Synthium Display

Hello everyone!
I'm a graphic designer, currently working at an agency in the DC Area. I've been in the field since 2015. My interest in type design was sparked in college and since then I've been designing typefaces in my spare time as personal exercises to help me better understand letterforms and typography in general. I've shared some of my type work with fellow designers but haven't had the benefit of critique or mentorship from seasoned type designers. 
The typeface I'm sharing today is the third I've designed. The first two designs have been more traditional grotesque. One of them was strictly an exercise and the other is still in development. 
Synthium Display is a futuristic typeface inspired by 80's sci-fi titles and dystopian future fantasies. I tried to bring some modern sensibility to the proportions of the letterforms. However, I have made some unusual choices such as mixing rounded and hard edges in hopes that this will stand out from other futuristic display fonts on the internet. I am aware that this typeface is gimmicky and I'm hoping that will be embraced in its application. It could be used for titling on a YouTube video featuring an electronic music mix, implemented in a vaporwave aesthetic motion graphic, or maybe a design student will use it in an 80's-inspired movie poster project. This is strictly a display face but I have included some longer blocks of text in the proof so you can see how the letterforms interact. 
As many of us are professionals I understand how valuable your time is and greatly appreciate feedback.
Thank you!


Comments

  • I understand that you are trying to make a “constructed” looking typeface. Even so, in order to LOOK like certain things are even/proportional/normal, there are some things that are normally done. Other than overshoot for the UVW (good), I think you are not doing most of these things.

    This video I made a few years ago covers many of the most important of these issues: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LR-CG5eB3nQ 
    Even though everything is shown with FontLab Studio 5, the general principles are independent of any particular tool.
  • Think of ways to open up the acute angles of A and 4 so that the counters don't close up so much.
  • Thomas WeakleyThomas Weakley Posts: 14
    edited November 27
    I understand that you are trying to make a “constructed” looking typeface. Even so, in order to LOOK like certain things are even/proportional/normal, there are some things that are normally done. Other than overshoot for the UVW (good), I think you are not doing most of these things.

    This video I made a few years ago covers many of the most important of these issues: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LR-CG5eB3nQ 
    Even though everything is shown with FontLab Studio 5, the general principles are independent of any particular tool.
    Thank you! I just watched the video you suggested in its entirety and here are my takeaways:

    -Address clogging at the joint – ink traps (only slightly)

    -Reduce thickness of horizontal strokes (standard is 10% reduction)

    -Consider slimming down the right diagonal of the V slightly (western culture specific).

    -Adjust crossbar of H – nudge up slightly

    -Consider mathematical formula for spacing based on the counter of the H

    This is very helpful as I was not aware of most of these practices. I was thinking I could get away with not addressing the clogging at the joint because of the "constructed" nature. It seems like the answer is to address it by manipulating the points but only slightly. 

    I'm still struggling to understand the concept of the extrema points because FontForge is showing an error for extrema with this typeface but as I understand it I do have points at the extrema. So I need to do more research on that. 

    -Edit: Also looks like I need to go in and clean up the curves on the rounded edges. Maybe this will fix the extrema issue.

    Thanks again for your time! I'll definitely be implementing the suggestions I pulled from your video. 

  • Think of ways to open up the acute angles of A and 4 so that the counters don't close up so much.
    Thank you! Those counters do feel very tight. I'll look for a way to fix. Much appreciated!
  • The main thing I would add to your existing takeaways would be the vertical vs horizontal stroke thickness. Currently, I suspect they are mathematically identical, but that makes the horizontals look heavier. (If there is a difference, it is not enough.) You need to make the verticals heavier than the horizontals, to make them look monoline. Strange but true.
  • @Thomas Phinney You're right! They are mathematically identical. I only reduced thickness of the horizontal strokes where the optical balance really felt off, like in B, 8, 3, and 9. I'm actually working on it now. It makes a big difference. Thanks again!
  • I've applied some of the principals I've learned to the O. I slimmed the horizontal strokes down by 10% for optical balance and adjusted the curves very slightly so they're a little more gradual without killing the constructed look.




  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,428
    edited November 29
    Now the curved parts look thinner than the horizontal and vertical parts.
    Also, the transitions from curve to straight looks rather abrupt. I'm even getting a bit of bone effect in the form of a small upward bump on the bottom stroke (and, to a lesser degree, a «uvula» on the top stroke).
  • @Christian Thalmann Great feedback! Thanks so much for taking the time. Here's another version of the O with your feedback incorporated. I eased the curves a little more and moved the points to smooth out those transitions. Am I moving in the right direction?
  • Version 3 is very smooth and handsome. You've changed the typeface's philosophy from rounded rectangles to squircles, though. That's a pretty big change, and you have to decide for yourself whether it's what you want for that typeface.
    (It's certainly possible to make rounded rectangles look good, BTW. You might need to add some extra points in the curves to aid the straight–rounded transition, though.)
  • Agree with Christian.

    The biggest problem with version 2 was that the corners are thinner than both the verticals and the horizontals. So that looks “off.”

    But other than that, the choice between 2 and 3 is a question of what you want, rather than one being “better.”
  • @Christian Thalmann @Thomas Phinney
    Thanks for the thoughtful feedback! I do want to maintain the rounded rectangle philosophy but it would be nice to do so with a just a little more easing to the curves to help reduce those upward bumps. I think I've come to a good balance with version 5 from the sample below. It felt like version 4 went a little too far into the rectangle realm and the corners were a little too robust. Ultimately I'm trying to accomplish an optically balanced interpretation of version 1 without any weird bumps. Thoughts? 


    I've been trying to find a "good" typeface that is based on rounded rectangles so I can observe how its balanced optically. Best typeface I can come up with so far is Eurostile. 
  • That is looking good!
  • Thomas WeakleyThomas Weakley Posts: 14
    edited November 30
    Thanks! On to C, D, G and Q!
  • @Craig Eliason @Thomas Phinney @Christian Thalmann
    I've taken all of your information and suggestions and applied them to this second version.
    I opened up the counters on A and 4. I changed the stroke weight throughout to for optical balance between the vertical, horizontal, and angled strokes. I eased all of the curve transitions and tried to eliminate the optical bumps that resulted from the mathematical curves. I addressed "clogging at the joint" where it was apparent to me. I attempted to rework everything with optical balance in mind. 
    Overall I think I've made a big improvement. However, I'm questioning if the numbers are speaking the same language as the letters. The numbers have tighter curves that mirror the S, and the B. I'm wondering if I should try a more traditional approach where the outer curves align more with the O but I don't want to kill the, quirky, futuristic look that comes through in the numbers. 
    I'd love to hear any suggestions you might have and greatly appreciate the time you've taken so far! I attached a PDF if anyone wants to take closer look.

  • I'd consider lowering the spine of /S (and /five and /six) to be more even in counter size (given that glyphs like /E/H/three/eight/nine are closer to balance). /A crossbar now may be a bit too low. 
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,685
    Broadly, this is MUCH improved.

    Somehow it looks as if the V and A both have reversed contrast, though. (This may just be that the diagonals are the same weight, and the eye expects something just slightly tweaked from that.)

    And the W has some issues as well with the second stroke looking heavier than the first. The first stroke should be heaviest or tied, and the second should be lightest or tied.


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