"Dawson Grotesque" Please critique

Niche.Niche. Posts: 86
edited December 2016 in Type Design Critiques
I started designing type 2 years ago, and have yet to release a typeface to any foundry or distributor, I want this typeface to become well used and distributed so before I submit to a foundry or distributor I want everything to look perfect. While this is my first typeface design I have attempted and experimented with several other designs before I created Dawson Grotesque. I could talk all day about my typeface but I want you guys/gals to express your opinions to help me perfect my designs. The typeface comes in 3 versions the: Dawson Grotesque, which has a few alternatives, and is intended to be a safe neo-grotesque sans serif with some German influence and American tones, it has several key elements like the 2 story g with the bottom loop that does not reconnect to the link, the lowercase e bar that is on an angle, the c and s have both nearly horizontal and angled ends, this is to name a few. Dawson Grotesque Alternative features several alternative letters along with semi-serifs, cut away ink traps, corrections to the angle on the e, a single story a & g, and other features which goes hand-in-hand with the standard Dawson Grotesque. Dawson Grotesque Advertising is intended for packaging and all advertisement needs, it has a nearly horizontal ends to the S and C & other letterforms along with changes to other letters to be used at larger sizes, a flipped ear on the g, the punctuation forms are sized smaller and squared to become stricter and better at large sizes, the typeface breaks from the guidelines set out from Dawson Grotesque to make the letterforms more organic and creative, you can see this more obviously in the ends of most vertical stems, the angles at the end of a lot of letterforms, and nothing really matches up in terms of one handle to the other, the x height is much higher, and the ascender and descender lines are shortened.

That basically sums up the features, and again I could talk all day — but please help me determine what needs improvements ! 



  • Niche.Niche. Posts: 86
    Just noticed there is a "Type Design Critiques" I would like to move this thread there ! 
  • Perhaps you would have benefited more by getting feedback before doing a huge, complete character set?

    The “o” is a bit squarish, more than most anything else, so it feels a bit out of place. 

    The e looks like you started by clipping a circle, so it has an underbite.

    The terminal of the e has a flaring, but I don't see that reflected in other letters (top of the a, bottom loop of the g, or in the s).

    The inconsistent angling of the cuts on the terminals of the s isn't working for you. Probably you should angle the top—that's more consistent with the rest of the typeface.

    The n feels a tad narrow, and the v rather wide.

    Some strange things happen as you add weight. In most cases the bolder weights feel more condensed, often much more so. Look at some really pro sans serifs from top designers and see how the weight progresses, and how it gets added on the outside as well as on the inside of letterforms (and how the ratios of where it is added may vary somewhat depending on the letter).

    The bottom of the t feels unlike the rest of the typeface (and that loose/open curve shape is very difficult to pull off successfully, hardly ever done well). Probably it could be pretty similar to the top of the f.
  • Exactly what Thomas said. It would be better for your project if you can concentrate on the main design, on a small set of letters to make it work. After that, it's fine to expand the character set and think about the other styles. Also, I'd not spend energy on the idea of releasing it at this juncture to be honest. But who am I to say.

    I am attaching an image that illustrate our point. There is so much to be fixed in the core design that it is pointless to have such a large glyph set. Highlighted in yellow the overlapped comments from Thomas.

    /H: Looks tight if you think of the generous proportions of the lowercase letters.
     /a: I quite like it. The left shoulder of the bowl could be refined to increase tension (pull up). Tail could be heavier.
    /n: Check the relationship of the connections. It's very thin here whereas heavier in /a. I agree with Thomas, that it could be wider.
    /d: Again, the connections seem to be off.
    /g: I would think about closing the bottom tail. It draws too much attention. You could play with this feature in the more display cuts. Ear looks weak and I'd refine the curve inside the hook to make it monolinear.
    /l: Cut on the top seems out of context. Inside curve of tail looks mechanical when compared to letter /a tail.
    /o: Agree with Thomas here, looks squarish and comparing to /e you have two different routes.
    /v: look very wide and the diagonals are heavy.
    /e: very geometric, I'd harmonise it with /o and stick to one route. Mid bar does not look parallel.
    /s: Bottom stroke is quite heavy compared to the top one. counter in the top could be refined.
    Figures: The cuts don't fit to this design. And top counter of number 8 is very small, I'd balance the two counters better and also think of changing it for a more grotesque design. Spine of /two and diagonal stroke of /four don't look parallel.

    I'm not even looking at the other letters. Looking at the small characters it's possible to notice that there is a lot to be fixed ir regard to proportions, shapes, etc.

    Good luck, don't rush and enjoy the experience.
  • What Thierry said.

