Haney Sans: my independent study type design project

Mark DavisMark Davis Posts: 25
edited March 2013 in Type Design Critiques
Hello, Typedrawers. First post here, was an active participant on Hrantophile ;)
Anyway, my typeface: Haney Sans. I am drawing all of the letters by hand to expose myself to new technique and avoid the problems introduced by drawing on-screen first. Here you guys are.

I have completed all of the lowercase letters other than /wqz/.
I just took a snap of some of the letters that are well-done and show the style I’m aiming for: a humanist monochromatic sans serif erring on the side of friendlier side of humanist. Avenir is an inspiration, but I am introducing subtle elements that look like they are bent and physically formed to break up the sterile look that most monolinear typefaces have.


Love to hear thoughts, comments on direction of “vision” of the typeface and general letterform construction critiques.

Perhaps later tonight I will show you all of the letters I have.


  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,081
    For all the intentions of friendly-casual-handwriting-based etc., perhaps it's a little surprising that you're using a binocular /g/.
  • I edited the info, my typeface is not necessarily supposed to be casual, just less “sterile” than monolinear typefaces I have seen.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,724
    v and y are much too wide.

    What I’m seeing here is pretty typical for someone trying to learn by designing a sans: a light font drawn as bits and pieces of News Gothic and Meta with a little quirkiness. I would really recommend that you start on the other end of the spectrum. Draw a bold serif font with a ton of personality. You’ll learn more about being creative, it will be easier to see your negative shapes, and it will be easier to judge the overall color of the design.
  • Thanks, James. I have 5 weeks to hand this typeface in, any critiques you could give to bring more character to what I have here, would be great.

    I wish I showed this earlier and had more time to start over. =)
  • Alex KaczunAlex Kaczun Posts: 163
    Good start, Mark.

    I like the casual approach, aka less sterile approach, as in lower case n glyph. Good movement, especially on right-hand leg. Lower case e works well—compliments the n.

    However, the other glyphs are a bit stiff overall. Try incorporating the casual feel of the n and e within the other glyphs. As an example, try not drawing anything too straight. Make all the strokes curve slightly, as if hand-drawn. Hope this helps.
  • Eris AlarEris Alar Posts: 227
    The curves remind me of Corpid http://www.lucasfonts.com/fonts/corpid/
  • Alex, thanks a lot! I’m excited to try making more of the strokes a little more curved. The parts that are working right now are the curved parts, and the straight lined parts look forced, and inharmonious. Thanks for the helpful critique!
  • Alex KaczunAlex Kaczun Posts: 163
    Mark, repeating design elements helps unify a typeface. When you have a shape that really works well, or defines the character of the design, try repeating it whenever possible.

    For example, try using the right sided leg of the n on the right side of the lower case a. That sort of thing. Good luck.
  • /vy are too wide.
    /g leans backwards and looks too small.
    /a is too narrow and overshoots too much.
    /k is too top-heavy.

    When you'll try to digitize the asymmetrical /vy, you'll start to get into balance problems because it's a lot easier for something to look good on paper than on the screen.
  • Is the final project going to be pencil drawings on paper taped together in long sheets?
  • Mark DavisMark Davis Posts: 25
    edited March 2013
    Final project will be a digitized OTF typeface.
  • Alex KaczunAlex Kaczun Posts: 163
    Mark, since you are a student learning—I would be happy to mentor you on this first project.

    Take all the advice offered on this forum—it's a great resource. Rework your glyphs until you are satisfied. Then, if you want email me the outlines and I will review and make adjustments, provide feedback, and return back to you.

    Sometimes it's easier to learn this way, then trying to write about what to do in an online forum.

    A picture is worth a thousand words as they say. I think you are off to a good start.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,626
    edited March 2013
    Doing something counter-intuitively can be a useful learning exercise, but it’s probably better to do it the normal way first, with digital drawing tools.

    If you’re interested in the old-media mark-making aspect of type design, it would be better to pursue writing rather than construction.

    These drawn outlines will tell you little of whether the glyphs are any good—fill them in!
  • Alex KaczunAlex Kaczun Posts: 163
    I think drawings the letters is better approach, especially when learning how to draw letter shapes. Of coarse, digitizing and converting to vectors, running lines of copy at different point sizes is essential for final tweaking. Drawing on velum, and inking in the drawings—also helpful way to work. Everything becomes more apparent when filled in. I like to look at the drawing inverted, against a light source, mirror image—bad shapes are more apparent to the eye this way. Nothing beats drawings by hand, especially in this type off loose free-style hand looking typeface.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,626
    Frankly, old-media drawing this light weight of sans is a waste of time.
    If you draw with vector tools, they are much better for designing with.

    For instance, how do you decide how much of a bend to put in the leg of /k?
    First, draw this letter as a skeleton path (keep it in the mask layer), then you can "Make parallel path" (FontLab) and view it solid in the metrics window.
    It's very easy to tweak the bend in the original skeleton path, make parallel path again, and inspect.

    It would take an unnecessary amount of time to draw such variants as outlines in old media and ink them in, and the results wouldn’t even be clean,

    As I said, if you want to work in old media, writing solid letters with a pen or brush will give you feel and manual intelligence far better than the awkward, stilted line that results from construction.
  • Alex KaczunAlex Kaczun Posts: 163
    Nick, I'm not disputing that working directly with vectors in digital format, is not easier or faster. Hands down it's faster, agreed. But, in this particular case, where the student is learning, hand-drawing is the best exercise. In fact, once you have mastered the pencil or the pen, digital is second nature.
  • Thanks for the Idea with the parallel path, Nick, that should save me a lot of time. I’m drawing it by hand initially as an exercise to think about what the letters look like, get those conceptual ideas resolved, instead of being constrained by what I can cleanly execute with vector handles.

