Brassfield Neue Critique

Hi everybody!
I’m here for my first design critique, I hope to get some insights and useful suggestions :)

It’s a long time that I wanted to put my hands on this typeface, which is not original but inspired by Brassfield, a typeface designed in the early ‘90s and most notably used by M/M Paris in several Björk sleeves through the years.

I decided to redesign it from scratch – that’s why the Neue name – keeping the same original recipe of deco-alike uppercase letters and geometric lowercases and some unusual choices (like the lower k) but revisiting most of them, applying optical corrections, and introducing new shapes like the lowercase g.

This is the first step that I wanna share with you. I started designing the medium weight, which is the same as the original typeface, both in lowercase and uppercase. I’m still not sure about the strokes in oblique letters (k, v, etc) and if the uppercases needs to be a bit bolder compared to the lowercases. Please, don’t judge the kernings since I’m still not there :)

I also introduced alternate uppercases (since the deco ones are not really readable for longer texts) and numerals, but I don’t feel quite there with their design still. The alternate uppercases still need some correction in strokes like the default ones. You can see them in the PDF file attached.

I already tried experimenting with interpolation, sketching the extremes, which I called Thin and Black. The last one in particular still needs several tweaks – I found kinda challenging designing the boldest master, I must tell the truth, and the lowercase black "g" makes me cry. Some early feedback about them is really welcome, even if I could later change some letters based on the feedback about the original Medium weight above.

Last but not least, in the attached PDF I added some experiments like weights interpolation and some early, early sketches of alternate styles I have in mind to provide in the final release – those are still messy, but whatever :)

Thank you so much in advance to anyone who’ll take some time for me.
I really, really appreciate it 🙏


  • Hey, what a great start! The original has a number of significant issues that you are avoiding. For example, your “S” curves are much better.

    Of course, there is always room for improvement....

    At the thicker weights, your attempts to keep the points on the outside of the top/bottom curves on bdpqhmn lined up in X with the inside results in some unfortunate distortions as the weight increases. Fixing this will likely also correct your “weak shoulders” on hmn, and the oddly pinched appearance where the curves join the stem on all the above.
  • Thank you @Thomas Phinney!
    Damn, you're right, I totally forgot to overshoot more the curves in the Black weight, that's why it looks so weird 🤦🏻‍♂️
    By the way, one question: do you find the same issue at the Medium weight?
  • Apologies for not explaining more clearly. My comment was not about amount of overshoot. Rather, the top and bottom extrema on the outside of the curves in question need to move outward (more so on heavier weights). It does not change the thickness or overshoot, but distributes the weight differently.

    It means the apex (or nadir) on the outside of the curve is no longer aligned in the x-direction with the equivalent inside point; many beginning type designers find this counter-intuitive, which makes it a common mistake.

    I think I cover this issue in this video:
    Along with a couple of other things that might be improved. (Yes, the video uses an old version of FontLab, but the general advice is independent of any tool.)
  • K PeaseK Pease Posts: 180
    Obviously most of the problems are in black: /v/w/x are lighter than everything else and easily corrected. /e/s are still struggling to compromise on weight; relaxing the terminal angles may be called for here. And if you want your unusual /g to work, what I recommend, as it gets heavier, is for the head to get much bigger (flattening down the tail bowl as necessary), the linkage to get smaller, and possibly to interpolate that through the entire weight range.
  • I have to admit it took some time to understand due to the difference in technical terms between Italian and English, but now I got it :)

    Thank you so much for the insights guys, now back to work!
  • Hey there! I'm back with some rework on the typeface, I also added all uppercase letters and numbers for the three master weights.

    Hope to have understood correctly your previous comments and fixed the main issues. For sure there are still other things to correct, but multiple eyes than just mine are always better :smile:

    Let me know what I can iterate more or if there are still completely wrong things.
    Thank you very, very, very much 🙏

  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 716
    edited November 2021
    The g's are too adventerous for my taste, especially because of the left bulge. I would venture to say that it needs redesigning overall, currently I see material for at least 3 fonts. The numbers are perhaps somewhat clumsy - for example the 6 is thinner than the 1-5 and overall the widths don't seem to be very well balanced. But I see your brainchild has big potential.  <3
  • Hey @Vasil Stanev!
    First, thanks so much for your reply!

