At what point of the design process do you start digitising your drawings?

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  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,851
    edited June 2017
    I recall Hermann Zapf talking about the difference in the nature of his drawings for different type manufacturing processes. Drawings for mechanical production processes needed to be very precise, since they would be reproduced very directly. During the hot metal era, when machine punches or matrices would be cut on a pantograph, precise scale technical drawings were required: hence the drawing offices at Monotype and other companies that would have the job of producing these drawings. Similarly, in photomechanical processes, the typical model was e.g. for rubilith cutters to work from precise drawings and reproduce them accurately. This is quite different from Zapf's description of the earlier period of his work, having punches but by hand, in which drawings were less precise and the punchcutter was expected to interpret the drawings in the making of the punch, rather than reproducing them exactly.

    I've long taken the view that manipulating bezier curves is more like cutting a punch than making a technical drawing for mechanical manufacture. If I draw, I draw fairly roughly, often at very small size, to help me figure out how to 'cut' the shape of the digital glyph.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,219
    I think what happens with each passing generation of type designers, is we not only lose the common vernacular but the training and years with the tools of the day.  I wonder if soon enough, the young designers will have evolved so differently than we old farts did, that we will be unable to describe our way of working to each other in a truly meaningful way?
  • It's weird, but I never use a hand drawing as a direct source for the digital artwork. In fact I only scan them just to have a digital record somewhere. My hand drawings are primarily for brainstorming and quick testing.

    It's great to read about the various working methods posted here though, it's given me some new perspectives on the process.
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  • Max PhillipsMax Phillips Posts: 463
    Actually I think that the job itself defines what the best tool is.
    The more I think about this, the righter it sounds. I think certain forms, like brush-style letters, are very difficult to do convincingly if you don't start from analog. Forms made with a single stroke of the fingers have a warmth and organic unity very hard to produce when you're tugging nodes into position one by one.

    And as Morag Myerscough says, computers are slow. I can sketch an a in a few seconds that has the rhythms and proportions I want, but it takes a few minutes for me to produce one on screen that has any resemblance to my idea. And I've been using béziers for 30 years.

    For what little it's worth, I work both ways, and it's all down to what sort of letter I need to make.

    Meanwhile, we're apparently not the only profession having this discussion.

  • Rafael CasesRafael Cases Posts: 26
    I concur with your assessment, as someone trained in the profession in the link.  In here, I alternate between software and physical specimen.
  • Hello, I am new to type design and I am currently working on my very first typeface. So far I have sketched out most of the lowercase and uppercase letters on paper.

    I was wondering, at what point do professional type designers start digitising the letters in a font editor? Is it better to move to the computer only after completing the design on paper first or is using a font editor earlier preferable?

    Would love to hear your thoughts on this and learn about professional type designers workflows.

    Hi Santaji, welcome!
    I believe it’s a decision which should come from yourself. No matter how much you feel you are skilled, by starting to draw with bezier curves you are making a shift. What happens is twofold: you either have very refined pencil/ink drawings (as suggested by Frank) or less precise (although these can be quite refined) pencil sketches. In this second instance, putting into focus the outlines through the bezier curves opens a different way which incorporates editing and combination of elements, and this happens in a much quicker way than you’d do on paper with cut/paste, etc. This influences the design: it allows you to test very quickly proportions between letters, curves tension, stems and serifs thickness, but it also dictates in some way, especially if you are new to bezier drawings.

    What I find most effective is to print often the letters, eventually do further pencil forms, and get back to bezier. Back and forth will prevent either approach to dominate, and will let you to focus on what you are really wishing to obtain with the forms, both visually and on a functional level (especially for text typefaces).
  • Like much other terminology around type, I consider the term 'drawing' to be a kind of dead metaphor based on historical practice. Only in a production workflow such as Frank describes does it make sense to talk about digitising drawings in a literal sense. And yet, like Nick, I talk easily about 'drawing' in terms of manipulating bezier curves; I talk about a font that as been heavily edited as 'completely redrawn', even though no actual drawing took place; I am aware that these usages of the term are really metaphorical, just as it would be to say that the latter font is 'recut'.
    I am not sure I understand what you mean, John.
    Drawing, no matter if done directly through the bezier curves, more or less presupposes you have a form in mind, or you are getting it into focus. If it’s editing previous forms, strictly speaking, you are just improving the forms, but if you say it is completely redrawn… well, it means it is completely redrawn. Or am I missing something?
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