    Or to go another way, you could take 1/4 of the letterforms from this and tweak them and build a new character set around them. Any of several quarters actually, as the typefaces is pushing in several different and arguably contradictory directions.
  • But why limit oneself to commenting on the basic glyph set. Since you went beyond it, let's take a look as well so you're more ready for it in the future: The /aogonek is not constructed correctly. Probably, neither is /tcedilla. The /eszett is too wide, plus you might want to think about making the right part of it look more like a lowercase s, and not making the letter look too much like a /beta. But that's just one possibility.
  • Niche.Niche. Posts: 86
    Hey guys, thanks a lot for the forward criticisms, I really appreciate the honesty and the expressive nature of what you guys are educating me about. With having no proper feedback other than my professors who only have basic type knowledge, I found it very hard to find anyone to help me. As Thierry stated — I defiantly was trying to step away from traditional letterform similarities and make unique attributes and I couldn't agree more that I was over zealous. Yes I agree that some match, some do not, I am excited to go back to the drawing board and I'm already invisioning the outcome of the new look (I'm sure you guys can relate on the upmost level) if you guys could continue to provide some feedback that would be appreciated. I think what I will do since I believe I have a solid base for my letterforms, I will make the adjustments and recreate several of the letterforms that need to be remade. And since I have taken several lessons in using glyphs I will easily be able to update all masters so my instances can also reflect the changes. So the entire family will be reshaped. I think you guys can see I put a lot of work into this family and I think you also see I just need help revising, refining, reevaluating, and redoing until I'm happy and the font family is happy ! To think I thought I was just about finished - I am so glad to have found this resource and community as being from a city that lacks type knowledge I can finally get the help I need to perfect my vision ! Looking forward to the support in the near future, I will post the revisions once I am finished. 
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,704
    edited December 2016
    Hey, no problem. I remember when I was just getting going in type, I was always amazed at how generous various people were with time and feedback. Just pass it on, ten years from now when you’re a famous type designer.  :)

    I think it would help if you decided what you were going for. Is it grotesque? Neo-grotesque? Humanist? Have a clear vision of what the overall "feel" is supposed to be that you can express in a sentence. Or even just decide what the one or two letters are that you think are most important and most perfect as is, that define the look and feel of the font—and then adjust others to fit that vision.
  • Niche.Niche. Posts: 86
    I also think at times it is ok to break traditions but I think I just over did it a bit, also what do you guys think of the name ? Does the Grotesque fit the persona ? I know some of the letterforms don't fit the Swiss attributes but perhaps a name change could attest to the ideology of what I'm going for ? Part of the reason I have faults is due to a lack of education, I only covered the basics in school because for some reason we only cover the basics of typography. Non the less, thanks again.  
  • Those are two most excellent pieces of advice. Both of them, but especially the second one (in this context).
  • I think I got both of them from you, Thomas.  ;)
  • attarattar Posts: 209
    As Thierry stated — I defiantly was trying to step away from traditional letterform similarities and make unique attributes
    As someone who makes type on its own too, I would say: don't worry particularly about putting distinctive features – for an amateur this often means putting things that are out of whack.
    The real challenge is to have an harmonious set of letters, not to make it different – that's quite counter-intuitive, I know the first thing people ask when you say you're making type is "how is it different from other fonts?".
    But the process of crafting typeface will yield something distinctive. And with fonts, the devil is in the details; the texture of the whole and paragraph-level variables (like width, spacing) are much more significant than construction details of a single letter.
  • Niche.Niche. Posts: 86
    edited December 2016
    I think after making a compete set and trying + experimenting has really made me understand how things SHOULD work, and I know what to do from here forward (for the most part). I first started in illustrator, just experimenting and looking at letterforms, along with drawing by hand and then when I discovered how to use Glyphs I really understood the importance of confirmatory and rules like overshoots and cap height ect. And how they relate to the visual illusions that's exist. So I think I have an understanding of the fundamentals you can see it in my work. It's just more practice, more understanding, and help from great people like you guys. I love my obsession and I'm excited to keep trying, I kid you not I am the only person in my circle of designers that has a passion for type, do you guys know a good school for a Canadian to attend for further typographic studies ? I'm having a hard time being the only designer in a sea of amateur (type designers) and people who want to make only websites and update shit logos. Also Adrian, I know what you mean even something like a cap A or lower n you can distinguish your design from any other typeface because you see what you have done even if it's just 11 handle points on the A. so weird how a slight change in the x height will yield a complete new look or a baseline shift up or down. Like all of you I will open up my book of ideas and start working on a new design and come back to it with fresh eyes. I find working on other things helps to, working on a poster or business card or something and thinking about other type than your own. The obsession takes over sometimes and you just get too excited and overthink it. I'll say it again: thanks a lot guys for the support and I'm excited to keep developing. Do you guys think this is a good first try ? I don't know how good my designs are because I have only had people who know little about type tell me it's amazing. 
  • Just to clarify: I’m not saying release or finish any of the boring stuff. But learning what definitely works will help you learn how to bend those things. You can reach that knowledge in a myriad of ways, but some are definitely harder than others.

    I’m following the "follow the heart" path myself, and it’s definitely resulting in a lot of lost time just because I never wanted to draw the boring stuff.
  • edited December 2016
    > try drawing a normal, boring, but perfectly pathed typeface.

