After playing with letters for years, here's my first serious attempt at type design - Advices?

Hi guys!

This is my first post in this amazing forum, I've been reading all of you for a while with hearth-shaped eyes  :)

As I've written in the title, I finally started dipping into this obsession for bezier curves in a more serious way and I wanted to share with you the fruits of my first carpal tunnel  :D 


 



Here's "Bianpesanolairo" - I'm joking this isn't the name of my the font, It's just a random word with some of the letters I created. (PDF attached!)

I would like to achieve a defined contrast between the circle-shaped letter and.. the others. Big x-height, curvy letters and a generally upbeat character.

My questions would be:
- Is it just me or the /e looks a bit out of place?
- Do you think there's something wrong with the /a and /s ?
- Do you know of any font similar to what I'm creating where I could take inspiration?

Any critique, advice, insult or appreciation is super welcome! Thank you in advance  :)


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Comments

  • Alex VisiAlex Visi Posts: 57
    Just an opinion:
    1. The connection of bowl to the stem of b and p should be a little lighter;
    2. The tittle might benefit from being heavier and placed a little higher;
    3. Do you really want to make the upper parts that smaller than the bottom ones? Sure, it can be a feature, but make sure it’s consistent throughout the whole thing. Right now s and a have different “disproportions”, if that’s a word. Also, it’s going to be harder to space it.
    4. Most type designers would make the ovals a little more squarish to make it visually “circles”.
    5. The e looks fine, although its oval needs some optical compensations.
    6. Of course it reminds of Avant Garde :)
  • Rafael CasesRafael Cases Posts: 24
    In this work, at least for me, the proportions of a, n, and r are too narrow.
    The e is too wide, it must be slightly narrower than the o.  So far, your s looks quite narrow, but so far, nothing intrusive.  Your a, e and s terminals match.
    In a stylistic point of view, for a more geometric-grotesque style, this works.  However, in a readability point of view, the closed forms can be an issue, unless you know where the typeface will be applied.  Where will it be?  Newsprint?  Fine glossy paper?  Mobile phone screens?  Smartphones?  Each of these have their issues and needs.

    Your work has precedents from Futura and Avant Garde, with a hint of Neuzeit Grotesk S and Circular.  To play around more with the geometric sans genre, try Avenir, Averta, and Gill Sans (the latter 2 are borderline geometric-humanist examples, most especially the latter, despite all the spin and marketing hype).  Evaluate each of these given examples using your own taste.  Or look for Art Deco architectural lettering, where the design paradigm of the geometric sans genre came from.
  • Gianluca RussoGianluca Russo Posts: 21
    Alex Visi said:
    Just an opinion:
    1. The connection of bowl to the stem of b and p should be a little lighter;
    2. The tittle might benefit from being heavier and placed a little higher;
    3. Do you really want to make the upper parts that smaller than the bottom ones? Sure, it can be a feature, but make sure it’s consistent throughout the whole thing. Right now s and a have different “disproportions”, if that’s a word. Also, it’s going to be harder to space it.
    4. Most type designers would make the ovals a little more squarish to make it visually “circles”.
    5. The e looks fine, although its oval needs some optical compensations.
    6. Of course it reminds of Avant Garde :)
    Thank you so much!
    1 & 2. Totally agree, will work on that.
    3. Yes, it's more or less what I was looking for, I think the /s still needs a bit of tweaking to make it look more consistent with the /a.
    4 & 5. Maybe that's exactly why in my eyes the /e looks a bit out of place.
  • Gianluca RussoGianluca Russo Posts: 21
    In this work, at least for me, the proportions of a, n, and r are too narrow.
    The e is too wide, it must be slightly narrower than the o.  So far, your s looks quite narrow, but so far, nothing intrusive.  Your a, e and s terminals match.
    In a stylistic point of view, for a more geometric-grotesque style, this works.  However, in a readability point of view, the closed forms can be an issue, unless you know where the typeface will be applied.  Where will it be?  Newsprint?  Fine glossy paper?  Mobile phone screens?  Smartphones?  Each of these have their issues and needs.

    Your work has precedents from Futura and Avant Garde, with a hint of Neuzeit Grotesk S and Circular.  To play around more with the geometric sans genre, try Avenir, Averta, and Gill Sans (the latter 2 are borderline geometric-humanist examples, most especially the latter, despite all the spin and marketing hype).  Evaluate each of these given examples using your own taste.  Or look for Art Deco architectural lettering, where the design paradigm of the geometric sans genre came from.
    I would like to keep the narrow /a and /s from a stylistic point of view, but I'll work on the /n and /r - I'm not 100% happy with those so maybe making them a little bit wider could help. 

