Display Serif w/ tall letters

Hey, I've been interested in typefaces lately and decided to give it a shot.

I started using FontLab 7 and designed this typeface focused on beautiful letters with high contrast. I was struggling with the fact that it looked too "vanilla" so I decided to make the letters tall, as you can see on A, B, E, F, H, et cetera. I've just completed the letters A-Z but might develop some other glyphs in the future.

Anyhow, this is the result:
Doing these letters was a fun process, and I would like to get better at it, so any advice is welcome (not focused on letterspacing & kerning :) )
test.pdf 342.7K

Comments

  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,150
    Your thick rounds need to get thicker to optically match the weight of the thick stems.
    You're right to defer kerning but you should be setting up your default sidebearings as you design. That establishment of default interletter space will better allow you to judge if the intraletter spaces (a.k.a. counters) are working (is /D too narrow, is /W too crowded, is /C too light, etc.).
    Is taper of /V and /W thicks intended?
    In /G, the swooping interior contour up to the bar feels out of character with the rest.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,058
    (Besides agreeing with Craig)
    You need overshoot for your rounds. Look at how the bottoms of C, G, and U, and top and bottom of O, look like they are shorter than other letters.

    Interestingly, not so much a problem for top of C and G as I would have expected. The particular serif treatment you have done creates a bit of a flat section, which greatly reduces, and possibly eliminates, the need for top overshoot with those letters. (Ditto bottom and perhaps top of S.)

    Usual overshoot is 1–3% of the total height.
  • Thanks for the feedback, Craig and Thomas. I actually did overshoot my rounds by 10 units, but I guess it wasn't enough. The tapering of V and W ain't intended, I thought it looked natural. Looking back now, I totally agree with everything you said. I'll make sure to make those adjustments.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,766
    Try making the upper bowl of S significantly smaller than the lower to echo the tall feel of other letters.
  • K PeaseK Pease Posts: 105
    The need for overshoot can be relative to size. I would argue your rounds don't need more overshoot because a face with such thin hairlines is meant to be used much larger than we see it here. The baseline points of /V/W will need more, though.

    It seems /S/X/Z are exactly symmetrical. Because visual center is higher than true center, this makes them look bigger on top, especially in the context of the deliberately high-waisted letters. Typically you want them to look a little bigger on the bottom for a sense of stability. This is done by moving the stokes of X laterally so they cross higher, by shortening the left end of Z (also correcting an impression of overhanging left which unfortunately is always invisible in the pangram "LAZY" and will only appear in other contexts)… and for S, hours of nuance, though a more exaggerated approach as suggested above will do well here.

  • Alex VisiAlex Visi Posts: 120
     (not focused on letterspacing & kerning :) )
    This is a mistake. Letters are not only the black shapes but also the white shapes, both inside and between the letters. You can’t fix the current word “F OX” with spacing or kerning, you need to change the design of F to fill that gap. Or different width of D and O in DOG are also the result of ignoring the white.
    So, do focus on both black and white shapes :smile:

    Duarte Pinto said:
    it looked too "vanilla"
    I think this is because it has no original design decision, no matter what proportions it has. But it is actually a good thing for the first typeface, since your goal is to learn the basics and creativity almost always interferes that. And I think you’re on a right path here as it looks pretty good overall.

    You can do some improvements if you step back a little and test your letters one by one, starting from simple to more complex. Start with testing and improving rhythm and proportions of HOIHOIHO, then add an E, then F, T, L, then perhaps D, P, B and so on.

