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Design Your Own Ligature

Companies of every kind sign their names with letters that link.

There is probably no artistic style more intuitive than blending two or more letters into one. The result is a letterform called a ligature. Ligature means to tie. Letters that are tied make a compact signature perfect for companies that are known mainly by their initials.

Ligatures are fun to design. They require no special drawing talents, just an ordinary sense of rhythm and an interest in putting puzzles together. Some letters, you’ll find, link naturally while others do not. Some link in one typestyle but not another. Others link in lower case but not upper. Some can be doctored to link, others cannot. And some can be fooled into linking.

As children we got acquainted with our own initials. As designers, we must get acquainted with different letters. What follows are techniques, ideas, and advice to help you line up as many different letters in the most expressive ways you can.

1 Start with Letters That Share Strokes

Many letter pairs form natural links. By natural we mean that the letters have identical parts or complementary shapes that fit hand in glove. Let’s begin with the easiest letters to link—those that have adjacent matching strokes, like NR, AV, and HK, and similar strokes, like UR and AB. These are linked by using the matching stroke for both characters.

Top crossbars

A few letter pairs share top crossbars. These link so obviously they can appear to be merely kerned tightly. The way to avoid this impression is to add an outline (above left) or pattern, or alternately, use a serif typeface and share the serif (above right).

Curved to vertical

The more decorative the typeface, the more easily dissimilar strokes can be linked. Even a curving stroke can replace a vertical. You need gentle curves for this to work, though—circles won’t do.

2 Many Ways to Link!

Letters can be linked in many other ways. They can be looped, overlapped, bridged, filled, outlined, and more. Every letter pair is special and can usually be made to link in more than one way. Try these:

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