    I'm still in "playground mode" so readability it's not part of the equation right now, but that's a really good question that I should tackle sooner or later!

    I didn't know about "Averta", thank you for the tip!!

  • Joe ElwellJoe Elwell Posts: 25
    Check your points and handles. Make sure all points are at L/R & Top/Bot extremes and handles are 180 or 90 degrees. After you get these corrected try to make all strokes look like they're optically the same weight. The /a /s need some balancing in regards to stroke weight and structure.

    The /i dot is too low, try some different heights and see what you think after. Also, the top the /i stem does not come to the same x-height as the /r.

    The two attachments show how the construction of the /s could be and I think would help with getting those curves optically correct.

    I like the accordion texture. Great for use in headlines, logos and eye-catching situations. Make some mock-ups in these formats to see how it works in places you want it to used.
  • Gianluca RussoGianluca Russo Posts: 21
    Check your points and handles. Make sure all points are at L/R & Top/Bot extremes and handles are 180 or 90 degrees. After you get these corrected try to make all strokes look like they're optically the same weight. The /a /s need some balancing in regards to stroke weight and structure.

    The /i dot is too low, try some different heights and see what you think after. Also, the top the /i stem does not come to the same x-height as the /r.

    The two attachments show how the construction of the /s could be and I think would help with getting those curves optically correct.

    I like the accordion texture. Great for use in headlines, logos and eye-catching situations. Make some mock-ups in these formats to see how it works in places you want it to used.
    I'm fixing the /i right now. Thank you for the example, even if I think it looses a bit of character in that way, I'll use it as a guideline to improve it! 
  • Jeff PetersJeff Peters Posts: 34
    This made me think of Platform (Commercial) which I like a lot, and has similar proportions. Don't change them, they are the reason you created these letters in the first place, right? That said, I think o, and all the letters that follow it, are too pointy at 9 and 3 o'clock. " I also think these letters could do with a bit less contrast.
    …my first carpal tunnel". Tip: Use a Wacom tablet!
  • K PeaseK Pease Posts: 68
    /a /s are the soul of this face and the reason it is worth developing. My first thought, before I read what you asked, was that /e doesn't seem to quite meet the same spirit, even though there is nothing wrong with it, and I am hard-pressed to think of a preferable alternative. Perhaps a very low crossbar and terminal at 6 o'clock?
  • Gianluca RussoGianluca Russo Posts: 21
    This made me think of Platform (Commercial) which I like a lot, and has similar proportions. Don't change them, they are the reason you created these letters in the first place, right? That said, I think o, and all the letters that follow it, are too pointy at 9 and 3 o'clock. " I also think these letters could do with a bit less contrast.
    …my first carpal tunnel". Tip: Use a Wacom tablet!
    Yes, Platform it's the main inspiration for the styling decisions and yes I'ill work on those circles, thank you! 
  • Gianluca RussoGianluca Russo Posts: 21
    K Pease said:
    /a /s are the soul of this face and the reason it is worth developing. My first thought, before I read what you asked, was that /e doesn't seem to quite meet the same spirit, even though there is nothing wrong with it, and I am hard-pressed to think of a preferable alternative. Perhaps a very low crossbar and terminal at 6 o'clock?
    Interesting idea, I'll give it a try!
  • Gianluca RussoGianluca Russo Posts: 21
    edited May 6
    First of all, thank you all again for the feedback!
    @Alex Visi @Rafael Cases @Joe Elwell @Jeff Peters @K Pease


    I followed some of your advice and worked on:
    - Tried to improve all the circles/ovals and the related letter ( /o, /b, /p, /e )
    - Improved also bowl to the stem of /b and /p
    - Fixed the tittle and the height of the /i
    - Redesigned from scratch the /n (not sure if I prefer when it was more narrow)
    - Tried to tweak mainly the /s and a bit the /a


    (PDF attached)

    I'll keep on exploring the /e and keep on creating all the remaining letters, but still any advice and opinion is super welcome! Thank you guys! 
  • Gianluca RussoGianluca Russo Posts: 21
    Here's another combination of letters just to have an additional view:





    (Kerning is very much approximated just to export something decent :) )
  • Alex VisiAlex Visi Posts: 57
    You have two sets of widths here, so keep a good contrast between them. For that reason, n can be narrower; right now it’s not here nor there. And then make sure to match all narrow letters to each other: now n is wider than sa, and r is probably too narrow. 

