Why is my font ugly

Hi guys, I'm working on a sans font made to go with a font of mine called Larkspur.

It's really ugly and i don't know why. I cant get the shape of the bowls right, especially in bdpq.

I know that the weight is a touch dark for a text font, I'm planning on interpolating it with the light weight to make the regular style.

Let me know if you have any input, thanks :) 


  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 1,349
    edited April 22
    Well at least you're on the right track by admitting it!  :-/
    Most people get stuck because they're too afraid to admit that.

    I agree with Ray that it needs more consistency, but don't go too far with that, because a text font needs formal contrast. This being a sans it needs even more of that.

    I actually think the b/d/p/q are fine (except for the clotting in the corners of b/q). The worst offender is the "c". One level below are "a", "e", "s" and "x". The binocular "g"... The hardest letter in the Latin alphabet...  Don't actually try to make it too happy, for one thing it has to feel slightly vertically cramped (see below) for the whole to click. I would consider an open bottom, maybe even the Kock form (which some people start off hating, but end up loving).

    The caps are in better shape. The "B" needs stronger horizontals to not look saggy. BTW if you're descending the "Q", you might let the "J" descend too, which is helpful in two ways.

    But before you tweak anything, fix the vertical proportions: the descenders and ascenders are the same size, which is against how the Latin alphabet uses the vertical space; the ascenders should be longer in a text face. Since your caps are already nicely shorter than the ascenders I might not want to make the ascenders longer (although your x-height is rather large for a text face, so maybe) so consider making the descenders shorter. Would the "g" have more problems? Well, it can't be a primadonna dictating things and making the font suffer.

    Darkish text fonts are most welcome in my book! Well, when I write my book...
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 341
    It may need some slight improvement, but I don't think it's ugly, even as is. The sans-serif typefaces before Franklin Gothic and News Gothic: those were ugly. But then Franklin Gothic and News Gothic set a new standard, and Venus and Helvetica went even further.
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 325
    edited April 23
    For vector hygiene,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LR-CG5eB3nQ
    For everything else, study well established fonts and do extensive reading to understand what you are looking at. Use the search option of this TypeDrawers board to learn what books to read, there are several topics by newcomers about that.

  • To add to the above comments: Take a moment and look at these (boring) classics and with each one try to find as many things that differ or are similar in your font. You might notice that those things that are different to your font in each one make that comparison design more coherent in its own right. And reversely, those are pointers to what induces stylistic restlessness in your design.

    Probably needless to say that I am not encouraging you to use any of those as reference or direction to take your font, but as tools to analyze your design.
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 325
    look at these (boring) classics
    Absolutely agree!!
  • I don’t. Rotis is one of the least boring classics there is. Risky design choices pulled off with nonchalance. Instantly recognizable. 
  • I don’t. Rotis is one of the least boring classics there is. Risky design choices pulled off with nonchalance. Instantly recognizable. 
    Indeed, and it's unduly maligned.
    Its Semi-Serif cut is nothing short of a gleaming warrior-priest.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,403
    Much as I dislike Rotis, I would never call it boring. (I might not call it a classic, either, but that’s a tougher call.)
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 341
    edited April 25
    I wouldn't go as far as to say I dislike Rotis, in the sense that I don't mind if I read things where others used it. I wouldnt be inclined to use it myself, although I recognize it as one of the typefaces that has inspired the typographic design sensibility prevalent in the 1990s and beyond.

    So apparently a lot of people do like it.

    As far as the original poster's design: I think I now understand the criticisms the type design experts here have made. The capital letters look like Akzidenz Grotesk. The lowercase g looks like it belongs in Gill Sans. The letters bdpq, although they avoid mirror-symmetry, which could be a good thing for a certain application I'll decline to name, don't seem to belong with anything.

    So I can understand it being criticized as a Helvetica wannabe. But it is not ugly. It's already managed to avoid ugly, so it is a good start.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 341
    Further: I like the lowercase j.

    If one takes out bdpq, g, and j, the other lower-case letters remind me, if anything, of News Gothic rather than Helvetica or Univers. Except that the tail on the a is a bit long and prominent for that.

    So one has an upper-case that is like Akzidenz-Grotesk, and a lower-case that is mostly like News Gothic, but too eclectic in some of the letters.

