What Kind of Order Do Some of You Work in When Designing a Typeface Family?

Steve Tiano's picture

I'm reading like crazy. Now I'm into Letters of Credit. One of the things that Tracy seemed to be saying is fine type design does not include letting the software you're using run routines to proportionally increase and decrease the size of one or two sizes that you've designed.

So how many sizes do you create--I mean, I'm sure you can create a hundred sizes if you wanted to. But practically speaking, how do you handle making different sizes?

And what about italic, do you simply slant a roman typeface?

These may seem like awfully basic questions, but since I have no burning need to do any type design until I know what the hell I'm doing, I figured I should gather all the info I can first.

Thank you.

clauses's picture

Usually there are some different optical sizes made going from small to large, like: caption, body, headline and titling. These are optimised for normal sizes like eg. 9 or 10 for the body cut.

Some typefaces have a slanted version instead of a true italic. That causes some problems, especially in the shapes of the characters a,e,f and so on – you get the idea. I suppose this was done so to save a bit of work in it's time before digital typefaces.

Nick Cooke's picture

As a beginner I don't think you need to concern yourself with different sizes. Designing and producing one weight is difficult enough. You're becoming weighed down with the nitty gritty before you even start, so don't run before you can walk.

Just buy 'Learn FontLab Fast' by Leslie Cabarga, read it, and then start work on one upright typeface to see if it is something you would wish to continue. Believe me - it is a LOT of time-consuming work with no guarantee of success.

I'm not trying to put you off - you might enjoy the process.

Nick Cooke

Steve Tiano's picture

Just buy ’Learn FontLab Fast’ by Leslie Cabarga, read it, and then start work ...

Well, I'm moving slowly because I'm trying to get a sense of what I really want in a typeface. I've said it before elsewhere: I can't draw a lick, and so visualizing something diffrent, but worth trying to bring into existence is a real issue for me. I'm also going the FontForge route, instead of FontLab—also discussed previously and elsewhere in these parts—purely from an economic standpoint.

And, finally, there’s work obligations. I'm knee-deep in work and a little bit from setting aside even an hour or two each day to pursue this type design project. I have two books going. The first I'm putting into first draft pages as I write this—on a break, as it were, before starting the day’s work; and on the second, I’m awaiting corrections amd changes. Plus there's the matter of finishing up a booklet project—interior pages, covers, and j-cards for five booklets.

So I'm kind of dragging my feet, I guess, because I don't have the energy or time to plunge in. But at least I'm using the time to get a foundation of information that will help me with this project.

I have heard good things about Learn FontLab Fast. I've read most of Cabarga’s Logo, Font & Lettering Bible and I am mightily impressed. I wish there were a "Learn FontForge Fast."

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

I agree with Nick, Steve... get your feet wet and see if you like it. :-)

Don't get bogged down with lots of theory and no practice... And most of all, don't be afraid to make mistakes! Making mistakes is GOOD -- it gives you an opportunity to learn from them.

Nick Shinn's picture

I recommend starting with Regular or Medium
When you're happy with that, start your Thin and Extra Bold by pasting it into the mask/template layer.
Make the Thin by drawing a single skeletal path and applying a stroke value of 20 units.
Make the Extra Bold by a combination of dragging parts of the letters wider, and applying "add weight"/"parallel path" commands.
Finally, you can use the Multiple Master feature to interpolate all the other weights between those three masters.

Steve Tiano's picture

My thanks to all of you. I should be done with both books I'm working on by Monday night. This week I'm going to get going and draw some letters.

Don McCahill's picture

> And what about italic, do you simply slant a roman typeface?

This question suggests that you need to spend a lot more time looking at type. Here is a starting point. Find a program that will slant text for you (many can). Type a line in Times New Roman 24 to 36 point, make a copy, and then slant it 12 degrees. Convert the top line to true italics and then compare the two.

Do this with at least 50 different fonts. Compare the differences. (You will find that some sans serif fonts are pretty similar but almost no serif fonts are.)

Another thing to do is to type similar lines in differing fonts, but the same weight and style (all roman or all italic). Look for the differences between the shapes of the characters. Once you get a good read on how the types differ, you can start to imagine which features you would like to use.

Steve Tiano's picture

Thank you. That's a practical suggestion that makes the point and is worth exploring.

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