Telefon, a Nordic geometric

Sindre's picture

The best gift I got for Christmas was a book about the design of the Norwegian telephone box (1933). So I got inspired, and drew some glyphs, and all of a sudden I had a whole alphabet. I didn't look at the telephone box lettering while I drew, I wanted to make letters resembling the Art Deco style there still were a lot of traces left of in Norway until the 80s (now, there's only a few phone boxes and some street signs left), without making a derivative of anything.

I've made some deliberately naïve old-school choices, this is not a polished, modern take on a geometric sans serif.

I have a bold (or rather an extra bold) weight half-drawn as well, and I think that's going to be the whole type family. I need to get something finished. All my former attempts have grown too large too soon, this is going to be my first finished project. But I need your help. Any kind of criticism is very, very welcome!

For extended character set, see the pdf.

AttachmentSize
tlf.pdf531.76 KB
tlf_black.pdf54.67 KB
telefon_080310.pdf220.94 KB
Sindre's picture

I agree about the "S". The new one creates holes in the text, too.

I've done a lot of work on spacing and diacritics, and needed to do something else this evening. So I started drawing fat glyphs, something I've never done before. This is a very quick draft of an extra bold or black weight for Telefon. Is this approach right? Or does it look like a parody of Benton's Eagle? How do I solve the "G"? Is the tittle way, way too big?

Sindre's picture

Hold it. That's no good. This is much better.

eliason's picture

I like it!

I think the minuscule letters with round counters get too dark /b/d/g/o/p/q/. /O/ and /Q/ also might need bigger counters.
That /c/ is narrow but I'm not sure if/how to correct it.
Pretty nice job getting those vertically dense glyphs to work in such a heavy weight, /a/ and /s/ especially.
I think the tittles are fine.
/G/ is tough but you might be close already with what you have (I like it better than the Eagle solution, anyway).

Sindre's picture

Looks like I addressed your darkness concern while you were writing. I saw it just after uploading the first sample. I will give the upper case the same treatment.

Yes, that Eagle "G" is a lazy solution. Looks like I have to make "G" crossbarless, now I understand the reason for the Erbar "G".

nina's picture

Oh yummy! This is very nice work Sindre.
I'm just passing by and off to bed, but can't help noting a few spontaneous impressions:
- Agree that curvy caps need more white.
- Tail on bold "Q" seems shy. I'd at least make it longer.
- Not sure about the terminals/counters on the bold "s", but I don't have an alternate idea either (helpful eh!).
- I *love* the "f"!

BTW, Eagle's "G" has gotten protests from all the clients I proposed the font to. It's too much like a "C". Your form seems a much better solution, although it seems a bit imbalanced to my eye (but maybe it's mostly the weight right now).

Sindre's picture

I will post a new uppercase tomorrow, as it is indeed well past bedtime.

I was very uncertain about this, I've never drawn such weighty glyphs (not entirely true, I drew a rudimentary bold for the other sans I'm working on, but that's a grotesque, which is much easier), and it's been a steep (and darn fast) learning curve. Encouraging words means a lot. Thanks a lot, Craig and Nina.

Yes, that "s" is a bit awkward, it has to carry a lot of weight, and I found that the 45 degrees cut of the medium weight was impossible. So I made it 22.5 (echoed in the unpopular slanted "t" top. Perhaps I should try 30 degrees.

nina's picture

Unpopular really? Dunno, I think the "t" is quite nice.

Sindre's picture

So do I. But someone said it reminded him of Arial's "t". While the inspiration for that glyph is of course Oslo's old street signs.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

I have some sweet pictures lying around of those signs. There are more funky stuff going on than one might think, at least outside the city centre.

Sindre's picture

I would love to see those!

daniele capo's picture

Oh, this project is really, really nice. I love it.

Sindre's picture

Thank you, Daniele.

Here's a black "G" with crossbar. Can this possibly work?

Sindre's picture

I just saw your Grotesque on flickr, by the way. It's great! Have you posted it for critique here on Typophile?

Edit: I just discovered you did so a few minutes ago. I'll have a good look at it.

eliason's picture

That /G/ is great!

Sindre's picture

Thanks, Craig. I thought it was perhaps a little uneven, so I changed it a bit. I've also adjusted the horizontal placements of these glyphs.

eliason's picture

Great stuff.

1985's picture

Always liked this logo, the letter combination above reminded me. The weight is great.

Sindre's picture

That's a good observation, Andrew. My father was an avid amateur photographer when I was a child, that logo may have been a subconscious inspiration.