    The update looks good, though I’d make the connection of circles to the stems even lighter :) 
  • Gianluca RussoGianluca Russo Posts: 21
    Alex Visi said:
    You have two sets of widths here, so keep a good contrast between them. For that reason, n can be narrower; right now it’s not here nor there. And then make sure to match all narrow letters to each other: now n is wider than sa, and r is probably too narrow. 

    The update looks good, though I’d make the connection of circles to the stems even lighter :) 
    Yep, I think I'll go back to the narrower /n and look into the /r.
    I'm struggling to make the connection lighter keeping the circle shape... Any hint on how to do that? Or is it just a matter of making the circle more oval to reduce the connection?
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 970
    I'm struggling to make the connection lighter keeping the circle shape... Any hint on how to do that? Or is it just a matter of making the circle more oval to reduce the connection?
    Here's Avant Garde's solution (chose a bold weight to make it more obvious):

    Since the geometric circularity is a priority, it looks like the counter is left more-or-less intact, but the shape of the bowl's outer contour thins considerably as it approaches the stem. If we imagine these are overlapping contours, the outer bowl's 3 o'clock extremum as been brought leftward quite a bit. Note too that the 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock extrema are also adjusted--they are no longer vertically aligned with the corresponding nodes of the counter. 
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 970
    edited May 6
    I think doing these thinning adjustments will dramatically change the character of this particular design. Right now the joins are clunky, so along with the accordion-like widths of the letters, it feels a bit naive. With these refinements, the width decisions will read as more purposeful and high-design. 

    The main lesson learned from everyone's first geometric typeface: the geometric-ness is all an act!
  • Gianluca RussoGianluca Russo Posts: 21
    @Craig Eliason Thank you for the example and the explanation, I'll give it try and post the results  :)
  • Rafael CasesRafael Cases Posts: 24
    I think doing these thinning adjustments will dramatically change the character of this particular design. Right now the joins are clunky, so along with the accordion-like widths of the letters, it feels a bit naive. With these refinements, the width decisions will read as more purposeful and high-design. 

    The main lesson learned from everyone's first geometric typeface: the geometric-ness is all an act!
    @Gianluca Russo 

    Below is a paper from Keith Chi-Hang Tam on sans-serifs.

    https://www.academia.edu/805630/Calligraphic_tendencies_in_the_development_of_sanserif_types_in_the_twentieth_century

    And here's another paper by Olga Shpilko:

    https://www.academia.edu/15230741/A_Geometrical_Approach_to_Letter_Design_Renaissance_and_Modernism

    The paradigm of the geometric sans-serifs came from Johnston and the architectural lettering present during the era of Art Deco.

    @Craig Eliason If this is not a text typeface, that geometricness doesn't have to be an act.  We have precedents from Bauhaus.  Bayer Universal, a design by Herbert Bayer, reflected that in the search of something to break the weight of the tradition present in the 1800's, that is, if Gianluca heads to that direction.  I still don't know if he wants to go to the text or display direction.  But considering the iterations he shows here, he looks like his direction is heading towards the display forms.  But we'll see what happens with his future works.

    @Gianluca Russo Looks like playtime's still there, but in typeface design, there are fundamentals to be followed if one wants to think like one: the stability and ease of acceptance of a typeface design is comparable to three metaphors below.
    The first metaphor I can envision is something like a dance, where the dance gestures are comparable to the articulation of a glyph and the time taken to change the dance gesture is like the space in between.
    The second metaphor seen is like some musical composition frozen in 2D where the beats are like the forms, and the rests are like the negative spaces.
    The third I can see is that of a ruins of two-dimensional town district, where the glyphs designed are like the individual building types of that town that carry people the way the white spaces hold the readers' eyes, and kerning acts like the alleys, and the leading is like a street.
    These metaphors are about the human experience of space and time.

    Just a warning for you, text typefaces are highly bound by familiarity that not even a major world war or a major decree from some leader will suddenly change all familiar ducti and forms of the alphabet all of a sudden; they are simply conditioned by Gestalt, ubiquity and familiarity.

