There's no sugar-coating it: I'm submitting what I'm sure is TypeDrawers' trillionth "So-and-So Grotesk" for critique, and I'm sure that's enough to get a few eyes rolling. I totally understand. The inconvenient reality, however, is that I genuinely love early-mid 20th century Grotesks, have always wanted to design one myself, and this puts me in an overcrowded demographic among type nerds. What can I say? The heart wants what it wants.
Here's an overview of the upper and lowercase alphabets so far:
I started this project mostly because I've developed an obsession with using my own typefaces and lettering as much as possible in my day-to-day work. I guess I'm becoming a kind of grizzly "type survivalist", and rugged self-reliance appeals to me. Naturally, I started with a traditional sans.
I've gone through a few different phases in planning my ideal Grotesk, but I settled on a pretty stable list of defining features and have tried to design everything in accordance with it so far:
1) Most triangles are slightly trapezoidal. This idea began with the /A, the first "seed glyph", and it pops up again in letters like /V, /W, /M, /N etc.:
Since this produces a bit of a geometric/industrial effect, I compensated for the relative smoothness of the lowercase set by adding linear "notches" to open up especially tight joins, such as the tail of the /a and points at which the curves of the /b meet the stem.
2) My original vision was to break convention by making the midline across the uppercase set entirely uniform. This resulted in an extremely high-waisted /A, which I absolutely loved in isolation, but that unfortunately never seemed to harmonize with other letters. I had similar issues with the /P and/R; also high-waisted to an extent, and also both stylish and impractical. I compromised by adjusting most of the midlines up or down from the theoretical center a bit, while trying to retain some of the original idea:
4) All terminals on curved strokes are brought inward as far
as possible. So letters like /C, /G, /S, /a and /e look especially "closed
off". My goal here was to evoke those quirks you often see in early 20th
century Grotesks, like the exaggerated /2 in Akzidenz, before Helvetica and
Univers popularized the look of extreme precision and neutrality. My favorite
Sans are the ones that balance their uniformity with awkward little bursts of color.
As for my own background, I've worked with type for a while and have done my share of custom lettering over the years, but I've never undertaken a full-scale typeface project like this and thought it'd be wise to get feedback before diving in too much deeper. I don't have plans to release this commercially, but I want to treat its development as if I do. No shortcuts or corner-cutting.
With the alphabet done I've moved on to an initial stab at some metrics. The PDF specimen is spaced entirely with sidebearings. I'm trying to refine them as much as possible before adding any kerning pairs.
Near-term plans include:
- Fleshing out the character set in accordance with feedback to the work done so far.
- A Black weight and a Light/Hairline. Two interpolated weights in between (Bold and Thin) are an appealing idea as well, but I don't have concrete plans for them now.
- Text and lining figures.
Long-term plans include:
- True italics
- A complete set of small caps for all weights
Anyway, that's it. Thanks in advance for your time!