Black almost done now, I'll post a new pdf in a day or two. But I need some help on the numerals. Here's a first draft (upper case). Nos. "4" and "5" are very difficult to get right, and I'm quite unsure about the rest of them too. Any help greatly appreciated.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

The curle terminal on five doesn’t really fit all that well. Four need some more weight on the diagonal. I would also move the crossbar up. You’ll have to watch the notan, though. Perhaps you should consider a different kind of four? I really like seven!

eliason's picture

4- Maintaining that triagularity at that weight is quite the challenge!
Not that it would work for Telefon (which is made up of strokes rather than shapes), but take a look at what Mark S. did with the heavy weights of Mostra: he moved the counter down and over, heedless of the alignment with the rest:

Sindre's picture

Frode, you're right. Black, pointed "4" and "5" in this style can't be done. Jakob Erbar couldn't do it. The guy who designed the heaviest Futura weights (can't remember his name, and too tired to look it up) couldn't do it. But I want to challenge the impossible.

That's great advice, Craig! Thanks a lot. I've already done some (failed) experiments in that direction, and will continue to do so. Tomorrow.

Sindre's picture

Is this on the brink of actually working?

Bendy's picture

How funny, I also made the Ilford connection!
These latest numerals look splendid. Something about the zero is especialy juicy. I love the pointy junctions on 7 and 4, and though the counter of the 4 makes me wonder, I think it's a valid solution. I would like the diagonal to have more weight, but I also would like it to retain those points — if you moved the counter down slightly, could the arm have some weight taken off the top? You know, also I think the weight of the stem at the bottom could be reduced without drawing attention. Your 1 is delicious.

Sindre's picture

Thanks, Ben! I think the cold I'm suffering from (weird thing, the moment the temperature after a month rises from -20 to -5, everyone gets a cold) has zonked out the language centre of my brain, I had to read your suggestion several times to understand it. Well, here's a new "4".

Bendy's picture

...yes rereading that post it is confusing. Sorry I should read what I've written before posting ;)

How does the apex of A compare to the points on the new 4?

eliason's picture

Looking great!

Bendy's picture

Yes, I think that works. What next? ;)

Sindre's picture

Thanks! The remaining important glyphs are section sign and eth. Not looking forward to drawing those guys.

Bendy's picture

Arr, yes, those two are evil at the best of times. I don't have a clue how you'd draw black geometric versions. Good luck.

Sindre's picture

I've attached a new pdf showing the present state of Telefon Black. (I'm having doubts about the name, by the way. What do you think?)

I've decided to finish all weights with a limited character set (237 glyphs), and add full support for Latin Extended A (and a selected few from Extended B), when everything is finished and working.

Any criticism as always very welcome!

Bendy's picture

Those caps are JUICY! A couple of quick observations:
Comma is a lot smaller than quotes, why?
£ looks light? It might not need to be the exact same weight as L, but it could be closer.
(I think I'm a bit obsessive about the £ sign however.)
Did I miss the section sign?
3 looks heavier on the bottom than on top.
Grave and acute look a bit too centred, I can't remember the recommended ratio of what goes where above the centre line but the small end should be nearer the centre.

All in all, this is looking terrific. Great work Sindre.

eliason's picture

Could the cedilla be fattened?
Bendy's right about the accent placement.
@ looks cramped in its circle.
percent and perthousand look quite roomy compared to everything else.
I love the question and exclamation and quotation marks.
Yen's top bar runs into the Y's arms a bit too much - could you lower the bars a bit to let some space in there?
Dollar looks like it leans right a touch.
/X/ may be a bit dark.
/M/ looks a little wide but I'm not sure if that's solvable while preserving the structure. /W/ too?
Great /R/!
Weight on /3/'s bowl strokes isn't as even as it should be - looks like it gets cartoonishly fat at the southeast.

I agree with Ben that this is great work. And with his demand to see a section sign :-)

Sindre's picture

Thanks again, my good helpers!

I agree on all your suggestions, and have tried my best to follow them. Does this look better to you? I've fixed the per cent/thousand and the comma issue too, and I will look into the dollar problem later. Have to do some other work first. (I'm deeply envious of the people who actually make typefaces for a living.) I forgot about the section mark, and I see now that its curves are a bit wobbly. But do you think its basic shape and weight works?

eliason's picture

That section looks like it descends too much to me (though I'm never sure about the proper vertical alignment of that glyph). I would squoosh it up so the center of it is closer to the vertical center of gravity of your figures. But again, I may be wrong.
I think the accents (acute and grave) still look way off. I would put the bottom of them very near the optical centerline of the letters.
I'm afraid /3/ still looks a bit fatassed to me. :-/
Did you or would you consider lowering your @ glyph so that the "a" falls centered in the baseline-to-x-height level?

