Uptown Sans Critique

Hello! 

I'd like some feedback on this typeface. It's a unicase display sans serif which I'm intending for digital use.

This typeface likes to get a little weird. It's inspired by the works of Eric Carle, Saul Bass, and Jim Flora. I wanted to make something that would fit well in a fun context (maybe a taco bar's identity or lighthearted Keynote typeface).

I made it because I love typography and wanted to understand type design a bit better. I also wanted to make something which expressed myself in an unusual, yet fun way.

My experience: I'm a UX/product designer who studied typography a bit in college. I read Karen Cheng's Designing Type extensively. Consider me a humble noob.

I'm hoping to release this commercially, but it's okay if I don't make any money (it is my first commercial typeface after all). I made this by sketching, using Illustrator, and then composing the rest in Glyphs.

Some of the unusual things here are that I wanted to have things like the arms, tails, and legs have a semi-rounded, wabi-sabi feel—it seems like it makes it more human and works well when displayed larger.

Questions: 
- Is there anything objectively wrong with this typeface?
- What can be improved?
- Is this a dumb idea and I need to throw in the towel?

Here's a specimen: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ut2l4ntfc4knzxg/Uptown Sans Specimen.pdf?dl=0
If helpful, here's the OTF: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2b1m9u91a5tvj32/UptownSans-Regular.otf?dl=0

Thanks!

Comments

  • Ofir ShavitOfir Shavit Posts: 371
    Welcome!

    To me, at this stage it seems to have too little fun and style so it falls to be seemed like a very amateur or a damaged typeface.
    It needs a deeper and wider characteristic work in order to form something that works.

    In order to learn type design basics I think it is important to start with a standard/classic design where all the basic type design fundamentals (proportions, spacing, optical corrections, contrast, etc') are "objectively measurable". For example it is hard to tell whether your typeface suffers from the lack of optical corrections or the distortions we see are intentional.

    May I ask how much time it took you to reach this point?
  • joshuamauldinjoshuamauldin Posts: 5
    edited March 2016
    It took about 6 months of work, spread out over about 10. 

    When I started, I tried to stick to regular proportions for a more condensed typeface. I ended up going with more symmetry for things like the O and W so that it would look more appealing at sizes like 36pt (instead of, say, making the right side's stroke a little thinner than the left). 

    Was there something in particular sticking out to you?
  • Ofir ShavitOfir Shavit Posts: 371
    edited March 2016
    The outer top right curve corner of the /O
    The /N width 
    The "reverse" contrast, horizontals thicker than verticals
    The perfectly straight vertical lines
    The 5 left-center joint
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,237
    edited March 2016
    The alphabet and numerals have a fun, amateur sign painter pastiche. The punctuation looks like it was copy/pasted/mirrored very quickly on a computer. You can get away with some re-use/mirroring in geometric typefaces. When you attempt it in hand drawn typefaces, it's really obvious like bad cloning in Photoshop. You might think, nobody will notice that %. Imagine that an agency commissioned by a chain clothing store is attempting to use your typeface to create giant sale signs. That percent sign is essentially going to make this font unusable.

    Learn how guillemots are used in other languages. Check out how they're positioned in all caps fonts. Google image search amateur hand painted signs in other languages for ideas.

    Painter's quotes (left quotes that lean left) are a liability in many languages. Unless you can add some OpenType localization code to swap them, your font will be somewhat useless in some languages.

    Don't superscript your dollar sign or any currency symbols. It the typographer's job to superscript those when needed.

    The maths symbols make no sense; nothing matches.

    The crossbar on the Eth should be similar to the crossbar in the E.

    Do a proper Œ and Æ.

    Some of your accents appear to be stock. Look at some narrow heavy headline fonts and see how the accents are handled. The way your dieresis spills out of the edge of the E is pretty unusual.

    Ogonek tips.

    ™ should be superscript.

    {[()]} look like they come from three different fonts and none of them match the style of your letters.

    If this is supposed to look like an amateur hand painted sign, come up with an @ that looks like it was drawn by an amateur sign painter rather than someone manipulating a stock @ on a computer.


  • joshuamauldinjoshuamauldin Posts: 5
    edited March 2016
    Thanks, you two! I'll definitely look into those points you raised.

    I've spent way more time on letters than punctuation, accents, and symbols — those were particularly difficult for me, and I believe the feedback you're giving shows what a noob I am at that. There's no stock anything in here, but I take your point just the same. :-)

    Ofir, with the top right of the O: I did that knowing it was unusual in hopes of giving it more character and movement. I also did that with the C. I realize most typefaces don't have those kinds of overshoots, is that a feature I should fix? Can you help me understand why?
  • Ofir ShavitOfir Shavit Posts: 371
    edited March 2016
    The top-right of the /O was the first thing that jumped to my eyes, it also disturbs me on the %. It doesn't disturbs me in the /C, so it might be because the letter's focus should be at about the center of the letter and the /C's morphology balance the top right distortion but at the /O it drags all of the attention to the top right.
    Better ask for some more opinions about it, to check if it is an issue for others too.
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 905
    ™ should be superscript.
    And copyright should not be.
  • Why is the sterling so wide? Where did it come from?

    I would pick a range of sizes you want this to work in, and stick with that. And test at those sizes. 

    I gotta say I love Saul Bass. But the amount of energy his work is known for isn't possible with repetitive glyphs. In other words, make alternates, perhaps several, of each glyph (well, maybe not every single glyph, but the ones that get used the most/are most likely to repeat themselves).

    Any font really, regardless of inspiration, that has a hand-drawn look to it, should have alternates. 
  • I really appreciate the feedback everyone's given—it's helped me notice some, well, glaring noob oversights.
    Painter's quotes (left quotes that lean left) are a liability in many languages. Unless you can add some OpenType localization code to swap them, your font will be somewhat useless in some languages.
    Can you help me understand more about that? In designing for web and mobile, every designer is all about using smart quotes, and most of my experience has been for English so far.
    Why is the sterling so wide? Where did it come from?
    It came from total inexperience, really. I've thinned it up quite a bit.
    In other words, make alternates, perhaps several, of each glyph (well, maybe not every single glyph, but the ones that get used the most/are most likely to repeat themselves). 
    Have you found a good guide for getting started with that? I can easily make alternate characters in Glyphs, but invoking them automatically has proven difficult. I really like the idea.

    I've posted an updated OTF (same link as above) that has a few fixes:
    • Better accents
    • An actual Œ and Æ
    • Thinner horizontals
    • More better-fitting math symbols
    • Refined a few other symbols (»,«,<,>, etc.)
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,299
    Have you found a good guide for getting started with that? I can easily make alternate characters in Glyphs, but invoking them automatically has proven difficult. I really like the idea.
    Tutorial at the Glyphs site
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,237
    Can you help me understand more about that? In designing for web and mobile, every designer is all about using smart quotes, and most of my experience has been for English so far.

    Smart quotes (good)               66     99

    Painter's quotes (not good)      \\    //

    You can still use straight slanted quotes, as long as the left quotes are also slanting right. Look at the quotes in Avenir and Univers.

  • Jack JenningsJack Jennings Posts: 151
    edited March 2016
    @Ray Larabie out of curiosity, which languages do sign painter quotes cause issues in? The only thing that I can think of—off the top of my head—might be that it's confusing in languages that use double grave(?)
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