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What is a Pylon?

Ascenders, arms, crossbars, counters, spines, shoulders, tails, stems and spurs, altogether there are over 20 components in the anatomy of type. There remains a gap in the vocabularly of this most respected of crafts, however.

In the designing or cutting of stencil letterforms, one is invariably brought to a point wherein the supporting canvas is joined to counter of the letter. Up until now, these supporting areas have gone without definition or label. A gross oversight by the standards of any industry, let alone one with as rich and respected a history as typography.

Continue over at thisisapylon.com. 🙂


  1. I’ve heard several different stencil artists refer to what they have coined a ‘pylon’ as a ‘bridge’, ie. a structure built to span an obstacle. I think I prefer bridge to pylon to be honest…

  2. Thanks for the link. I think I’ve heard this called a ‘bridge’ before, though I don’t recall where (I could have dreamed it, I guess). I wonder if these ‘gaps’ can’t simply be viewed as extensions to counters…?

  3. This is a ridiculous name for the sake of having a “justifiable” typographic identifier for a stencil letter…

    The term “bridge” has lasted for decades, and it sums up concisely the gap between stencil breaks just fine. Another term is “gutter”. In truth, must we have every single component of type defined so meticulously to the point of ad nauseum?

    This is just a quirk of [originally] metal type designers… Sign painters have a more simplified group of terms… vertical, horizontal, crossbar, swash, serif, sans serif, spur and occasionally ascender and descender.

    I’ve never known a sign painter who referred to a bowl, stem, counter, shoulder, stem or spine…

    As a type designer I’d prefer to concentrate of the letter forms rather than having socially acceptable names for their parts…

    Leave anatomy to the medical profession…

  4. I’ve always called them supports but I ain’t no stencil expert. Bridge makes good sense and requires no explanation. It also has the advantage of coinciding with one of the basic dictionary definitions of “bridge” that even a child knows. While pylons are used for support (jet engines, bridges) I can’t get the image of an orange fluorescent plastic cone or a certain new wave band outta my head. But I appreciate that you’ve addressed the need to discuss those stencil thingy things. The disadvantage of calling them bridges is that you’ve already registered a domain name for the pylon thing.

  5. loveme says

    Ive been cutting stencils since 99, and my friends and i have always refered to these as Bridges, like “Dude, you forgot to cut the bridge…”

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