    Craig had a great idea to draw out the unique letters and then get digitizing, especially since I am in a time crunch.

    How should the /g/ be bigger? Total new at drawing a two-story /g/, and I haven’t even seen a “binocular” /g/ before, so I thought it was breaking the rules to begin with.

    (Flattered you and Alex are helping me, I have/wish I had your typefaces on my computer!)
  • Eimantas PaškonisEimantas Paškonis Posts: 91
    edited March 2013
    Increase /g top bowl, make it wider. Look at the /g of the font (Alright Sans) this text uses.

    As for what Nick said - it's even easier with Glyphs.app. You can put a modified letter in the background and then use built-in blender to see the results live. Also you can have many different layers of the same glyph for comparison, transformation or archival. Plus its vector tools are superior to FontLab's.

    App itself has 30-day (4-week) trial period, you could use it for this project.
  • I use Glyphs and have a fully fledged copy of it! I’m excited to try the blender feature!

    As for Alright Sans, (which I did recognize this website uses ;) ) the /g/ is still different from mine. the connection of the /g/ flows into the bottom bowl, whereas mine is connected with a stroke. Does my solution work too?
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,958
    > Craig had a great idea to draw out the unique letters and then get digitizing, especially since I am in a time crunch.

    Yes, if you are pressed for time you will need to abandon the drawing approach soon. Starting with letters that provide different/unique elements first is a standard way to work. You need an o right away. Plus soon you need to start with caps.

    The main thing to resolve is the width proportions. gknd are kind of average. e and a are condensd. v and y are expanded. You could go down any one of those paths, but you need to pick one, else it will look a bit jumbled (as it does right now).
  • Mark DavisMark Davis Posts: 25
    edited March 2013
    Thanks, Thomas. I’m gonna get digitizing today.
    I’m thinking that I’ll stick with the condensed nature of /ea/, and also abandoning the hand-drawing process at this point, after finalizing the /sbo/ by hand, then come back to work on the Uc after getting a good start on the lc.
  • Hello, all!

    Doing a lot of fixing and digitizing, and I’m excited to show you what I’m up to.
    PDF of Specimen
    Finished and digitized the lowercase, working on the uppercase. Alex Kaczun also graciously tweaked some of my characters and helped me out a lot with the RSB and LSB as well as suggesting a direction to go.

    Here is a PDF of what Alex sent me as his suggestion for a distinctive, more harmonious design, and then where I am now.

    I was unhappy with the more casual direction, because it doesn’t seem as versatile as I was planning the typeface to be, something similar to the design vocabulary uniqueness to Eureka Sans, that feels professional, yet unique. My designs and drawings were aiming for a sterile, versatile typeface with very minor humanistic elements for reference in creating unique character designs, as opposed to styling. I do realize that the direction I’m going right now feels like, as James Puckett said,
    a light font drawn as bits and pieces of News Gothic and Meta with a little quirkiness.
    At this point I am trying to strengthen the quirkiness I have into the individuality of the typeface as a whole without going in the “Linotype Lemonade” direction.

    A huge thanks to Alex, the tweaks he sent me made me feel excited to work on this project, and his character width corrections and his metric tweaks made the work I have done so far seem very rewarding and worthwhile.
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,081
    /F/E/ and maybe /T/ may be too rectilinear given the more casual crossbars of /A/ and /H/.

    Would a splayed-stem /M/ be more fitting for this face?

    On your /w/, where the "v"s come together needs to be either a clean join, or emphatically not--it's too near of a miss now so it just reads like a mistake.

    /g/ still leans backwards.

    I wonder if the stroke weight of the caps is just a hair too heavy relative to the lowercase.
  • Mark DavisMark Davis Posts: 25
    Hello all, I’ve been working on and off on Haney Sans, and I’d love to post an update.

    This past January, I moved to St. Louis for a month and interned full-time with Ben Kiel. While I was there, I helped with small projects worked in-depth on a new Photolettering font that’s pending release. In my free time, I worked on MM Haney Sans, and Ben gave me some excellent critiques. We decided it was good as a text face, rather than display.

    Let me know what you guys think, almost 1 year later! Attached is a type specimen PDF.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,958
    Overall this is looking pretty good these days. Nice spacing.

    In the "e" I think it is looking a bit thin at the lower left, compared to either side of that part.
  • Mark DavisMark Davis Posts: 25
    edited July 2014
    Thanks for the tip, Thomas Phinney. I have to make a shout-out to Alex Kaczun who took me under his wing for a few months and showed me how I should properly proportion most of the lowercase letters when it was still under development. His help instantly made my font infinitely more legible and pushed it from me fumbling about to crafting a working font.

    His time meant a lot to me.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,724
    Congratulations, Mark. You’ve come along way. It was good of Ben and Alex to mentor you; hopefully you’ll go on to Reading or the KaBK.
  • Mark DavisMark Davis Posts: 25
    Thank you so much, James. It means a lot to me, hearing it from someone who had such strong feelings about this design in the beginning.

    KaBK is a long-term/dream goal of mine, to be sure. The enrollment/application rate of KaBK is super daunting to me, having so little experience myself. If I can find another type internship in the mean time, I’d take it!
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,958
    This really does show massive improvement. I love to see this kind of progression. :)
  • Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 1,073
    Mark: Where are you based? maybe Thomas and I can do a Crafting Type workshop near you some day :)
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