    It might be useful to compare your font to other high quality fonts of the same genre and design, as you work, it helps to see mistakes and how they can be improved. Something like Font Goggles is a good tool for that.
  • Wow, I'm glad I posted here. Once again, thank you all for being so insightful. As a rookie, it's hard to pick up on what's off, and these answers gave me just that.
    K Pease said:
    The baseline points of /V/W will need more, though.
    I didn't even know the baseline points of /V/W needed overshoot, but it makes sense since they feel a bit taller. I had 10 units for the round overshoots, so maybe 15 will solve both overshoots. I was reading Practical Font Design With FontLab 5 by David Bergsland while doing this, and since he was doing a font with 10 units overshoot I just did the same without thinking. Maybe it depends on how big the grid is too.
    K Pease said:
    It seems /S/X/Z are exactly symmetrical. Because visual center is higher than true center, this makes them look bigger on top, especially in the context of the deliberately high-waisted letters. Typically you want them to look a little bigger on the bottom for a sense of stability. This is done by moving the stokes of X laterally so they cross higher, by shortening the left end of Z (also correcting an impression of overhanging left which unfortunately is always invisible in the pangram "LAZY" and will only appear in other contexts)… and for S, hours of nuance, though a more exaggerated approach as suggested above will do well here.
    Good suggestions! And yes, I think going with the tall /S will work better on this typeface. 
    Alex Visi said:
     (not focused on letterspacing & kerning :) )
    This is a mistake. Letters are not only the black shapes but also the white shapes, both inside and between the letters. You can’t fix the current word “F OX” with spacing or kerning, you need to change the design of F to fill that gap. Or different width of D and O in DOG are also the result of ignoring the white.
    So, do focus on both black and white shapes :smile:
    I was ignoring kerning because it's a process supposed to be done in the end, but I guess I should be considering it before getting there. As you said, some details can't be fixed with kerning. When it comes to letterspacing though, it was something critical that I ignored. As a result, the counters are very inconsistent, just as Craig mentioned.
    Alex Visi said:
    It might be useful to compare your font to other high quality fonts of the same genre and design, as you work, it helps to see mistakes and how they can be improved. Something like Font Goggles is a good tool for that.
    This sounds interesting, but I can't figure out how to install it. Is it macOS exclusive?
  • Alex VisiAlex Visi Posts: 120
    I was ignoring kerning because it's a process supposed to be done in the end, but I guess I should be considering it before getting there. 
    Yes, I meant spacing; But there are experienced people who also kern while drawing, but to me it seems rather tricky to keep track of it like that.


    This sounds interesting, but I can't figure out how to install it. Is it macOS exclusive?
    Ohh, sorry, yes. But you can do the same in illustrator or anything else, if you just set the same word in each font manually.
  • Ori Ben-DorOri Ben-Dor Posts: 351
    Very nice, good job!

    – Diagonals look thinner than vertical strokes.
    – U should probably be wider.
    – I'm wondering about the low connection in the P.
    – The extended bottom half of the C doesn't make much sense to me, it almost looks like a glitch...  
  • – Diagonals look thinner than vertical strokes.
    – U should probably be wider.
    – I'm wondering about the low connection in the P.
    – The extended bottom half of the C doesn't make much sense to me, it almost looks like a glitch...  
    Yes, I'll remake and adjust /U and /C based on previous feedback. The P is quite a different situation. It looks awkward if it's tall, but I will figure it out. Diagonals should be thinner than verticals, right? Because being the same width, they look bolder. I might have overcompensated them.
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,150
    "High-waisted" and "low-waisted" might be clearer terms to describe your design. ("Tall" to me means condensed in overall width, which this isn't.)
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,058
    Wow, I'm glad I posted here. Once again, thank you all for being so insightful. As a rookie, it's hard to pick up on what's off, and these answers gave me just that.
    K Pease said:
    The baseline points of /V/W will need more, though.
    I didn't even know the baseline points of /V/W needed overshoot, but it makes sense since they feel a bit taller. I had 10 units for the round overshoots, so maybe 15 will solve both overshoots. I was reading Practical Font Design With FontLab 5 by David Bergsland while doing this, and since he was doing a font with 10 units overshoot I just did the same without thinking. Maybe it depends on how big the grid is too.
    Yes. It depends on the em square—or more the cap height.
    I have no idea how much “10 units” is without knowing the scale. (Although I would guess the scale is larger as the overshoot is not at all apparent. Perhaps a 2000 or 2048 units cap height.)
  • I am using a cap height of 680 and the UPM is 1000. 
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,058
    Hmmm! I would have expected your overshoot of 1.5% to be enough or very nearly so. But then again, I haven’t done such a high-contrast face (at least, not with normal rounds). You're at 10 units, perhaps 14 (which would be 2%) will do the trick.
  • It makes sense that high contrast fonts need a little more overshoot on the thin strokes.
    I decided to go with 15 units of overshoot. Lately, I have been changing many details thanks to your feedback, and this is the result:
    I think you guided me in the right direction. It feels a lot more like a typeface, in my opinion. As you can probably guess, I haven't started kerning yet but is the spacing good enough? I'm sending another pdf, in case you wish to judge it closely :smile:

