I'm reading Frutiger's complete works and the markings on the hand drawn sketches have always eluded me (looking like true type points).
Here's an example http://www.pinterest.com/pin/57280226485472560/
Can someone explain to me what these were for? Were these "registration marks" for vellum or something?
On DTL’s Twitter account I once jokingly compared the pace of our production process with the speed of a land turtle. With its own font tools and slow-fonts approach, the Dutch Type Library is a sort of Galapagos island in the type industry.
The work being exquisite, DTL can take its time for all I'm concerned.
I usually “design each glyph by hand” using a tablet and stylus, working directly with BCP drawing tools.
Only rarely do I start with pre-digital media.
I wonder what the typical practice is amongst Type Drawers?
But to make these kinds of technical drawings is costly – it requires a lot of time and precision from the human hand. Also, in the case of a text typeface it is hard to judge what your shapes are actually going to look like in 8 pt. when you need to draw them first in a big size (in pencil contours!).
For me, the process of designing type is much more dynamic. I usually sketch my first ideas on paper, and may draw some particular shapes in a bigger size (~8 cm tall) in black ink. Then using a scanner, or sometimes just by looking at the drawings by eye, I digitise these shapes in beziers in a font editor and start building the basic character set step by step. A lot of printing in various sizes is part of the process as well to judge the shapes and the spacing.
I'm mesmerized by the quality of the final outline pencil renderings in Frutiger's book. It's interesting to note the team effort involved in his designs. For me Frutiger's work was always Frutiger, it's nice to read some of his stories and to see the real world/non-fancy way in which he describes the process. I'm really hooked .
It's nice to hear your process too, thanks for that, I've learned a lot from everybody's input.
Until I can see a letter in the context of a word, I'm not sure what it needs to look like. For example, if I'm designing an S, I type words in the preview pane with S in them. I throw down a blocky polygon S and bop the points around, gradually add more points until it feels like it belongs with the rest of the letters. Then I throw it on the mask layer and use it as a "sketch" to draw my proper S.
This way I'm not limited by notions of what the S should be. Do I need a serpentine S, a Frutiger S, a descending wave S or a Stop S? I can guess ahead of time, but if I design it on-the-spot, I can be sure I'm adding the S I need rather than the S I want.
I arrived at this technique out of necessity in the late 90's when I was making fonts based on rock band logos. With bands like Kiss or ACϟDC, there are only 3 seed letters which doesn't leave much information to extrapolate a rule system in which to design other letters. I would just drop down a simple polygon and shape it like clay until the new letter felt at home amongst the others. That's still how I do it today. I guess, in a way, I have to design my own band logo when I start a typeface design.
When I read through this thread, I'm happy to see so many varied techniques. Otherwise, we'd all be coming up with the same designs.
* Yes, I have a big mirror in the shower but that's no so strange. In Japan, we all have big mirrors in the ofuro.
Modular or geometric letters I prefer to draw onscreen. Even so, sometimes I have to stop and noodle with a pen or pencil when something won't come right. I find my hand often makes better decisions than my head, but only when I have a pencil in it instead of a mouse.
The moment when your beautiful, flowing pencil rendering turns into a lifeless blob of wonky vectors is the most disheartening part of type and lettering design. Fortunately, it usually doesn't last long. Afterward, you look at your pencil and wonder how you could have missed so many obvious errors.
That depends on the part of the font production involved, I reckon. One of the strengths of the IKARUS format is that for manual digitizing one does not have to be very tech-savvy. The production of working drawings requires some non-digital skills, marking is learned in a jiffy, and handling the lens cursor requires some concentration. Next the analogue and digital contours have to be compared, and if necessary, (numerically) altered. Also this doesn’t require much technical know-how.
I recall the people digitizing with IKARUS systems at Scangraphic in the early 1990s. I don’t think they knew much about type or related technology, but they were capable of converting the type drawings to identical digital glyphs. Albert-Jan Pool is the ﬁrst one to present more details, because together with Volker Küster he was running the type department of Scangraphic at that time.
On the level of the actual manipulation of data, especially the command line functions of IKARUS V4 can be intimidating. Quite some stuff, like batch-generation of fonts is fairly simple with the FM tools now though. Some batch functionality, like the altering of widths of characters while preserving stem- and curve-thickness, require quite some parameters from the command line, but these functions have become available for Mac OS X, Windows and Linux now.
For manual digitizing large-scale drawings are not by deﬁnition necessary. Often I make much smaller drawings (a couple of centimeters for the x-height) that I manually digitize. For instance DTL Fell started this way (see image above).
The Achilles Heel of the IKARUS format has always been the conversion to other formats. Today this can be done better with the FM tools then ever before, but sometimes the newly generated contours require some additional editing still. Some new functions like the redistribution of IK-curve points help to make things easier (images above and below).
IMHO really strong points of the IK format are the auto-tracing and interpolation. I honestly believe that TraceMaster is the best (batch) auto-tracer on the market still. When it comes to interpolation, IKARUS V4 is capable of intelligent interpolation, i.e., the number of contour-points is allowed to be different; glyphs will be interpolated as long as their morphology is corresponding. The image below shows an interpolation of DTL Argo and DTL Fleischmann. Interpolation in BlendMaster requires an identical number of points though.
Double click points to toggle smooth and corner. You don't have to worry about extremes in sketch mode. When you convert to outlines, it'l place points on extremes.
There's no way to delete the sketch layer after. The sketches stay with your VFB but seem to cause no harm.