Nirosta, a display face


I'm a designer learning type design right now, and I'd love some critique on my first typeface, an art deco-looking display face called Nirosta. I can sense that there's plenty wrong with it, but I need some help seeing what all the problems are. (I'd like to keep fiddling around with it, plus start another one soon.)

In your eyes, what are the main problems here?


  • Stephen Coles
    Stephen Coles Posts: 1,001
    edited March 2016
    Welcome, Lindsay!

    It appears that your horizontal strokes are the same mathematical weight as the vertical strokes. This makes them appear heavier. You’ll want to lighten those if you want even strokes throughout.

    The ‘M’ is far too wide. Perhaps you pulled those diagonals from the ‘N’. Consider the ‘V’ angles instead.
  • Craig Eliason
    Craig Eliason Posts: 1,417
    On the M, consider thin thick thin thick instead of thin thick thick thin too 
  • Simon Cozens
    I'm not yet at the point of being able to trust my own eyes, so think of these as questions rather than suggestions. Besides if I'm wrong I'm sure someone will correct me.

    I'm not sure about the bar of the /G - no other horizontals are doubled.

    The /4 shape strikes me as odd - the square, serifed form doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the characters, but that might just be me.

    Is the /Y right or would it look better with reversed stress as per /V/W/X? 

    To me it looks like there's too much overshoot on the /C and /G.

    Next I would want to make some words and see how the spacing looks.

  • Ray Larabie
    Ray Larabie Posts: 1,400
    With Art Deco geometric typefaces there's a danger of making the same font someone else has already made so it pays to keep it weird. How about employing the opposite strategy for your MN? Rather than trying to narrow the The wide MN, you could try widening the DEFHP until the MN harmonizes and makes a more obvious wise/narrow effect. An effect occasionally seen in Art Deco display lettering. I'm not sure about T and L...they might be better if they stay narrow.
  • James Puckett
    James Puckett Posts: 1,979
    I could make a long list of what needs fixing but that’s not really helping you. What you need to do is draw a similar but generic art deco font using old type or lettering as reference. Once that font works take what you’ve learned and use it to fix this one.
  • María Ramos
    I type design even geometric designs are full of optical corrections for getting a good balance in the shapes and make the proportions work. Just to mention some conventions, the upper bowl of B smaller than the bottom one, the upper horizontal of E shorter than the bottom one and the middle one even shorter, the middle horizontal in F lower than the one in the E and shorter that the upper one, the bowl in P bigger than the one in R. 
    There are some good references that can help you to understand better all of this, like "Shaping text" of Jan Middendorp. You can also look at how other typefaces deal with the proportions, not necessarily designs similar to yours. You can learn a lot looking at good references. Hope this is helpful.
  • Stephen Coles
    Stephen Coles Posts: 1,001
    Oops, I just noticed that my link on “appear” didn’t work. Fixed it. It’s an article about some of those optical corrections María mentioned.
  • Thank you everyone! This is all so helpful.
  • Andreas Stötzner
    1st, I decisively back what James Puckett says.

    2nd, Welcome Lindsey, it seems you’ve got a long road to go ahead of you.

    3rd, before bothering with single details, a more general remark of advice seems to be called for here and now.
    How far did you go by now with studying type design basicly? Do you think you have a secured feeling about how an alphabet design system works? Do you think you have a command of basic lettering skills? Do you think you have a sufficient grasp of Art Déco shaping fancies? Think twice …

    The design shown in your Pdf reveals too many flaws to be talked about in extenso at this stage. Waste of time.

    My suggestion: Put it aside for a while and turn to study type. Turn to old book spreads or shopfronts or Art Déco posters; sketch or draw or write script styles and letterforms which you encounter in real life. Surely you have a tutor in type … stick to what he recommends to you. Then, after a while, get back to your design idea. And see what the journey was good for …

    good luck
  • Ray Larabie
    Ray Larabie Posts: 1,400
    One of the hallmarks of Art Deco letting is how ludicrous it can get. I recommend looking up early piano sheet music covers, early Vogue, posters, etc. Not to copy ideas (okay, maybe) but to see how designers were willing to sacrifice legibility and common sense to execute creative visual tricks. We already have more than enough sensible Art Deco fonts.

    I think this type of project is the best way to familiarize yourself with the tools of the trade. A lot of new designers start off by attempting a text font with italics, small caps, extensive language coverage and a range of weights. It's like building a house before you've attempted a spice rack.
  • I do think the advice to start by copying some older references to learn is my best next step. And I would agree I have a long way to go—I've been a designer/worked with type for about 6 years now, but I've only realized I'm interested in learning to design type in the past few months.

    I don't have a tutor but I'm reading Karen Cheng's book Designing Type and also the Walter Tracy one, Letters of Credit, right now. That's why all of this feedback is invaluable to me. So—thank you everyone!
  • Dyana Weissman
    I think it's a good start! I'm interested to see where it will go. I love Art Deco.

    All the studying in the world won't do as much for you as testing letters in words. That way, you'll be able to see where a lot of the problems are. 

    I haven't read Karen Cheng's book, so I can't vouch for or against it, but I do think Walter Tracy is a decent start. If you want books, I suggest you check out Inside Paragraphs by @cyrus highsmith. Although it's focused on typography rather than type design, it is from a type designer's POV. 

    Always, always space as you draw. Test your letters in nonsense strings, trying to get them to work with each other, between straights (H, n) and rounds (O, o).