    Besides the fact that perfection does not exist, this is only good advice if you want to end up with a normal, boring presence in the field. If you mostly want to make money at type, do go ahead and mimic the cash cows. But if you mostly want to actually make a cultural contribution, instead find what you're doing differently than the herd, and refine it.

    When you get specific advice from a professional, filter it by looking at their œuvre; see if you would be culturally proud of having made their typefaces. If you can't tell their fonts apart from those of dozens of other foundries, taking their advice will probably result in the same problem with your own products.
  • Top notch designers that can't give good advice. Mediocre designers that can give insightful and inspiring advice. Both situations exist.

    I believe that designing a boring typeface as a starting point is also valid, as valid as a young painter who start learning from still life compositions or copying the masters. Personal style and innovation will show up naturally. My questions is, what is the point of trying to find a style and express yourself if you do not master the tools you need to progress? 
  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,936
    edited December 2016
    When successful people give life advice, it usually boils down to «these are the lottery numbers that worked for me».  :grimace:  (I don't remember who authored that quote, but I love it.)

    Do what works for you. If I had started my type design career trying to make a boring but perfect typeface, I would have quit a long time ago and never looked back.
  • edited December 2016
    @Rafael Saraiva This is not about mastering the mere tools, but about how a human being can contribute something more than materialism, instead of getting culturally pigeonholed. Personal style and innovation are not guaranteed to show up, and can be greatly delayed. Another aspect of this is how formal education (versus slower, meandering self-instruction) is a two-edged sword.
  • Niche.Niche. Posts: 86
    edited December 2016
    I think your first time is always special and will always have a spot in your heart (pun intended) and all opinions aside I think my first has potential in several of the glpys And in several ways, it just needs revisions and more work ! I have the funementals I just need to keep at it and I will make it perfect ( in its own way) and will release it in the near future, all of your advice will go a long way and you will see my new design in the new year (or later) before I release it to get the final verdicts. I agree on both sides but have my own opinions as all of us do. And on both sides: there are a lot of typeface that make no sense like most reverse contrasts or that one I can't remember with much thicker caps > lowercase (Spiekermann talks about it in: stop stealing sheep and find out how type works) which all have some kind of purpose. and a lot of typefaces that are just there imbigiously hmmm Helvetica, Times, Minion. I am going for inbetween like a FF meta mixed with something standard, I just need to keep working on the balance — I'll get there, but with a sea of throwaways, I want to make something that is its own. 
  • Rafael SaraivaRafael Saraiva Posts: 33
    edited December 2016
    @Hrant H. Papazian This debate can take a life time and we won't find an understanding... Boring and exciting are sides of the same coin. Everyone should feel free to pick one and be happy!

    Disregarding your educational background, the "practice leads to perfection" thingy is always applicable. The old fellows spent their entire lifes doing type and it is for sure they developed a personal style. Nowadays we are in a rush to achieve something and forget about the path itself. I strongly believe that personal style is a subproduct of well established craftsmanship. 
  • Niche.Niche. Posts: 86
    edited December 2016
    I was wondering what options I have once I graduate with a Canadian Graphic Design Advance College diploma with honours, in terms of scholarships and advancements for type design ? Prospects for jobs in Canada, and worldwide ? I feel like a lot of you would know more about this, it's hard to find information sometimes. And a lot of you are seasoned designers both type and design generally. I really want to advance my career to somehwhere in Europe, both for education and/or job prospects. 
  • Personally I don't get why people keep making sans-serifs, it is an already overpopulated field, and then there's Helvetica and the other major players. I'm not saying it's wrong, just that I don't get it.
  • Most foundries looking for an entry-level designer would rather you know how to polish than be original... The fastest way to that option is probably doing a one-year type design course. There are a few now, with Reading (expensive) being the best for non-Latin work and KABK (hard to get into) being the best for commercial success. Depending on your character, this could become a great springboard, or a cultural crutch.

    My perspective is limited but what I would advise for somebody in your position is to work in general graphic design to pay the bills, and develop your type design alongside. Eventually you could switch to the latter full-time, or have enough of portfolio to join an existing foundry as a partner, where originality would be valued.
  • Personally I don't get why people keep making sans-serifs, it is an already overpopulated field
    Most sans fonts are indeed not worth making, culturally; for a foundry that wants to offer its loyal customers a clone of what everybody else is selling (with some requisite gimmicks thrown in) it can make commercial sense however.

    In the case of Simon's design there are things that can save it from that zombie fate. Specifically I would advise tightening up that "g" (BTW closing its bottom is about the worst advice possible) and then using it to inspire the "a" and "s".

    Normally a text font starts with foundational shapes like the "n" and "o", but avoiding a "me too" result changes that around in my mind.
  • Niche.Niche. Posts: 86

    Updates ! Thanks fro the feedback guys ! 
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