Sailboat – a grotesque

Stephen BenedictStephen Benedict Posts: 11
edited January 17 in Type Design Critiques
I began designing this typeface (my first) last November, and would really like to get some critiques by people who are more experienced. My only type education is Designing Type by Karen Cheng, which I began reading last November, and otherwise I’m only familiar with typography from Bringhurst and general online reading. So please by all means tear it apart.

Concept:

For a while I’ve been trying out various typefaces for one that would match the landscape and community I am in. This area began to be developed towards the beginning of the last century, near a lake in the mountains where sailing, swimming, etc., are popular. I came across Bold Monday’s Trio Grotesk which seemed to match perfectly, but it was too eccentric and too wide (doesn’t fit with the many tall trees in this area as well as the significant human presence).

So I began designing this font with these traits in mind: civilized but used to the outdoors; reminiscent of monospace typewriter fonts to recall the roots and simplicity of the community (some of the printed materials in this area were typeset with typewriters).

Its intended use is print, ideally both display and body text, but at the moment it displays poorly at small sizes (see page 4 of PDF) so unless I can fix that it may only be suited to display usage.

It is obviously a work in progress, but I thought it would be better to get feedback now rather than later. Your thoughts?



Comments

  • I rather like its flavor and its backstory. First impressions:
    • Lowercase spacing is much too loose; hence the unexpected behavior at text sizes.
    • The rounds often seem too «pointy», i.e. diamond-shaped, in particular in /O and /c.
    • Does the stroke width oscillate in a quadrupole pattern, i.e. become broader in the diagonals, in the round strokes?
    • Widths feel a bit inconsistent, with e.g. /M/R/a/m on the wide end and /G/H/L/T on the narrow end.
    • /a feels a bit droopy, foot of /t timid, head of /f short.
    • Serif on /7 feels out of character to me.
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 632
    edited January 17
    3 and probably 5 are too narrow. Drop the serif on 7. Maybe Q's tail should have perpendicular rather than horizontal terminals. 
  • Ori Ben-DorOri Ben-Dor Posts: 125
    also:
    /u is too wide (and maybe /v too narrow)
    /1 could use some overshooting (upwards)
    /G would probably look nicer if its north-east end bent a little less (or you could try moving the top extreme to the left)
    bottom half of /3 looks too small (try pulling the bottom end to the left, leaving the top end at the same place)
  • Thanks very much everyone, those suggestions are very useful. I’ll try out your suggestions and then will post another proof.

    @Christian Thalmann Thanks for the point about loose lowercase spacing causing trouble at small sizes. I’ll try tightening it. Though, when I said that it displays poorly at small sizes, I was referring to /a /e and /s being too dark or dense. Did you notice that as well? It could just be that my printer does not have good quality, but I don’t think so.

  • Stephen BenedictStephen Benedict Posts: 11
    edited January 18
    @Christian Thalmann I forgot to respond to your question:

    Does the stroke width oscillate in a quadrupole pattern, i.e. become broader in the diagonals, in the round strokes?

    You may be right, though I have not done it intentionally. In this case, should that be something I should watch out for, e.g., does it create poor readability? In the diagonal portions of round strokes, I have only adjusted them to look optically pleasing to me.

    @Ori Ben-Dor

    /u is too wide (and maybe /v too narrow)

    Currently /u is just an inverted /n so the problem might be that /n is too wide (I’ll check). But /v definitely needs to be wider. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • Thierry BlancpainThierry Blancpain Posts: 158
    edited January 18
    The /u generally needs to be a bit narrower than the /n to look the same width. Visually speaking, whitespace that’s open to the top looks larger to us than whitespace that’s open to the bottom.
  • Stephen BenedictStephen Benedict Posts: 11
    edited January 18
    @Thierry Blancpain Thanks, that’s very helpful and makes sense. Just before you commented, I reviewed the pages on designing the /u in Designing Type by Cheng, and I noticed that a number of the examples were wider than the /n – but no explanation – so your comment was very welcome.
  • I rather like its flavor and its backstory. 
    +1!

    My two cents:

    Proportions:
    Uppercase letters would need more attention since many of the letters look quite narrow, taking the lowercase letters as reference*. It could a good idea to include a block of text set in all caps so you can assess it properly. Another nice test is setting all cap letters in sentence case words (for instance, city or country names) so you can check the relationship between UC and LC letters. 

    */A/C/D/G/H/L/O/T/V and /W/Z seem wide

    Overall, LC proportions look good to me, but I noticed that the /n is wide compared to the /o. Try to look at the white space inside the letters and you'll notice that it could be more balanced. I'd make the /n (and similar letters) narrower since you want less generous proportions (in comparison to Trio Grotesk) . Also, /e looks quite circular, while /o is more condensed. I'd match these two too. /r is very wide and /v/y too narrow.