Bendy's picture

I'd agree about the @. See this thread. Regarding diacritics, see this Typecon presentation by Adam Twardoch and Victor Gaultney.
Section looks like it's leaning left. I haven't yet come across any useful information about the design of this glyph, anyone else?
On £, I wonder if the crossbar should be lower than the centre, as featured in the E?

nina's picture

This is extremely yummy, and/but I agree on diacritic placement. And the cedilla seems strangely twisted – but maybe that's just me.

Here's some good input on diacritics from ILT:
http://ilovetypography.com/2009/01/24/on-diacritics/

eliason's picture

Oh, I forgot to say, /J/ looks narrow and maybe mistakable for an /I/ now that it doesn't descend.

Sindre's picture

I've repositioned and fattened the diacritics, moved the "@", fixed the comma, altered the section sign, polished the pound sign, slimmed down "3"s arse, and tried a new cedilla approach. Cedillas and geometric sans-serifs aren't natural friends, apparently. Could this solution work?

Sindre's picture

... and reworked quotes and a more self-confident "J".

Bendy's picture

Looks good enough to eat! There's something amazing about this black weight in caps. I want it!
Looks like J overshoots a little too much?
I know what you mean about cedilla. It's taken quite some time even in a non-geometric sans. Your solution is clever.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

I think the spot where the cedilla joins with the letter is too black. I'm not familiar enough with how they are supposed to look, but if the french think it's ok I would just put those joins on a diet.

I'm finding the Ø slash a little wierd -- it's hard to draw well. When two strokes intersects the thinner needs a slight offset. It looks like you have accounted for that, but it's still not quite right. Have you tried rotating the center part ever so slightly?

Sindre's picture

I've worked a lot on this since my last post, bold and black weights are now more or less finished, and I've worked my way through Latin Extended A for the regular and bold weights. I've done a lot of polishing on everything. I'll post a comprehensive pdf in a few days.

But now I need your help on this: I've done some experiments for a morbidly obese weight of Telefon. This has got be caps, numerals and punctuation only, I don't think lower case works at this blackness level. (They'll end up looking like Gill Sans Ultrabold.)

I'm not sure if this works at all. I've kept the basic structure of the glyphs, and some of them may not work.

eliason's picture

Wow, looks great!
Biggest bother to my eyes: I don't like the squinting C counter. C and G both look a little cartoonish: is there any way to thicken the upright of G and thin the curve on the left half?
W looks a bit precariously balanced; I might try spreading out the lower vertices.
J could be a little wider maybe?
Nice job cramming that S in (though those counters have a touch of that squinting, too, maybe).
Is F's lower crossbar too thick?
Could/should the counter at the top of Y come down further?

Sindre's picture

Thanks! I agree 100 percent on all your remarks. I wish I knew how to solve that "C" and "G" ...
I'm unsure if the "E" and "F" are not too black, should I make the crossbars a little thinner?

eliason's picture

I thought of that. With the counterspaces so thin, they may start to read as lines (a la Klimax) rather than countershapes: I do like how /H/ and /U/ don't reduce the counters to lines.
That said, there's not a lot of vertical room to work with in a "morbidly obese" /E/.
Maybe optimum size for the font is something you should think about as you make that decision.
It also occurs to me that if you thickened E's counters and they wound up more or less matching the letterspacing when followed by a straight (as in the EF of your sample), they actually might look more like lines rather than shapes.

Sindre's picture

Slightly wider slits in "E" and "F" (matching letterspacing), "F" crossbar thinner, desquinted "C", "G" and "S" (some additional curve-tweaking on the latter), wider "J", deeper "Y", adjusted "W" (I'd like to have identical angles for "A", "V" and "W", for kerning reasons, but that might not be possible for "W".)

eliason's picture

This area is too tight I think:


I'm unsure about the slits of F and E.
Other changes look good, and the consistent diagonal idea is a sound one.
That really is a terrific S!

Bendy's picture

Yeah, well done with that S! I agree with Craig about the G, and I'll be intrigued to see if there's another solution to the C. Next to D, the first C's counterspace looks very different.
I think F crossbar could even go a bit thinned.
Lower leg of K looks a bit tight. R is lovely though.
I wonder if the arms of T need to be heavier to compensate for the gaps underneath (I'm conjecturing that at extreme weights like this it can be more about minimising the white space consistently than having the black strokes all the same weight. At least it'd be interesting to work that way and see what happens.)
I think there may be some kind of optical illusion caused by the tail of the Q that makes its counter look too far left.
N may need more overshoot?

Sindre's picture

Tweaked "G", compromised apertures on "E" and "F".

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