it is my pleasure to introduce myself with my first, and truly humbling, attempt at designing a typeface. In the past I have always been drawn to letter shapes and practiced calligraphy on and off for years. In the past I have worked as interface designer and web developer (feel free to check my portfolio
), so I have had a lot of contact with typography, however, so far not on such a macro level. Currently I am doing a MA in New Media at the Media Lab Helsinki, so this gives me time to indulge in such a demanding learning project as this.Check previewsheet.pdf
This yet to be named typeface started mostly out of interest in exploring how seriffed letters are constructed and how the overall process of designing a typeface works. Some inspiration came from the predominant slab serif trend, but my professor also kindly pointed me to Scotch typefaces. All in all, though, I could not say (or at least name) any particular clear inspiration.
Over time the use I imagined this typeface for has developed to be somewhat of a text face for medium length texts, possibly with a focus on screen publication (however, I am unsure if that particular "aim" is really met or evident in any way). In terms of progress I have drawn and tweaked the roman alphabet for a while now, added punctuation and some numerals, and (not shown so far) played around with diacritics. Metrics and kerning (last two pages of the PDF) are still very rough - I am learning the technical aspects still, as well as struggling to implement my design choices coherently.
Before jumping on to cursive (which I have some sketches for) or trying bolder versions I wanted to refine this font still by exposing it, and myself, to some criticism from more experienced designers. This can range from detail aspects to the overall impression. As a learner, I would really like to hear your reasonings and how to approach solving issues you might point out.
Also some concrete questions:
Is hinting a thing still, and should I be planning on hinting the font?
I know webfonts, and CSS, start supporting open type features. But how about open type kerning, is that an "automatic" standard in modern webfont formats when generating them from a open type source?
But most importantly, your opinions on this typeface design so far? What to improve, where are problems, and can you recommend or point me to similar typeface references?
For hinting, see http://typedrawers.com/discussion/1143/how-to-use-ttfautohint#latest
Yes, OT kerning is mostly available in browsers, but not always automatic - see http://caniuse.com/#search=kern - and you need old KERN tables for Office.
I’m not in favor of taking existing typefaces as direct points of reference or even as templates. I know that this is happening on a large scale nowadays –if only because of the open-source fonts that one is allowed to tweak– and this explains why youngsters like the ones on this forum develop complete type families in a mere jiffy. TBH, I don’t like it. It hampers the development of what I believe is the most important aspect of type design: the personal idiom. If one looks at Michael Harvey’s DTL Unico or Elmo van Slingerland’s DTL Dorian, then one sees unique hands that are the result of a development and reﬁnement by practicing many, many years. These typefaces were completely drawn analogically and manually digitized.
Normally I would agree with Dave, but the nineteenth-century typefaces are the result of the ﬂexible-pointed-pen inspired equalizing of widths. One can tweak the broad-nib model as represented in the LeMo app, but that will make these matters not more clear. Besides the contrast and contrast-ﬂow aspects, the leveling of widths of the nineteenth-century typefaces was a good reason to go back to the ﬁfteenth-century origins of roman type. For understanding that model the LeMo app is a perfect tool.
To be honest, for me this would need some more extra's and some more unique treatment of glyphs to make it interesting enough as a new typeface. But as a first typeface I have to say you did a very nice job (imho). Good work!
The thing that stood out to me the most in your specimen is the kerning. That needs some more work - it seems you went a little overboard kerning some pairs. For example /AV and /AW are really close to each other (as are /AC /PA etc etc). And in the sample text the numbers and punctuation marks also seem too close to each other. In some cases glyphs seem to touch or overlap the next ones, which is too close for a standard tracking.
I would go over those again and take some more distance, see which ones are too close. Use more sample text, make prints, using several font sizes, take a marker and point them out for yourself, and then go back to the kerning later. This takes time! I've often overdone kerning myself before and it's a big job moving back and forward all the time, but worth it.
Focus on the thicks and thins. Look at the relationships between these, across letters, and settle on something consistent. Stems, diagonals, crossbars. Look at the letters, both in their intended use/size, and huge, printed, around 120 pt.
Consider your treatment of the serifs in /E /F and /T and how they relate to similar terminals, such as /C /Z /f and /r, etc.
Think about the spacing at the same time. Look for a good rhythm of negative space. Some letters can't be helped in any typeface, such as the /L. Others can, for example here, the /K and the /j. For the lowercase, space with the /n and not the /h.
I also agree, this is a very good start for a first typeface.
IMHO that is only true if one purely looks for an equilibrium of white space (or red in the image below):
Those who are familiar with my research, know my ideas about the role of the stem interval for the standardization and systematization of the capitals in roman type by the early punchcutters, as I also describe in my article for The Eternal Letter. From that perspective the width of the L is forced into the pattern of the stem interval of the lowercase. Present-day type designers can do this by the eye because of their conditioning with the archetypal models.
