Hey everyone, 

I'm a graphic design student getting into type design, I was looking to get some general critique on the typeface I've been working for the past couple of months. What started as a generic geo sans to the learn the basics of type design developed into a (still pretty generic) neo-grotesque of sorts, mainly taking inspiration from workhorse sans such as Univers. I really like the idea of a fairly flexible and neutral sans I can use in a range of applications. Currently I've got a regular weight with the basic alphabet and some test glyphs of bold, condensed and extended versions. 

Main issues I've been having:

  • I've had alot of trouble with the /a, something about it just doesn't feel right with how it fits in the design as a whole, perhaps it needs to be a bit wider? 
  •  I'm unsure if the alternative glyphs (on page 3) should be the default glyphs (particularly the G and R) or should be there at all
  • I noticed it's common for single-storey g's in to have the bowl sitting higher than normal, which I assume is to increase the white space in the tail, but I'm not sure if this is something I should try implement. 
  • I've got some basic metrics spaced for text size (no kerning yet), but I feel as though it might be a bit too loose

Some things that have already flagged since putting together this PDF:

  • I need to make the capitals smaller than the ascenders
  • The capitals are slightly too dark
  • The /x and /X need reworking, the "overlap" is a bit of a mess 
  • The condensed version is too dark, needs optical compensation

Any comments are appreciated! 


  • /a/ is tricky since you’re committed to double story structure, grotesque widths, and horizontal terminals. I would try it a little wider. 
    Alt /G/ is far better. Scrap the default. 
    I would try raising /g/‘s bowl. 
    To my eyes spacing feels loose but not inappropriately so for text with this kind of design. 
    When judging cap weight set a paragraph of all caps text next to a lowercase paragraph to compare color. If these caps are too dark it’s only by a hair. 
    /Z/z/ have too much contrast. 
    /r/ arm maybe is too light. 
  • To me this sort of thing is great as a learning exercise... but frankly not much more.
  • What is uneasy about the 'a' is the round and bouncy bowl that also moves upwards where it leaves the stem. It is set apart from all the rigid vertical/horizontal constraint in all other letters by showing liveliness and visible tension, something utterly forbidden in a proto-neo-grotesk :)

    Your alternate 'a' (the two story one) is much more conformist, and fitting, but the maybe still a tad narrow for the genre. As for the 'G' with the pronounced bar: It's hard to do a decidedly bland typeface that does however feature letters breaking that characterlessness without looking gimmicky. Alternates like for the 'R' seem like indecisiveness to me.

    I like the comparably overwide bars of 't' and 'f' of the extended, as they start to have a bit their own vibe, but unfortunately also break from the more constrained character. Maybe subtle things like that could be something to experiment with and use to adjust the design a bit out of the replication exercise area into something more of its own, challenging as it might be at this stage.
  • Niche.Niche. Posts: 86
    The cap /G is a sore for this specific typeface. keep it for another project. Also the cap /K looks too off for this style, other than that the consistency is all right, over a quick glance. the /r has too much of an aggressive angle/cut off. for marketing, this will likely not sell—sorry! Already too many.
  • Looks like you might have unusually good spacing for a first effort. Congrats.

    Descenders seem unusually short to me.
  • Daniel VeneklaasDaniel Veneklaas Posts: 24
    edited February 2018
    @Craig Eliason Thanks, helpful points. In regards to the bowl of single storey /g’s, I haven’t managed to find any resources explaining why its common to raise it slightly. Is it just to open up the aperture of the tail for high x-height typefaces?

    I feel somewhat committed to slightly “calligraphic” early grotesque style /r, I do find it challenging though to balance it for text and display applications. Does this slight misalignment of the /r and /t crossbar when tracked tightly irk anyone else? XD

  • @Johannes Neumeier In theory I really like the idea of the non-conformist /a, I was going for a subtle roundness to add a friendlier vibe (in addition to the rounded shapes, oversized tittles etc.), but I agree. What do you think makes that style of /a work in faces like Intersate or Calibre? Just the more DIN style construction?

    Regarding the alternatives, indecisive is definitely the right word. I feel some alternative glyphs offered in typefaces come across as indecisiveness or come out fear of failure, which I can definitely relate to.  
  • @Hrant H. Papazian @Simon Dunford Thanks for your input— I agree, the market seems saturated with this kind of thing, I’m not so focused making this a commercial typeface, I’m just keen to learn :) 

  • @Thomas Phinney Thanks, your video on metrics helped immensely! You don’t feel it’s slightly too loose? I get the impression sometimes that the circular side bearings especially might be a bit too much. 

