Good words for sketching letters

James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,933
edited May 2012 in Technique and Theory
Aside from the old standards—handgloves, hamburgefonts, and adhesion—what words are good for sketching letters? I find that Magenta and Magneto work well.


  • Max PhillipsMax Phillips Posts: 474
    Hamburgefontsiv, if you please. I personally need to see at least one cap and one diagonal stroke, or I can't get a proper idea of the design.

    For no good reason, I used "fringed chasuble" when designing Spinoza. 11 years of "fringed chasuble". I don't recommend it.
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,327
    I have used "OGRE DASH vegan stop" and "Elephant dung silo" but "Hamburgefonstiv" is my go-to string.
  • Michael ClarkMichael Clark Posts: 138
    James, I use "zesty Sauvignon." But then again I am a "chirographer" and tend towards the calligraphic titling as opposed to text.
  • Michael ClarkMichael Clark Posts: 138
    Did they just make up an avatar for me?
  • SHORTAGE captive bongs
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,998
    Massive Attack
  • Eris AlarEris Alar Posts: 407
    Magneto seems cool :-)
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  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 905

    I don’t generally use full words for sketching, per se; but my preferred string for comparing & evaluating progress is Hamburgefontsplivdy.

    Once, when I was seeking more real-world alternatives, two that I liked and seemed to be useful were Pantographic and vulgar hedonist. (Mostly because I tend to leave f’s for later. ;-)

  • Max PhillipsMax Phillips Posts: 474
    I've checked

    It's available.
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  • Making Gravity Grade push outlay lips drink drift Resonance Sing Aloud Amphorae uneven, though I'm with Kent. I usually draw iterations of a single letter until I get whatever aspect of the thing I'm working on looking right, then move on. If I make coherent words, it's usually because I'm working quickly.
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  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,998
    Right, I rarely work pen/pencil on paper these days.
    I thought you meant sketch as in loose/preliminary rendering.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,933
    I thought you meant sketch as in loose/preliminary rendering.
    I just meant messing around with pencils and pens. You know, for fun.
  • When messing around with pen and paper, I write nonsense that seems meaningful. My latest is ‘HAPTIC FEEDBACK and MORE’. Lots of potential for silly lettering. Otherwise when I explore potential for typeface ideas, I often write things like ‘garen’ and ‘argon’ and ‘Merz’.
  • "I just meant messing around with pencils and pens. You know, for fun."

  • "spindolf" works fine for me, but a diagonal letter would be good addition.
  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 0
    edited December 2012
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  • At the risk of treating this too seriously...

    If this is just for lettering fun that that's one thing but from the point of view of getting started on a font "adhesion" is good but so is Type Together's phrase "videospan". The reasons are the same. "magneto" is no good - for the same reason.

    The reason is that you want shapes to play with that you really want letters that are good stand ins for the overall texture and which also do a good job of suggesting what the essential characteristics or "DNA" of the type will be. You also want letters that you can make a large number of test words with. In English an "e" is particularly ideal.

    You don't want to repeat shapes more than you have to because it is inefficient. Hence if you have a d you don't need a bpq etc. Similarly if you have a n you don't need an m. You also don't want letters that tell you very little about the rest of the types face such as g in the double story version. It is a cul du sac design process within the font.

    The great thing about "magneto" is that it has an an and e which are superficially similar because they have middle strokes but which must be treated so differently.

    I think that a go to word seems less important than having an awareness of the relative utility of the letters you choose to your design process.
  • Handbuggeredfontstiffs
  • Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 1,260
    Matthew Carter mentioned in Helvetica Documentary that he uses the word


    Warning: Do not sketch this word over and over at airport gates, you will be stopped for suspicious behavior.
  • I like to use plinova because it has a diagonal letter (v), a round one (o), and a "rectangular" one (n), plus ascender and descender (p,l). With this letters you get the necessary info to develop almost all the others, except /s/t/z/f/. I prefer to draw those at the end of the process. I don't draw the /s/ in the beginning because it tells me too little about the rest of the words.
  • In Holland we like to use the word : Minimum. It's a great way to use repeated flow
  • The first 'word' I usually produce is nihilim simply because those are the first letters I typically make. They repeat many shapes, so are easy to produce, and are good for quickly establishing weight, horizontal proportions and spacing norms. After that, I do the lowercase o, and test millioon, another good spacing word.

    I understand why many designers like to use words that include some of the more 'expressive' letters such as lowercase a and g, and diagonal letters. But I reckon 90% of what makes a typeface work is in its stroke weights, proportions and spacing. I want to get those established first, and worry how to make the lowercase a charming later.
  • A good word for evaluating cyrillics is "фиброжелудка". You get "aeopy" for free (or get to draw a better 'у'), and many non-trivial cyrillic letters are included. "моветон" gives you four more letters to practice downscaling your capitals, and "минишпиц" is a good word to check if your typeface looks too much like a railroad track or a picket fence.

  • Hard to beat Nina Stössinger's "Rainfrogs".

  • minimum is what I usually start with when I instruct my students on minuscule writing. UNIVERSITÄTSBIBLIOTHEK is what they learn to hate when we practise Capitalis.

    In fonting my lowercase take-off is nuhm (nun, ihm, nur, minni…).
    Hamburgefonstiv or Hamburghepfonsity is always at hand, as well as daumenchor/Daumenchor or Rovenbaum.
    In the correction process I make use of
    Zwölfte Daumenchorsymphonie
    Downton Abbey Road
    and similar stuff.

    In order to view certain language-specific letter combinations I look at

  • I really like verbsgohuman
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