    Other details:
    -- Inverted apex of /M and corners of /Z/z do not fit to the rest of the design, I'd try to match /V/v/seven
    -- Spurs of /a/g/m/n/p/q could be more refined. It looks like an automatic rounding was applied... I'd expect more tension and a smaller radius there.
    -- /A/V/W: it looks quite dark where the diagonals meet. On the other hand, in and out strokes look feeble. lowercase /v looks more confident in this regard.
    -- /P bowl looks small, I'd make it bigger (y-direction only) 
    -- /G I'd make the mid bar lower and longer.
    -- /Y: Top part looks small to me. 
    -- /j: hook looks a bit heavy perhaps.
  • Stephen BenedictStephen Benedict Posts: 11
    edited January 22
    @Raphael Saraiva Thanks very much for the tips. Every tip was helpful. Especially about the spurs (those were awful). I’ve tried to address them in this latest proof.

    To everyone, I have tried applying your suggestions, and attached is the updated proof. Still rough around the edges, but better maybe.

    Rafael, you might notice that I didn’t follow your suggestion to reduce the width of the /r. My reasoning behind that is to keep the character widths somewhat similar to each other to recall a monospaced typewriter font. Though obviously, the /P, /I, /j, /l and a few others are significantly narrower than the rest, but increasing their widths didn’t seem to look nice, while I like the /r in its wide form. However, I know that sometimes one likes something merely because one has been seeing it for a while, so if the /r still sticks out to you in this latest proof, please let me know, for I’ll look at it again.





  • Much better! I like the monospacw kind of feel your getting. The diagonal in N, and the middle two diagonals in w and W look a little too dark, though it might just be the thick joint at the top that is to blame. I'm not sure about 'a'. I think the curve in the middle part should either be more visible, or just not there at all. The top diagonal in k and K looks too dark. The horizontal bars in f t and z could probably go a bit thinnner. The S looks a bit weak. The lowercase s is much better, has the right amount of quirkyness I think, so you might use that as a guideline for the cap S. Not sure about G. Have you tried different structures? The dots on i and j could maybe go a bit higher. The bar in A could go lower/thinner I think. Anyway, good luck and keep going!
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 913
    edited January 22
    I agree with those who said this has a nice flavor. Do make sure polishing it up doesn't end up neutering that.

    About the vertical proportions: I like how the ascenders are long. However the "g", "j" and "y" are going to very different depths; I would use that of the "g" for all of them. Now, if you're actually going for variable lengths for the extenders, that's a pretty brave move, but should probably apply to all of them (I mean even the straight ones).

    BTW your overshoot amounts are inconsistent (and missing in the "f" and "g"). The overshoot might also be a bit too modest, which makes this design more suitable for larger sizes; for smaller sizes more overshoot would help.

    Lastly, I would make the tittles more prominent (especially considering your tall ascenders) and that huge beak on the "r" will give you a lot of spacing trouble...
  • Sidebearings need work, btw. Left sidebearing of "f" and right sidebearing of "j" are both much too large, relative to your other letters.

    Is your sample letterspaced? If so, that makes it hard to judge anything else about spacing. A sample of words would also be handy.
  • Hey Stephen,

    I'd say the /r stands out even considering your design decision. Maybe it could afford to be narrower yet keeping the original idea. But it'd make sense to apply the same feature to other narrow letters, such /f/t/j and possibly /i (adding a short horizontal stroke on the top left side).

    The relationship between /n/o is still unbalanced imo... The counter of the /n has more white. Set 'nonono' or 'monopollino' at a large size on your screen to double check that.

    On the caps, horizontal strokes look heavy, are you using the same width of the vertical strokes?





  • Jasper, Hrant, Thomas, and Rafael, thanks very much again for the kind words and advice. I just don’t have the trained eyes yet so your criticisms are really appreciated. Here’s is another proof with I think all of your suggestions implemented.

    Jasper:
    The S looks a bit weak. The lowercase s is much better, has the right amount of quirkyness I think, so you might use that as a guideline for the cap S.
    Thanks for seeing that. That /S was very boring. I’ve changed it to look like the /s.

    Not sure about G. Have you tried different structures?
    Thanks for pointing this out, since it was very much out of character. I’ve changed the structure to what I think matches the rest better.

