I have made a combination of the y in ‘story’ and the r in ‘your’. Both letters end in a little circle that I have redrawn into a new sign.

The other ligature is more difficult to discover: it’s a combination of the y in ‘your’ and the i in ‘life’. The dot in the i is made a bit smaller and fused with the tail of the y.

Two letters
Credit: HM


As I stated in the beginning of this blog: a graphic designer must be precise. A lot of my work is often not noticeable. Adjustments I made in this logotype to make it balanced and matter of course are:

  • the’ is positioned in a way that the e and the top of the t are nicely going together.
  • I shortened the flag in the first f  so the space between the s, t and y is in balance. I didn’t want the transverse line of the f collide with the l.
  • Then the tail of the f is extended. There is now an imaginary horizontal line along the bottom of the f and life.

Little pleasures

It’s tiny details like these that make my work such a joy. It’s funny that the best results emerge when the changes I make are so natural that they are barely noticed.



Jan 7, 2013 1:10am
I admire your work on the nanometer... I get itchy just reading it, but the outcome of your precision is great!
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