You can get really nice curves with quadratic Béziers, but I wouldn’t want to use them for drawing.
I wonder to what degree this is due to poor editing paradigms for quadratic curves? If tools were to enable smooth, tangent and corner properties for quadratic on-curve points, might there be better parity between cubic and quadratic outlines as productive drawing tools?
I take the liberty here to utterly disagree. The development of high-quality fonts from scratch requires a long and intensive study and a thorough, i.e., costly production. The prices of hard- and software are peanuts in comparison with the development costs. Next week the Dutch Type Library will release DTL Valiance by Hanna Hakala, of which the development took ten years. Coming autumn we will release DTL Romulus and DTL Fell, of which the production started in 1997. Cheap fonts are perhaps cheap to make but the development of high-quality fonts takes a lot of time and efforts, and hence is very costly.
If the global graphic design industry yields $50B/year and the type industry 1% of that — that’s decent, actually excellent, given that the digital type industry has an excellent gains distribution towards labor and profit, while non-labor costs are generally negligible.
Fonts are cheap to make, market and distribute. They’re tiny, use one common format, are super low-maintenance (the OpenType font you last touched 10 years ago still works and sells without needing bugfixes, and gives you royalties, so you can move on to the next thing), can be made on an antique computer using one piece of software for which you paid $300-600 once and don’t need to upgrade it for many years.
With retail sales, it's common for the single designer to get an amazing royalty of 30% (without the need for account or project managers). Plus people you work with generally aren’t nasty.
Compare that to the software, graphic, music or advertising businesses (which are full of sad and boring stories).
For 90% of my type faces, I start directly in type design software. This is just the way I see and my comfort with bezier curves from 30 years of using them to draw. To be clear, I have a 60 year history of drawing with pen brush, pencil, charcoal as well so I have learned to see in all media. That is not to say that this is "The Way", it just is the way that works for me. Whatever teaches you to learn to "see" is the way for you. Put the hours in with different tools. Practice seeing much more than you practice technique. If you can see form, you can learn to draw form. I would say that hours of drawing with old school means that are messy will keep you from falling in love with the clean lines of digital drawing before the form is clear to you.
I begin every project quizzing the customer about their needs, because generally they have only partially determined these. I try to build as complete a brief as possible, both in design and technical terms, with the focus on documentation of the proposed glyph set. This is a lot of work, typically undertaken speculatively unless the customer has specifically requested my consultation and agreed to pay for this upfront work. I like to prepare in this way so that neither the customer nor I have nasty surprises during the project, and I can therefore price the work both accurately and competitively. I quote design (glyph creation and spacing) on a per glyph basis, making distinction between base, composite, and derived glyphs (derived glyphs would be technically not composites, but based on existing glyphs, e.g. /Hbar/. Other work, such as kerning, OpenType programming, mastering, and testing are quoted based on time estimates.
There are practical problems with slanting Arabic though, a word with no vertical lines like “حب” will not stand much (if at all) when slanted: “حب”, so structural differences are important in Arabic, though they might not even help much here either.
I can’t even tell from first glance which is the slanted one!
In addition to what Jens wrote: You may want to consult the latest retail versions from the original sources, and not the versions that come bundled with some OS. For example, here is Big Caslon as included in Mac OS 10.11 (top) vs. Big Caslon as available from Carter & Cone via TypeNetwork (bottom).
Not to mention the dollars Google sunk into the Noto fonts. Also Chinese and Japanese fonts are expensive, and I'd wager that a lot of money is being spent in that space. Latin likely has the volume, but there's definitely money in non-Latin.