    Hrant:
    About the vertical proportions: I like how the ascenders are long. However the "g", "j" and "y" are going to very different depths; I would use that of the "g" for all of them. Now, if you're actually going for variable lengths for the extenders, that's a pretty brave move, but should probably apply to all of them (I mean even the straight ones).
    No courage involved; only negligence. They have all been extended (and overshoots added) to match the /g.

    Thomas:
    Is your sample letterspaced? If so, that makes it hard to judge anything else about spacing. A sample of words would also be handy.
    It is not letterspaced, but may look that way just because the sidebearings aren’t very good. But I’ve also purposely given large sidebearings to lighten the color of the text for the monospaced typewriter look, so that could be the reason too.

    I’ve adjusted the sidebearings again and added sample words to the proof. I reduced the /j right sidebearing slightly, but since the book I have says it should be the same as the left (which is supposed to be same as the /n), I’m wondering if it’s only a problem in the unrealistic alphabetical sequence it appears in. So let me know if you still think there’s too much on the right in the word setting on page 5.

    Rafael:
    On the caps, horizontal strokes look heavy, are you using the same width of the vertical strokes?
    They were thinner than the verticals, but not enough. They have been further reduced in this latest proof.

    P.S., Rafael and Hrant, you were right again: the /r looks better with a shorter beak. I like the /f/t/j and /i as they are, so hopefully this narrower /r fits in with them. It might need to be reduced further, but I have to look at it for some more time.



  • At moderate text sizes the spacing feels too loose--almost seems like a font for a children's learn-to-read book. 
    (At the smallest sizes that spaciousness works better.)
    Your wordspace is too wide too.
  • Make sure you measure the sidebearings of the j from the stem. The dot or the descending part don't really count for the spacing.
  • I start from counting from the stem, but then fudge, depending on a number of things. And any looseness I introduce to one side of a glyph I propagate half of it to the other side.
  • The round and diagonal sidebearings are far too large. Also, sidebearings for right side of f, left side of j are too large.


  • On a grotesque with these proportions, I'd expect your round sidebearings to be around 5/8 to 2/3 of the straight sidebearings, approximately.
  • Thanks again. I didn’t realize that negative sidebearings, such as you end up with for the /j and /f if you measure from the stem, is acceptable, or even possible. Here is another proof with spacing tightened generally and for the specific forms you pointed out. Let me know what you think.

    Now that everything has been tightened, /ff and /ft need ligatures, but spacing needs to be finished before those can be made, so please ignore those little bits of unsightliness...
  • After looking at it more, I think it is a bit too tight, but I think at least the spacing proportions are better than before so any feedback on that I would be grateful for. Also, I just realized that I forgot to adjust the sidebearings of the numbers when I adjusted the rest, so please try to ignore that bit of unsightliness as well...
  • Yes, negative sidebearings are possible, and often needed for letters such as f and j. I suggest you space the f from the crossbar... still could trim more space on the right.

    o looks to have more space on the right than the left?

    VW is spaced more tightly than vw (and their friends)

    I have no problem with overall looser spacing, btw. Just looking for consistency.
  • Thomas, thanks again. /o has the same amount of space on both sides so perhaps it is a PDF rendering problem. Here is another proof with your suggested corrections, along with some other spacing adjustments.

    I’ll keep working on this. In any case, I think I’ve asked of all of you all that can properly be asked, so the rest of the work I must do myself little by little.

    Thank you very much everyone for helping me into the right direction. I will see how this goes.

    Stephen
  • Q's tail looks oddly placed and Yuan's crossbars are not centered. Plans for weights/italics?
  • Considering that letters as a whole have a different "average" shape on their left versus right, an "o" with unequal sidebearings might actually make sense.
  • Thanks Jasper for catching those. The yuan character is made up of a Y component so I think the former got misaligned when I changed the latter’s sidebearings. The tail of the Q definitely needs work too. I will work on those today.

    Regarding weights and italics, I think it would be nice to have at least a bold weight and an italic, but it depends on if this font proves useful to more people than myself, which was my hope in making it, and also because the one project I have in mind to use this for only needs the regular weight. So I’m thinking of putting this single weight up for sale somewhere and/or just seeing what general interest there is it, and if there’s some interest then I might try adding other weights and styles.

  • Isn't your /g incongruent with /d /b /p /q? I also get the impression /2 and /7 are falling left. Your inverted question mark is mirrored, while it should be rotated.
  • Adam, thanks for taking a look at it. You’re right. The bowl of the g is shaped too differently than the q and such. The spur might be able to be unified as well.

    Thanks for spotting the incorrect inverted question mark. And yes, that 2 also needs work... Since posting the above proof I’ve already been working at it, but your comment is helpful since it’s still in progress. I’ll take a closer look at the 7 too.

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