Humanity sans – An attempt to create a humanist sans serif


Hello, Type Drawers,

I am a graphic designer by profession but I tried my hand at typeface design as part of my MA in Graphic Design 3 years ago at Portsmouth Uni. With the global pandemic happening, I’ve finally found the time to slow down and take another look at my MA project, and it reignited my obsession with type.

The plan was to design a Behance project to display the typeface and tell its story, but I'm now wondering if I should start a new one or keep developing this one and create multiple weights. Heres the Bechance project for anyone that's interested: 

The typeface is called Humanity sans, it was made in an attempt to create a ‘true’ humanist sans serif that worked for continuous reading. Because it was part of my MA it needed a certain level of theoretical grounding. 

Looking at fonts such as Gill sans, that held some humanist forms and quirks but was also very geometric. I wanted to create a humanist sans with minimal geometric construction, that sticks as closely as possible to the humanist serif fonts from the 1400s. (Jenson, Centaur, and Doves were my main reference points). 

In short attempting to answer this question: “How can the humanistic warmth of renaissance type benefit the form of a modern-day sans serif?” 

Bear in mind this was my first type design. I know it's pretty rough around the edges but I’d love some honest and constructive feedback from you avid type designers, so I can keep learning and developing my skills. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my post! 


  • Craig Eliason
    Craig Eliason Posts: 1,411
    Work on smoothing out the transitions from straight to curved in /B/D/P/R/. 
    Period and comma/quote shapes feel like they're from another font.
    "x-height" of oldstyle figures is too small and/or figure extenders are too long. 
    Some weight consistency issues: bowls of /b/d/p/q/ feel heavier than /c/e/o/ for example.
  • Andreas Stötzner
    There are many lesser or grave weight distribution issues/errors in your draft, too many to refer to them one by one. I cordially advise you to get a reed pen and start to study writing manually, alongside with taking much time to view, explore and study written or early printed samples of humanist Latin script styles. In that stage you are, it is all about getting a feeling for what you want to do.
  • John Savard
    John Savard Posts: 1,094
    One problem is that the line width is heavier for the capital letters than for the lower-case letters. This is usually considered a flaw. At the moment, this typeface reminds me more of Futura than it does of Gill Sans, so despite it having many features of a humanist sans-serif, they don't seem to be giving the typeface a humanist "feel".
  • Vasil Stanev
    Vasil Stanev Posts: 763
    edited June 2020
    This is usually considered a flaw. 
    ?? Of course it's not, and Mr. Eliason explained why better than I ever could. Did you mean something special?
    To the topic starter: I used to make the vertiacals of the lc just as thick as the horizontals of the uc, but this technique has flaws. For me, the idea is to have both registers in a harmonious proportion. Set a text and play with the boldening option of your preferred font editor. Compare the different versions and you will teach your eye to see it. Be sure to print every specimen out, the screen is not enough for most people.
    Also, as a bonus, print a mirrored version of the specimen, look at it from all 4 sides and use lots of red ink to correct. I think this is the best way. Come back after that.  :smile:
  • John Savard
    John Savard Posts: 1,094
    I was simply mistaken. Perhaps the difference in thickness between upper-case and lower-case is simply greater than in his design than is typical of sans-serif typefaces, and if so my comment was not entirely wrong even if its premise was mistaken.
  • Nick Shinn
    Nick Shinn Posts: 2,152
    edited June 2020
    Looks fine to me, according to your brief.
    My only recommendation is to put a curl at the end of y’s descender, as the extenders are very long, and a curl would mitigate that letter ‘ligating’ with ascenders below.
    And beef up the <one>, it’s too slight.
  • Philipp Schumann
    At first glance, /O and /Z seem a little wide and /X seems a little narrow. Also, the curvature on /O and /Q, especially the upper right part, looks odd. The weight distribution in many letters, as others have pointed out, looks a bit off. I will try and point those out in detail, minus the ones already mentioned, as a starting point:

    - You could try and make the middle crossbar of /B a tad lighter, currently it looks thinner than on /E and /F.
    - The tittle of the /i does not correspond properly with the one on /j (size and position).
    - To me, the upper crossbar of J seems too narrow. Maybe it could be optically the same width as the descender. 
    - The characteristic juction on /N feels too timid. You could try and take it a few units higher.
    - The upper arm on /k is significantly thinner than the lower one. That does not seem to match with the typeface, since you seem to go for a monolinear appearance.
    - You could revisit the weight distribution in /S: The whole letter feels too heavy, although just looking at /S itself, the spine seems too light.
    - The lower junction on /P is not horizontal, but this characteristic is barely noticeable. I would suggest bringing it out a little further and see how that looks. If it doesnt feel right, I would just opt for the regular horizontal junction, or continue the curve on the lower part and thus make the junction go upwards (not sure how to phrase that).
    - I dislike the design/shape of /? all-around, but I cannot give exact directions on how to improve upon it, maybe just try out different options.
    - I agree with Nick on the descender of the /y. Although you could maybe keep the straight descender if you shortened the descenders in general.

    All in all, I like the quirks and features, which make the typeface stand out. I loathe those super timid designs... just looking at the sheer amount of new-generation geometric sans serifs with barely any differences makes me puke a little inside. So yeah, keep it up!
  • Jake Bougouneau
    Thank you, everyone, for your comments and feedback, this gives me a really good starting point for rolling my sleeves up and getting stuck into this design again! 
  • Simon Cozens
    Simon Cozens Posts: 726
    Beef up your overshoots on /O/Q a bit more. Curve quality on the top left of those two glyphs also needs a bit of work. The /g is beautiful but perhaps not in the right font; notice that it's hard to space, which often tells you that the curves are wrong. If you want to keep it, work the transition between the two bowls a bit more, and perhaps point the ear up a bit more? Curve-to-straight transitions in the /U and other places are a bit awkward. Some spacing issues - /K/T/B/R RSB too wide, /I/J too narrow.

    I love the playfulness of it, especially the /e which seems to be laughing - but the /c is not quite as happy, and I'm not sure why not.

    And something about this just strikes me as a bit off:

  • Joe Elwell
    Joe Elwell Posts: 34
    edited June 2020
    Would drawing a humanist serif first be more beneficial?