The example below has been made with DTL Haarlemmer. I did not change the proportions of the original capitals from the brilliant hand of Jan van Krimpen.
I can't agree with that — for me, this form doesn't read as a /Y, it stands out as a single outlier, and it feels forced. The tail neither rests on the descender line, nor does it hang or swing freely. I understand the urge to be creative, but don't spoil what is meant as a text font with one incompatible letter. I'd recommend making a more traditional /Y for your default text cut and expanding the existing /Y into a whole stylistic set of matching «creative» caps to make it feel less like an outsider.
Among the lowercase, /g strikes me as the letter most in need of overhauling. The descender feels highly compressed and sideways.
A totally normal impulse. We've all done a little kerning here and there for testing purposes.
It wasn't specifically what I had in mind, but that is a good observation. To expand on what I was saying, think about all the crossbars as a group. Think about all the diagonals as a group, but also how they relate to the stems, are they too thick? Too thin? What about the thin parts of the rounds versus the thin parts of the straight characters?
Those are tricky questions. On one hand, a text font for screen is often more readable with wide counters. This font is slightly condensed, in contrast to that notion.
It is important to make the distinction early on, how the typeface is going to be used (small vs large especially) because that is going to determine how it is tested, designed, spaced, and kerned.
But I also believe in allowing an idea to grow in the direction it is naturally tending towards... so if you find this typeface is growing more towards a headline face, then you should treat it as such as soon as possible. On the other hand, it could be that exploring a condensed screen text face is an interesting experiment—it depends on what interests you, really.
About that /Y - what Christian said is partly what I meant too. If you are going with this lowercase-inspired uppercase, which is your own choice whether you'd want that or not, then I'd rather see some more choices like that in other glyphs too. Treating just one letter like that makes it stand out too much. Christian's suggestion of developing a set of stylistic alternates is a good one if you ask me, but you can also leave that for later of course And if you don't treat any of the glyphs unusually, that's fair enough too. For me it would become less interesting, but for general use / screen use that might be just the way to go.
The fact that one can judge aspects by the eye does not by deﬁnition imply that these aspects ﬁnd their origin purely in optical ones. How you look at harmonic and rhythmic aspects of type is for a large part the result of your conditioning. Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century descriptions of type-foundry practices put a lot of emphasis on the role of the eye. But perhaps it is a bit short-sighted to project these descriptions literally on the practice of the ﬁfteenth-century punch cutter without further investigation. Perhaps the standardization and systematization I measured in Renaissance type ﬁnd also its origin in technical matters that had to be solved by the engravers and goldsmiths that we now know of as punch cutters. Perhaps it is possible that later punch cutters could mostly rely on the eye because for them optical judgment took for granted the underlying patterns, almost without awareness. Perhaps it is possible that production methods of foundry type changed over the centuries, for example because precious metal like copper became more affordable.
And no, there is nothing wrong as such to investigate whether there is more than only the equilibrium of white space. And there is nothing wrong to investigate whether Renaissance patterning can be (additionally?) used for spacing too, or even for parametrized spacing like Lukas and Pablo do. And there is nothing wrong with countering my arguments with solidly-based other theories (which is not by deﬁnition the same as an opinion ;-) IMHO.
Please see some of the changes from the initial posting highlighted in below illustration.
And you can find the updated preview pdf here.
Let me try summarise my changes and thoughts behind them:
Also note I completely ditched any kerning I had played around with so far, and restarted on the metrics overall, so this will show in the example pdf text samples.
Curious to hear what you all have to say, and thanks for taking the time if you do.
Same for /g - although the distance between the top and bottom bowl seems rather small now.
I'm not completely sure about the new /s - maybe try something more in between the old and new version? Top seems small to me now in relation to the other letters. I do like the new /S better than the old one though.
/B /J /R and /Y are more in relation now and their curves seem improved.
Not too sure about the curved strokes of /V /W and their counterparts in /Z /K and /Y. At first glance the letters now seem to be falling over a bit to the left (/V and /W). Though that does give a bit of dynamic I guess, it doesn't feel right at the moment. Maybe the straight legs are better? Or maybe try curved legs on both sides?
I like your /at by the way. The /ampersand needs some work - it's longest leg (the diagonal stroke going from top left to bottom right) is too curvy / wobbly to my eye.
And again, as said before, very nice work for a first typeface dude!
After letting the typeface rest for a little I've made another push to get things into a more complete state. Now again, I would love your feedback, especially on diacritics and kerning / word image.
