Aspects of quality for a typeface

I've been thinking on this today, and I've quickly written up a few things that I find to be the main points that make a typeface of quality. I would love to know if anyone has something to add to this list. 

I feel like I lose site of a lot of these overarching themes when I'm in drawing mode, so I'm trying to make a comprehensive list of things to think about so I can constantly be assessing them while I'm drawing. Any additional thoughts would be appreciated!

  • concept 
    • does it solve a problem? 
    • who will use it? 
    • why are you making it?
  • quality of drawing
    • individual glyphs are drawn well
  • spacing
    • do the negative and positive shapes harmonize with each other?
  • features
    • does it have interesting alternates & ligatures?
  • expansiveness
    • How many weights does it have? 
    • does it have alternate styles?


  • Glyph set coverage
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 624
    Does it need a gimmick?

    To attract the desired audience a typeface can benefit from fleurons, dingbats, symbol sets.
    • Quality and consistency of form (in individual glyphs and throughout the glyph set).
  • Nice @Andreas Stötzner. Thanks for the thoughts.
  • I suppose it goes under aforementioned quality of drawing, but also important is awareness of and adjustments for optical illusions (horizontal vs. diagonal vs. vertical thicknesses, overshoots, x-offsets, etc.). 
  • >>Ligatures (esp. ones that are active by default) can do more harm than good if they are added to designs that don’t really need them.<<

    I concur.
  • One factor I would like to emphasise is technical quality.

    This includes the correct working of all features the designer has built into a font. The nicest typeface is not worth much when it comes in a font that does not do what it is supposed to do. I often find that even seemingly simple features, such as small caps, do not work properly, presumably due to insufficient testing (here is an example I stumbled upon today). This problem is exacerbated by a growing number of characters and features, some of which only seem to be added for marketing purposes. In the worst case, you end up with a feature that nobody needs or uses, but that nobody would want to use anyway, given that it does not work the way it should. In any case, I agree with what others have said: The sheer number of features does not say much about the quality of a typeface or font. Features and alternates have to be evaluated in terms of aesthetic necessity, accessibility and technical functioning.
  • (Christopher: it's not the site. If you go to and enable Small Caps, you can see all of their fonts. Some of them have small caps and the same problem. One has small caps and does not have this problem!)
  • (Christopher: it's not the site. If you go to and enable Small Caps, you can see all of their fonts. Some of them have small caps and the same problem. One has small caps and does not have this problem!)
    Dank je wel, Theunis. I was pretty sure it was not the site, but I did not have the time to check, so I mentioned both possibilities in my tweet. Also, I think that the responsibility to do some quality control lies both with the foundry and the distributor, so I thought both could use a heads-up.
  • Small capitals: I still believe that putting them in a seperate font is more sensible, anyway. Saves me a bunch of extra work, for the font user it is equally comfortable or even more handy. And it avoids that stupid case when it also transforms the first Capital letter of a name (which I mark in order to change ist to sc.) which is annoying, of course.

    As I said earlier, features are overrated by many.

  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,139
    What Mark said.
    I use <command shift h> in InDesign—very clever and useful, and can even be executed with one hand.
  • ybaggarybaggar Posts: 56
    edited August 15
    Most great typefaces don't solve problems, they convey something.
    If you really need the tired problem-solving narrative, then let's say good typeface solve the problem of "I need a typeface that looks, feels, evokes X".
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,139
    I don’t consider quality as a degree of excellence, but as a distinctive characteristic.

    For retail typefaces, I always try to create an emergent quality, something new and different, starting with a unique concept and then working it out it as I craft the fonts.

    Whether the end result will have any utility is not wholly my responsibility, but is also determined by what typographers can contribute when they work with the fonts—which is also emergent.

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