Advice on 'j's


I'm drawing a condensed grotesque and am having some trouble with the lowecase j, so I figured I'd ask you all for your advice and/or opinion. 

Below I have 3 possible directions:
1. 'half-curl' (currently my favorite, but I'm not sure if this contradicts the design of the /y)
2. 'full curl' to match the descender on the /y
3. 'no curl' to match the straightness of the /t

Everything is still very much in-progress so forgive any spacing/kerning issues. 



  • (3) does not fit the general look of the typeface. It is the sort of thing you see in radical geometric sans, not a classic grotesque like this.

    Both (1) and (2) are viable options. I prefer (2), as I feel it fits better with the architecture of many other letters. Not only /y, but also /e /a /c to some degree.
  • You could have version 2 and make a contextual substitution for /j with deeper descender for glyphs where the tail collides. Or simply drop the hook of the /j a little further to be a bit closer to reaching to the same depth as your /y and avoid collisions like that. Either way, version 2 fits nicer with /r and /a in my view.

  • /j with deeper descender

    Really? I would see a /j with the half-curl contextually (after q, ą), but deeper descender?
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,980
    Mark said:
    … it will jump out at the beginning of a line on the left side of a paragraph…
    The typographer’s (font user’s) primary consideration.
    Even more problematic in italic.
  • Adam JagoszAdam Jagosz Posts: 688
    edited October 2019
    The timid variant could be made the default, and one with the more generous descender could be substituted contextually, or maybe as a contextual stylistic alternate. In case you want to keep things "unsimple".
    <div>feature ss01 {<br></div><div>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; lookup outrageous_j {<br></div><div>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; ignore sub [j g q y] j';&nbsp; # just an example<br></div><div>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; sub j' by j.alt;</div><br><div>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; } outrageous_j;</div><br>} ss01;
  • I lean towards more conservative variants like the first one. (2) would feel out of place if, for some reason, a two story g is added later on.
  • The curl on (2) is too tight for comfort. I recommend (1).
  • I prefer (1), also for the reasons stated by Mark and agreed upon by Nick, but it also depends on the forms of the other letters as a whole.
    I would not bother using (3) if you like it, but it depends on how much you want the typeface distinguished. I am using the (3) form in a typeface I am designing and still undecided, as it’s meant primarily as a text face, and if there aren’t many corresponding traits in the other letters to match it, it surely feels pretty radical, but I always liked the Futura lowercase solution for /j.
  • Also, how is /f ? That is important to know, as you could base your decision on how you decide to treat /f. I tend to prefer the analog form of (1) for /f, so I would rule out (2) for this additional reason, if you take this route.
  • I think the y also looks a bit awkward as is, and might profit from a top-j-like approach. Also, the middle diagonal of 'a' could go thinner? Especially when compared to e.
  • Thanks for all of the feedback! 
    Super informative and helpful to hear your perspectives. 

    As of now I'm planning to make option 1 the default, with option 2 being a stylistic alternate.

    I have a double storey /g and an /f with a full curl (shown below) but am considering redrawing the /f to match the more conservative /j. 

    For additional context, the typeface is (loosely) based on Grotesque No. 9 from Stephenson Blake & Co. which has a lovely double storey /g — but an /f and /j I really don't like (hence my search for a different design solution). 

    Any other comments and feedback welcome. Still in the process of drawing the full character set. 
  • Adam LaddAdam Ladd Posts: 223
    The /t is sticking out to me as too plain and feels like it needs the half (or full) curl also. Also, the aperture of the /e feels a little too tight.
  • I recognize you said it's intended to be only loosely based on that model, but you've really ironed flat the bowls of the original, and in so doing lost a lot of its charm and made something quite generic. I would consider putting back some of the bow to the outer contour sides of letters like b/p/d/e.
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 1,036
    I'm not sure if I find the original charming, and I suspect many others wouldn't either. The decision not to go with pot-hook f's and j's is also sound. I prefer the look of the j in the first line, but the one in the second harmonizes better with other letters. My inclination would be to suggest a j somewhere between those two - and, also, to redesign the y a little. Not to make it match the j, as a lower-case y like this one does need to curl up fully - but, no, there's probably no way to improve the typeface by going in that direction, and just going with the first line is likely the best option.
  • I find the asymmetrical downwards bulge of the original a bit disturbing (and Hobo-esque), but its other quirks seem quite charming to me, and I would be more interested to see them, than not.

    That said, I think ironing out the quirks is a legitimate design choice. In today’s world of a million sans serifs, it will be less differentiated, but more versatile. 🤷‍♂️
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 1,036
    edited October 2019
    That said, I think ironing out the quirks is a legitimate design choice.
    Yes: this is what I agree with. The typeface designer should create a typeface that is unique and original... in some way. In which way? In the ways important to him.
    And so I concede a freedom to pick and choose among the idiosyncracies of the typeface that is one's inspiration; even some feature I may like may not fit into the vision the designer has. (I'd complain if the best part were left out of a revival, but this isn't that.)
  • I absolutely love the original, so now it’s difficult to comment. :-)
    Aside from this, if you keep the more sober /j, do the /f in the same vein.
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