    Guess your comment about being 3 different typefaces is due to some letter shapes mixed up. As I said earlier in the thread, the main inspiration for the typeface comes from an old one that had this weird recipe of deco-alike uppercases mixed with classic geometric ones and that probably would look totally wrong to most type designers: for instance, I understand that the lowercase “g” and probably also the “y” looks like they’re coming from another world, or the “k” having the wrong uppercut angle, or again the “t” being too tall. Nevertheless, I wanted to keep these weird/wrong choices anyway to not lose the thread with the old typeface and try to figure how to balance them in some way. I don't know, maybe I'm totally on the wrong path, but after all, it’s just good for me to exercise and understand more how typefaces are designed :smile:

    That’s said, I definitely agree about numbers, it was my first attempt at them and I admit I still have to figure out how they are usually processed compared to letters. Overall I feel like the black weight looks wrong, mostly the uppercase where I struggled to find a way to balance the strokes. I would like to know at least if the construction of thin and medium weights are quite there or there are still some very critical issues, like the ones suggested above, to work on them further 🙏

  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,513
    edited November 2021
    With the lowercase “k” in the heavier weights, it feels as if the arm is too thick and the leg is too thin.

    They may well actually be the exact same weight, but to achieve the appearance of ~ monoline strokes to human viewers, the arm has to be a bit lighter in weight than the leg. This is just because of the norms of western/Latin type design. Comes from tradition of lettering done with a broad-edge pen at a 30° (or steeper) angle, and it informs the norms even in typefaces with no apparent/obvious contrast.

    I would move the inner “v” counter of the lowercase v just a couple units to the right for the same reason.
  • I agree with Pietro - the g bothers me a bit, it feels a little over-rebellious in the whole style - unless thats what you intended? I think it could look better perhaps without a bulge - I would imagine maybe making less of a bulge - see image attached- more of a regular g but still a little rebellious? Just my two cents  :)
  • hi pietro

    this is good work. I see lots of issues but I think you will be able to resolve them.

    could be my eyes, but I think I think the /3 is leaning counterclockwise at the regular weight, and clockwise at the darker weight.

    the pointy /7 joint does not relate the butted vertex of the /M/v etc

    the /zero is too wide. the /5 and /3 might look better if they are closer to the same width too.

    you have more problems at the black weight than the regular and thin, which is pretty common for a sans, I'd say.

    the spine of the /s is a bit too light at the black weight, and has similar leaning problems like the /3.

    the lower bowl of the /B looks like it's pointing upward in the black. /M/W are maybe a bit dark where the angles join.

    I would check to see if the /r is too wide, especially at the light weights.

    the terminals of your /S/2/3/f/t are cut horizontally like helvetica but the rest of them (/a/s/k/c/6/7/9) have varying angles. this feels disharmonious to me - pick one.

    these are some of the mechanical problems that I see at first glance.

    but biggest problem that I see is conceptual. /D/O/G/M/e/o etc are very geometric, geo-sans. while others like /R and /s look like an early british or german grotesque.  people have commented on your /g but your /G bothers me more. if you want to blend the genres, I think you have a lot more work to do. on the other hand, if you pick one, and lean into it more heavily, you probably have less work to do.

    I hope this is helpful, it's just my perspective.

  • Thank you so much @jeremy tribby!
    Sorry but I've only seen your feedback now – that is sooooo precious by the way.

    Unfortunately, I've been so absorbed working that I had to leave this typeface on one side, but I hope to get back to work on it soon :smile:
  • good progress, Pietro. – Please avoid giving the t a full ascender height. One sees this here and there, I know. But it is a misconception!
  • good progress, Pietro. – Please avoid giving the t a full ascender height. One sees this here and there, I know. But it is a misconception!
    I actually have to disagree with Andreas here. The length of the top of the t is very dependent on what you are looking to accomplish stylistically. Yes, conventionally it doesn’t reach full ascender height, however, in more stylized designs it might.

    From a historical perspective, tall reaching t’s pop up in art deco lettering quite frequently. As you mentioned in your original post, there are some deco-inspired proportions and I think a tall reaching t in this case is both appropriate and rather charming.
  • … The length of the top of the t is very dependent on what you are looking to accomplish stylistically.
    Even in the ‘good old days’ mistakes have been made.
    – One can achieve a stylistic accomplishment without violating the anatomy of the alphabet.
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