  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,346
    edited February 2018
    In regards to the bowl of single storey /g’s, I haven’t managed to find any resources explaining why its common to raise it slightly. Is it just to open up the aperture of the tail for high x-height typefaces?
    Yes, and maybe even more to open up the lower counter and reduce the imbalance with the upper counter. 
    That rtz looks fine (though I think the z and t horizontals could be a bit thicker).
  • edited February 2018
    I think the proportion of ascenders to descenders is solid; it's the "g" that's making the latter look cramped (and it should be fixed, although it should not be made too "happy" at the expense of the whole). In fact not lining things up is the biggest "secret" in type design.
  • Just for fun I decided to test out opening the letterforms, I quite dig it. might be something worth pursuing as a stylistic set or a text vs display version? 
  • Something to think about moving forward.

    "With Atlas Grotesk, we had an idea at one point to release two versions of it, because Kai had done a version with oblique terminals, more Akzidenz Grotesk style. We very nearly went through with it, except it seemed slightly too much like a non-choice. Like we were abdicating our responsibility as type designers saying it could be whatever."—Christian Schwartz
  • In fact the flexibility now afforded by variable fonts is causing some designers to lose focus.
  • @Michael Jarboe @Hrant H. Papazian Thanks for your insight, I agree. I think it goes back to what was said before about glyph alternatives and indecision, there’s a certain amount of fear in making the wrong design choice and also a certain “greed” in wanting a particular design to have it all, which leads to a sort of “jack of all trades master of none” dilemma.

    I think in this case it ultimately comes from having an overly loose brief or goal in mind.

  • I definitely think this is still a productive exercise in comparing closed and open counters and their applications. When it comes to tone of voice I feel like the closed counters feel much more authoritative and grounded compared to the friendlier open apertures.

    Does anyone know of any humanist style sans that are rigid and serious in tone?  FF Meta comes to mind, maybe Praxis to some extent minus the rounded edges. 

  • I tend to think of open apertures as the single most distinguishing characteristic differentiating humanist sans serifs from their brethren. A closed-aperture humanist sans seems a bit of an oxymoron!

    At first thought, anyway... I am open to being persuaded by a fabulous counterexample.  ;)

  • Just an observation: You have closed apertures and horizontal terminals, and open apertures and vertical terminals. Although the logical extreme, maybe something in the middle ground offers less trodden solutions to be discovered.

    In the end this really brings you back to the core of designing and how solving a problem is different from finding an aesthetic, and bravo for that!
  • Niche.Niche. Posts: 86
    I find the only successful commercial example(s) of adjusting the 'openness' of the apertures is Knockout. It only works because of weight adjustments which is very fitting for the typeface, otherwise if you carry it out on all weights it just looks like a different font. You could have a nice transition which could allow you to add some fat-ass styles for the heaviest weights, i.e. hairline could be closed, black or even extblk OR EVEN FAT, could be open all the way  B)
  • Funny how, with closed apertures, it looks like Univers, and with open apertures, like Frutiger. Quite the Adrian Frutiger fan, I take it?
  • @Johannes Neumeier Initially I set having 90 degree terminals as a constraint as I wanted to carry the design across a set of widths and maintain the rigid structure. An angled cut seems promising though, I think maybe a more subtle version that doesn’t stray too far from the horizontal cut could be a valid text version. That or I just commit to it :p 

    Here I tried it out with square tittles. 

  • @Simon Dunford Interesting suggestion. When I was throwing around ideas for how I could take the design to a family I became interested in these kinds of modulations across weights and width.

    I initially had in mind that as the weight increases, in addition to increase on contrast, the curves would start to square off to increase counter space. The extended version would close up and the condensed version would do the opposite, while keeping the 90 degree cuts. Definitely some things to consider as I keep exploring! 

    @Jasper de Waard Yes absolutely! Big fan of his work. "Adrian Frutiger - Typefaces: The Complete Works" is a must read. 
  • I think at this point I need to step back, leave the drawing for a while and readdress what I’m trying to achieve here, before experimenting further and deciding on the final direction. Thanks everyone for the feedback!

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