    I think that your skills in drawing the individual letters are clearly at a professional level, so the issue is not there. Instead, at the current stage of your development, I now think this sage advice from a great type designer is what you must assimilate:

    A good typeface is not a collection of beautiful letters; it is a beautiful collection of letters.
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 325
    look at these (boring) classics
    Absolutely agree!!
    I agree with the suggested action. No comment on adjectives.
  • Nathan ZimetNathan Zimet Posts: 54
    Thank you for all the comments i really appreciate it : )

    Redrew a bunch of the letters from scratch this time with open counters. I tried to make it more consistent overall.

    Is this a step in the right direction or is it too bland? I will change the /J i know its ugly

    I really liked the original /c but i cant figure out how to get that idea into the rest of the alphabet. :/ ill try some more tests with it.

  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 867
    Getting better. Keep working on f as it's looking flared at the end compared to c and a. Lowercase t feels dark on the bottom. See if you can get the lowercase s to inherit a similar thick/thin character from the capital S. Compare the strokes of V,W,w to A,K,k. They don't have to match but I think V,W,w looks dramatically thinner. Lowercase v looks good. X is the hardest letter: keep working on it.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 341
    edited May 2
    Although I personally am not a fan of the style of sans-serif typeface it has now become (I perceive the current version as being a humanist sans-serif, a lot like Gill Sans), never the less this is a great improvement because now all the letters seem to belong together according to a single theme, so the major problem of the original has been solved.
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 829
    Joins at bottom left of /b/ and top right of /q/, with their small notches, look clunky. The other lowercase joins are working better.
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 1,349
    Your ascenders/descenders are of various heights/depths.
  • André SimardAndré Simard Posts: 136
    edited May 2
    I would not say “ugly” because it's not. You have to start somewhere and what you've done so far could just only be improve. There is some interesting book to read on to understand how some letters (glyph) get in relation one each other. I think about the one by Karen Cheng, How to desgin typeface. For me that book has been a basic source for my first typeface. Keep going.
  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,320
    See if you can get the lowercase s to inherit a similar thick/thin character from the capital S.
    Shape-wise, though, I think /s/ is superior to /S/. The latter has a strong downward diagonal trend that looks at odds with the rest of the typeface. Maybe carry some of the balance of /s/ over into /S/?
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 341
    Actually, although I do think the letters now all have a unified theme, that theme seems to be a blend of the humanist sans-serif style, and the specific geometric sans-serif typeface Futura; its influence is also visible.
  • Cory MaylettCory Maylett Posts: 131
    edited May 5
    Just a few subjective observations. The typeface is definitely not "ugly," but, in my opinion, might benefit from a few tweaks. I'm not entirely sure that your revised version doesn't introduce nearly as many problems as it solves.
    • The ends of the rounded open glyphs seem to widen or flare. It could be an optical illusion, but still should be addressed.
    • The angle at which the Q's tail connects to the main body is a bit shallow and awkward.
    • Connection points where the bowls of b, d, p & q meet their verticals are inconsistent in thickness, angle and style. If they're that way on purpose, there should be a more obvious reason since they seems stuck in that middle ground of me not knowing if it's a mistake or on purpose.
    • Why is there a slight slant to the x?
    • The arm of the r has a bit of a kink that's present nowhere else in the font.
    • Bottom open curve of e stretches out a bit too much. The top of the a has a similar, but lesser problem. Perhaps it's more a matter of the relationship of the curve to the stretching.
    • Strokes on z are too thin. The same could be said about certain aspects of the g, v, w, x and y too.
    • Ascender heights are uneven.
  • Nathan ZimetNathan Zimet Posts: 54
    Hi. I tried to follow all of your feedback.
    I really appreciate everyone who responded. I'm working to see if I can keep a little bit of the flared terminals.
    I also reworked some of the cap proportions and tightened the spacing.

  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 1,349
    You vertical proportions are almost there. The overshoots at the bottoms of "g", "j" and "y" are a bit more than elsewhere (like in the "o") and the "f" needs to overshoot.
  • Nathan ZimetNathan Zimet Posts: 54

    Do either of these look good?
  • Hrant H. PapazianHrant H. Papazian Posts: 1,349
    edited May 14
    Looking at the top one (which I prefer, and has fewer technical issues):

    The "e" has a pretty interesting character.
    The "z" is too wide.
    The "f" and "y" are flaring at the terminals a bit.

    Your ascenders are equal to the descenders, which is anti-text (because it's potentially wasteful of the vertical space). Considering that the "f" and the tittles are overshooting the flat ascenders too much (compared to your overshoot in general) I would simply raise the "b", "d", "h", "k" and "l" just a bit to match.
  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,320
    Bottom works better IMHO.
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