Here you can see a rough overview of the main characters:
Diacritics and ligatures preview:
- Tuned down the curvy /VWZvwz, but it's a lot more subtle now; removed it from the legs of /R and /kK
- Reworked figures, added oldstyle, tabular as well as fraction and sub- and superscript variations
- Filled in a lot of diacritics and other characters missing so far, supporting Adobe Latin 3 plus some miscellaneous characters (couldn't help myself, had to draw a capital ß)
- Done a lot of metrics and kerning work (phew, did I underestimate how much work that is, and how big leaps a typeface will take in that phase, in terms of readability)
And some figures:
But for the rest, you better check out the complete preview sheet, with text and metrics samples included: Preview sheet
Again, this is my first typeface, please don't be shy to point out even the most trivial seeming things - to your they might be, when for me they could be really insightful.
For further development I am planning 3-5 more weights and during kerning I've set my eyes on including a few more discretionary ligatures like /Th /Ch /st /ch. What I am currently undecided on is the italics. While I do have some sketches and vector try-outs, I feel I've not found the right vibe for it yet to go with this rather straight and serious face. This being my first typeface, I might leave it without italics for now.
As always, curious to hear what you make of this.
Thanks for your time, interest and insights
The closed bowl lowercase letters like /b/d/o/p/q/ all look too narrow.
I find the acute top serifs on /E/F/T/ distracting.
Top of the loop of /g/ should thicken as you have done, but the bottom horizontal part shouldn't.
The serif on the fives should probably go the other way. Fours are too dark.
Spine of /s/ (and maybe /S/ too) looks like it's thickest at the bottom right extremum, when it should be thickest along the diagonal in the middle.
Even though your stress is vertical, the outstroke of /c/ and /e/ could thin a little more slowly to keep them from looking weak.
Spacing in general looks quite tight to me.
/W/'s counters should be closer in size to each other.
The point I made about /c/e/ also holds true for /C/.
The way /a/ straightens out horizontally in the middle looks stiff.
Middle arms of /E/F/ look short/weak.
While I also agree with your reminder to not rush ahead, the problem with beginners like myself is that it's not that we don't want to polish the basics more, but that it's all about learning to see where things are off still. So again, thank you for your very concrete remarks.
Ironically, I have worked more on another typeface project and generally studied more about type design. Coming back to this now with a tiny bit more experience (I'm still a beginner, I kid myself not ) it is refreshing to try my hand anew at a couple of the things I was still struggling with earlier, like... drawing an S
The updated preview is a bit reduced from previous samples; in retrospect I see I rushed things, so now this is more down to basics. I fine tuned many glyphs, redid the metrics, then redid the metrics again, ignored kerning for now and fixed some inconsistencies. Both in spacing and in shapes I let go of the condensed (*coff* crammed) tendencies. Most of the work since the last preview has gone into the shapes of romans and capitals.
Looking back at my initial post (and even further at my early design files and sketches) this already has come a looong way (and by this, I suppose I really mean my understanding of designing type), thanks in many ways to the insights you shared.
Something in particular that I've been wondering about is the proportions of O and other round caps such as G P, as well as the relation of o to pqbd; In the caps I wonder if my round characters are still a tad to slim (maybe aside from D), whereas with the lowercase I somehow can't figure out how to visually balance the bowls of the mentioned round chars to appear similar - or if they even should.
As always, I am very curious to read what you folks make of the latest version.
New preview with more paragraph text.
Feedback and opinions welcome
/Q/ tail could be less shy. /s/ is top heavy. Bottom serifs of /S/s/ seem heavy. /g/ ear too puny. I'd expect a serif on the tail of /y/.
Stress patterns on the figures are unconventional (e.g. thin horizontals on /2/3/5/7/). Widths of figures also seem all over the place.
Anyhow, I've done my MA thesis (also a typeface family) in the meantime, and hopefully learned a thing or two. Returning to this project is quite eye-opening, and hopefully progress in the updated version is visible mostly in quality, albeit it has also considerably grown in quantity. I've debated posting updates in this thread, but thought since much of the design has been previously "out in the open" here all the way back to its crude beginnings it might be interesting to hear how you folks think it is coming along.
The additions since my last post are quite extensive, and I've tried expanding the design to three masters for interpolating intermediary weights, as well as designed italics. Although less refined I'm also exploring some ideas for a sort of related display cut with a more limited charset.
What troubles me the most at the moment is how to get especially the light to not appear to condensed. Diacritics and numbers are something I repeatedly keep redrawing, so they are also lacking some consistency at the moment. Another point that has been keeping me thinking is how to give the italic a softer touch without wandering too far from the roman; for example I have tried slightly different stroke terminations as well as some curvature here and there that is not necessarily an evident consequence from the regular.
New preview link. Cheers