  • Jasper de WaardJasper de Waard Posts: 483
    edited July 25
    Very nice! Great improvements overall. I'm not sure about the new P, I think I liked the old one better. The key in type design is to know when to stick to the rule (in this case: a high waist) and when to break free from it. The more pointy M and N are better, but NVW could still go pointier. Take special care of the serifs at the end of thin strokes: top-right of K feels light, Z feels light compared to E, T feels light next to S, and come to think of it, the vertical ones such as on M feel light next to horizontal ones such as on L (look at LM). 

    I think the proportions still need some work. If tall is what you're going for, I would make some of the letters (CEFGOQUV, to name a few) a little more narrow so that the proportions are more natural. Alternatively, you could get adventurous and make some letters narrow and others wide, like TypeTogether's Fino for example. The latter option is (I think) more interesting but also more difficult to pull off. Either way, you have to do it with confidence, which will come with experience ;)

    Perhaps you first need to learn 'normal' proportions before you are able to design adventurous ones...

    Focus on proportions and spacing for now, and forget about kerning. In my view, you need good proportions for good spacing (although it's more of a two-way street), and you need good spacing for good kerning.

    Anyway, best of luck! I like where this is going :)
  • Alex VisiAlex Visi Posts: 120
    The problem with small-headed P is that it leaves a huge gap underneath, which is what you want to avoid for good spacing. Was going to write about the thin strokes serifs the same as Jasped wrote. A’s crossline can go lower to open that counter, raising it that high feels too naive :smile:

    Also, pangrams are not very useful for testing fonts, this could be a better starting point:
    https://www.typography.com/blog/text-for-proofing-fonts
  • Duarte PintoDuarte Pinto Posts: 7
    edited July 26
    Thanks! I'm not sure about the new /P either, probably changing it back for the same reasons you typed. The thin strokes serifs are indeed inconsistent. I will give them a few more hours.
    I think the proportions still need some work. If tall is what you're going for, I would make some of the letters (CEFGOQUV, to name a few) a little more narrow so that the proportions are more natural. Alternatively, you could get adventurous and make some letters narrow and others wide, like TypeTogether's Fino for example. The latter option is (I think) more interesting but also more difficult to pull off. Either way, you have to do it with confidence, which will come with experience ;)
    I apologize for portraying my concept poorly since you took the time to give me all these suggestions; The font I'm going for isn't tall. As Craig better described than me, I was trying to pull off a high-waisted font, not tall.

    Supposing I was going for a tall font, something around the TypeTogether's Fino would be very interesting. I like how its rounds stand out from the other letters.

    On the other hand, from the high-waisted standpoint, I feel like the proportions are natural already. I agree that the /A's crossline should be lower tho.
    Alex Visi said:
    Also, pangrams are not very useful for testing fonts, this could be a better starting point:
    https://www.typography.com/blog/text-for-proofing-fonts
    Very interesting, funny subtitle. Ty for linking this

  • Ori Ben-DorOri Ben-Dor Posts: 351
    Good progress!

    I'd try a high-waisted-but-not-that-much P before settling on the original low-waisted one. Yes, the white space is indeed a problem, but it's not a huge one, given that it's a high-contrast display type.

    Also, as the design is overall pointy and sharp, so I'd make the connection in the K thinner. That's going to be tricky, since the combination of high and thin connection would mean a very long leg, but still.
  • DrawcardDrawcard Posts: 30
    Like others have said, the first thing that jumped out at me was the /P design, I would probably interpolate it with your original design and go for a 50% mix :)

    Otherwise it's looking good and coming along nicely.
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