    Or if you like to be in a direction between display and text, look at Evert Bloemsma's FF Balance.  He modified Excoffon's Antique Olive and played around with certain proportions of certain letters.  His /s looked top-heavy, but this is because he was attempting to violate the optical equality without making that disruption too obvious.
  • André SimardAndré Simard Posts: 154
    To my point of view, I see three styles in your font and I think you should keep only one and work on for all the glyphs. Keep going.
  • Gianluca RussoGianluca Russo Posts: 21
    I think doing these thinning adjustments will dramatically change the character of this particular design. Right now the joins are clunky, so along with the accordion-like widths of the letters, it feels a bit naive. With these refinements, the width decisions will read as more purposeful and high-design. 

    The main lesson learned from everyone's first geometric typeface: the geometric-ness is all an act!
    @Gianluca Russo 

    Below is a paper from Keith Chi-Hang Tam on sans-serifs.

    https://www.academia.edu/805630/Calligraphic_tendencies_in_the_development_of_sanserif_types_in_the_twentieth_century

    And here's another paper by Olga Shpilko:

    https://www.academia.edu/15230741/A_Geometrical_Approach_to_Letter_Design_Renaissance_and_Modernism

    The paradigm of the geometric sans-serifs came from Johnston and the architectural lettering present during the era of Art Deco.

    @Craig Eliason If this is not a text typeface, that geometricness doesn't have to be an act.  We have precedents from Bauhaus.  Bayer Universal, a design by Herbert Bayer, reflected that in the search of something to break the weight of the tradition present in the 1800's, that is, if Gianluca heads to that direction.  I still don't know if he wants to go to the text or display direction.  But considering the iterations he shows here, he looks like his direction is heading towards the display forms.  But we'll see what happens with his future works.

    @Gianluca Russo Looks like playtime's still there, but in typeface design, there are fundamentals to be followed if one wants to think like one: the stability and ease of acceptance of a typeface design is comparable to three metaphors below.
    The first metaphor I can envision is something like a dance, where the dance gestures are comparable to the articulation of a glyph and the time taken to change the dance gesture is like the space in between.
    The second metaphor seen is like some musical composition frozen in 2D where the beats are like the forms, and the rests are like the negative spaces.
    The third I can see is that of a ruins of two-dimensional town district, where the glyphs designed are like the individual building types of that town that carry people the way the white spaces hold the readers' eyes, and kerning acts like the alleys, and the leading is like a street.
    These metaphors are about the human experience of space and time.

    Just a warning for you, text typefaces are highly bound by familiarity that not even a major world war or a major decree from some leader will suddenly change all familiar ducti and forms of the alphabet all of a sudden; they are simply conditioned by Gestalt, ubiquity and familiarity.

    Or if you like to be in a direction between display and text, look at Evert Bloemsma's FF Balance.  He modified Excoffon's Antique Olive and played around with certain proportions of certain letters.  His /s looked top-heavy, but this is because he was attempting to violate the optical equality without making that disruption too obvious.
    WOW. So much valuable information, thank you very very much! 
    Anyway, at this stage, I think I'm more towards a display font - but since it's my first full creation I would like to keep the "playful" vibe in the making and avoid setting myself obstacles like 8pt readability, ink traps, etc. I know for sure that I can't avoid them, sooner or later I'll dig deep on those aspects but right now I'm like a child discovering LEGOs :D
  • Gianluca RussoGianluca Russo Posts: 21
    To my point of view, I see three styles in your font and I think you should keep only one and work on for all the glyphs. Keep going.
    I think having some variance and different nuances is exactly what's giving personality to my typeface. 

    The aforementioned "Platform" is a perfect example of this rhythm between letters:



    That's what I want to achieve with my approach. Sure, I need to find the right balance between "rhythm" and "overall composition" but in my opinion, "uniforming" is not the right thing to do here. Thank you for your feedback anyway, all critics are welcome! :smile:
  • Gianluca RussoGianluca Russo Posts: 21
    edited May 7

    @Alex Visi @Rafael Cases @Joe Elwell @Jeff Peters @K Pease @Craig Eliason
    Keeping you updated on the changes here, your feedback is super helpful!

    Here's a bigger preview of the letters (PDF attached) :


    - I reduced the bowl to steam connection weight a bit, I could push it even a bit more what do you think? (I did it on /b, /p and /a, /r and /n as well)

    - I redesigned my narrow /n but it looks like a did something wrong there... Maybe I'll start over again... Any tips there?

