Hungry for seasoned advice on my first sans

Gwenaël Posts: 2
edited November 2019 in Type Design Critiques
Hello! :-)
I am a young type enthusiast trying to learn the craft. I am interested in oddities and what I think is considered vernacular lettering: sign-painting, tombstone engravings etc... I'd like to turn my favorite finds into typefaces, so I've started working steadily on my first sans as a personal exercise to train my letter-drawing muscles.

I initially set out to make an average Neo-grotesque, but with the arms & crossbar of the uppercase set at x-height for a "high-waisted" look:

This reminded me of Art Déco lettering proportions so I decided to (very mildly) run with it and add more geometric features in the diacritics, the punctuation and the numerals, to create somewhat of an hybrid. 

I'm now beginning to hit a few roadblocks and I don't really know how to proceed.

## ISSUE 1 ## 
Both solutions I've come up with for the P make me uncomfortable.
- Having the bottom of the bowl fall at x-height leaves a lot of conspicuous blank space under the letter which I find undesirable
- Having the bottom of the bowl align with the A's handlebar also really sticks out to me; I'm not sure how much of this is just because I've gotten used to having it be the other way around.

## ISSUE 2 ##
I am unable to settle on how the a should be.
I've included a comparison of different a's I've drawn in the proof.

## ISSUE 3 (?) ##
The terminals on S,C do not match the lowercase. 
I drew them like this to have more effect when setting text in uppercase. 
This doesn't actually bother me but I haven't seen it done elsewhere yet and as far as I know it's not advisable, so I'd like to know if it looks really off to a trained eye.

I've been making progress without a second opinion so far, so general critique is very much welcome!
I mostly intend to set short text in this font (I'm considering later making a version with a higher x-height and a more sensible uppercase for setting longer text.)

Proof attached:


  • This is quite charming, without being overly mannered.
  • Jasper de Waard
    Can we see more? I like the uppercase, but I'm not sure the lowercase are a good match.
  • Craig Eliason
    What's the P look like? The A? 
    Lowercase looks quite generic compared to uppercase. 
    Should intersection of K also be high?
  • Gwenaël
    Gwenaël Posts: 2
    edited November 2019
    I've edited my original post to write down my current concerns and attached the proof.
    ( I'm not sure why it doesn't download correctly but it still works if you rename it to remove the quote marks... )

  • John Savard
    John Savard Posts: 1,099
    I tried to edit the link to your proof, and found no way to get the link in my browser so that I could edit it. I found, instead, that the link itself worked as is, and what I had to do was rename the file after downloading it. (Oh, you said rename, or you edited your post after I downloaded...)

    I am not a type design professional, so my advice will not be seasoned, but I believe that there's nothing wrong with using the version of capital P that follows the capital R, "conspicuous white space" or no. It is consistent with the other letters in the typeface.
  • Dominic Stanley
    Dominic Stanley Posts: 32
    edited November 2019
    Hi, Nice one! I think it looks very well in text. I'm not as experienced as the other designers here so feel free to disregard all of this but here's my two cents:

    Issue 1: In text, the first P (with a smaller bowl) needs to be spaced/kerned more closely to the lowercase. I think this is the reason for the white space. I also think the bottom of the bowl can drop to the level of the F bar to open it slightly.

    Issue 2: Of the 3 'a's, I would stick with the first one but rework the bowl. Maybe a slight curve on the top?

    Issue 3: C, S, It might be nice to see similar terminals to the lowercase c and s. This could help link the two cases.

    Optically I think the horizontals on the Caps look a bit thicker than the verticals. Curved strokes on B,D,P,R can be widened slightly. 

    Good luck!

  • Claudio Piccinini
    As for the /a, I’d keep the more traditionally grotesque form, i.e. the one with the curved upper hook.
    As far as the consistency of the terminals across uppercase and lowercase, maybe I would try to have a "midway" solution for /C, /G and /S (i.e. slightly inclined, less than in the lowercase) and keep the original forms with the vertical cuts as alternates (or titling alternates).
    I would also reconsider the lower part of the vertical stroke of /a, to make the letter a bit more lively, treating it differently (i.e. without that tapering). I’d not be afraid to treat it more conventionally as well.

    I have made a pair of quick sketches, see below.
  • Thomas Phinney
    I have to say that the uppercase and lowercase seem like two completely different fonts of the same weight.

    The lowercase has “modern” proportions, in which the more varied widths of “oldstyle” proportions are evened out a bit. The /s is a bit wider. Round letters are a bit more condensed and slightly super-elliptical.

    The caps are not compatible with the lowercase. Look at the shape of the /O compared to /o. These are from two different typefaces, the cap being geometric and/or oldstyle.

    The cap designs don’t really follow any traditional pattern of letter-width relationships, but are more ... eclectic. In most typefaces there is a relationship between /L and /E and they are of similar width. That is not the case here.

    You seem to be generally going for a consistently high-waisted look in the caps. But you don’t have to make everything line up perfectly mathematically to do that. And in particular, the bowls on /P and /R do not need to be identical: /R can have a bit shorter bowl to make room for the leg; /P can have a bit taller bowl to make up for the lack of leg. Also, sometimes these designs mix high and low in some pleasing ways. For example, you could go with a low bar and big aperture on the /G
  • Claudio Piccinini
    All very good observations from Thomas – although I can’t see the question of the caps/lowercase difference as always incompatible. A good harmonization of these aspects can lend to more liveliness and unpredictability.
  • Claudio Piccinini
    And ohh… please do not get rid of that high-waisted /G… ;)
  • Marc Oxborrow
    Take a look at Venus, a sans from the early 20th century that used a similar high-waisted approach within a grotesque model. At the very least you'll find some ideas for /a.
  • Adam Jagosz
    I think a garamondesque /a, or even all lowercase, would fit in here. But maybe it's just Isabeau corrupting my mind.
  • Christian Thalmann
    I think a garamondesque /a, or even all lowercase, would fit in here. But maybe it's just Isabeau corrupting my mind.
    Hehehe... I'm glad Ysabeau is leaving an impression.  :# But this here strikes me as a Grotesque, so I'm not sure the extreme humanism of a Garamond /a/ would be appropriate.