    - As some of you suggested, I tried to make the /r wider. The result's a bit weak in my opinion, I think I'll go back to the narrower and more solid /r.

    - The /o look to be a bit pointy on the 9 o'clock extreme, even if I checked and it's totally symmetrical in all points and curves. Is there any "optical illusion" adjustment needed? Or is it just my eyes telling me to stop staring at letters?  :D

  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,518
    edited May 7
    I think you can get away with a little more thinning in /b/p/. You'll also need more in /a/, especially in the middle join.
    The main problem of /b/p/ now is that they seem to have a bump at the 7- and 11-o'clock positions. You'll need to move the top and bottom extrema of the bowl away from the stem a bit. It seems counterintuitive, but it will make the bowls rounder.
    Here's what it looks like in my Quinoa. I even carved a little bit out of the vertical stem to make it look less clumpy. That's probably overkill in your case.

  • Joe ElwellJoe Elwell Posts: 25
    edited May 7
    My opinion on the latest: 
    1) Tapering of the joins is currently enough, being this is a display style you don’t want these optical corrections to be too obvious. Another option is to take the round point that aligns with the stems and push it in 1-2 units for a different way of taking weight out of the joins...

    2) The top point on your /n needs to shift right about 3-5 units and then re-smooth the shoulder. (A little too thick on the 11 o’clock position.)

    3) I thought a wider /r would be better without seeing anyone else suggest it. You may just need to make the terminal a couple units thicker.

    4)/o could get a little bit wider, or /e gets narrower only a little bit though. Doesn’t look pointy, to me.

    Your /a bowl looks a little too wide, for me, the s-a pair leaves a hole at the top half; see how much it may need to shift by balancing s-l-a so that the /l balances between the two top terminals. You could also take your /s, flip and then see how it compares the same bowl/terminal structure. Couple more comments in the pdf attached...

    Next, I would try expanding the set to get a better idea of how your proportions are working... Maybe add /f /t /v /y /H /O /A. Adding the /t will guide you a little on the way to treat the /r width and some diagonals are good get some different shapes in there.
  • Gianluca RussoGianluca Russo Posts: 21
    edited May 10
    Hi guys!

    @Alex Visi @Rafael Cases @Joe Elwell @Jeff Peters @K Pease @Craig Eliason @Christian Thalmann  
    I'm back with another update, I incorporated most of your feedback:

    - Thinner /b, /p, /a connection to the stems
    - Fixed a bit the /n (still not happy though)
    - Narrowed a bit the /e

    But I didn't want to stop on those letters, also because working on additional ones could bring some insight by laying more of them down together.

    Here's how far I got:


    (I know, kerning still sucks  :# )

    So I started designing letters /c , /k , /f , /t and /v to add different shapes to the font and see what it could look like.

    I would love some feedback on:

    - As you can tell from the image I'm playing around with two different /c's - Which one you think fits better? And, what adjustments would you take to remove the effect of the "lower" /c in comparison with the /a ? (The overshoot is the same)

    - Playing also around with two different /k's - Also here, which you one you think fits better the overall mood?

    (PDF attached)
    Thank you in advance guys!

  • André SimardAndré Simard Posts: 154
    I still think that's gone be hard to read if you mixing three style in your font as you showed previously. However I encourage you to continue if you feel confortable with it. Take what I've read with a grain of salt. Keep going.
  • Joe ElwellJoe Elwell Posts: 25
    Can you try making some PDFs with real words and test strings with /n’s and /o’s on each side every glyph you currently have? Then it will be easier for us and perhaps yourself to spot weaknesses... Also don’t worry about kerning any pairs, yet, just get your side-bearings (metrics) as good as you can, using your n/o test-strings.Kerning will be one the last things you do to finish the font.
  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,518
    edited May 10
    For the /n/: I believe you're trying too hard to preserve some of the «perfect» circular arc there. In order to look right, the arch has to be asymmetric, and its apex must lie on the right side of the glyph center. It will feel like you're making the glyph less geometric, but it will look better in the end.
    Quinoa for reference:

    Also: The stem of /k/ is lighter than its diagonals. I would consider lowering the crossbar in /t/ and /f/, possibly by a lot.
  • @Joe Elwell - Here I tried some words and the test strings:




    PDF attached!
  • Here a direct comparison of the two styles of /k and /c.
    Left is style 1 /k and style 1 /c - Right is style 2 /k and style 2 /c


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