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.

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

Didn't see your post before I posted, Ben, but thanks for your feedback, invaluable as always. Bedtime now, but I'll continue working on this tomorrow evening and night.

Sindre's picture

Er ... I just had to work a little on the counters. I've tried equalising them as much as I can. Some tweaks on the "G" too.

Now it's bedtime.

Sindre's picture

Numerals. "C" and "G" are bugging me, I really don't know how to solve them. Suggestions are very welcome.

Bendy's picture

Sindre, that's a tough one! I think the counter of C needs to be somehow more central in the glyph, to make the weight more equal all around the curve. I had a quick try which might be a starting point:

I made the counter a bit more circular too.
Obstacles like this sometimes make me wonder whether a font can be impossible. What if certain decisions are unresolveable? Coming back after a break usually brings me new solutions without turning myself upside down.

eliason's picture

4's horizontal lays too low, I think.
5 looks too skinny—could you make the bottom come around like /S/'s? 7 could stand to be a touch wider too.
If you could fatten 3's upper stroke that might be good. (Hey, deja vu! :-) )
The contrast in zero may be a bit much—did you try it with the counter squooshed in from the sides a little more?

I don't see a big problem with your /G/. The /C/ just looks too fat on the left. What happens if you just bring in that left extremum a bit?

Sindre's picture

Yes! Of course! I made that same diagnosis, but I just couldn't think of a way to solve it, I've been much too dogmatic about the proportions. Thank you very much for your elegant solution! If we ever meet, the beers are on me. I've felt several times while drawing this ultrablack weight that it is close to impossible to maintain the topology of the regular. The "G" is not doable, of that I'm sure.

Sindre's picture

Lots of cross-posting now, obviously. Thanks for your feedback on the numerals, Craig. I'll have to fix them tomorrow, it's getting late here. Sometimes I wish I was unemployed. Only 27 years till retirement. Sigh.

Bendy's picture

I'll get back to you on that G! ;)

Bendy's picture

I suspect 2 and 3 and 5 will need vertically cut terminals.

eliason's picture

Lots of cross-posting now, obviously

Damn, for a second I thought I was getting the beers.

Sindre's picture

I'll bring you a cask of the very best Norwegian craft beer, should I ever set foot in Vinland, Craig.

Bendy's picture

Here's an idea. I followed the way you'd resolved a and g on the lowercase.

You could also make the bottom right squared if that works better. Sorry it's not very neat ;)

Northbay's picture

First off - this is really impressive! I love this typeface already.

For some ideas on the "æ-ae" solution you can (obviously) check Futura, but also PTL Superla. I think the latter alternative is the way to go, since it will preserve the geometric feel to it (even though Futura goes the other way).

I just noticed this thread so I have to get back to you with more input. The numbers are delicious, especially No5, and the letter "M" is stunning.

IMHO the morbidly obese weight is just.. morbid. Didn't like it at all. The typeface lost its qualities there.

Sindre's picture

Thank you, David. I've been having second and third thoughts about that overweight cut too, while I like some of the glyphs (BHMNRS and perhaps WZ), others are plain awful or cartoonish. Perhaps it's a good idea to finish the other three weights (after all, the ultra caps are still but an experiment), and then try a rethought fat face, perhaps less ultrablack, perhaps slightly condensed.

Sindre's picture

New pdf attached, showing regular, bold and black weights. I've covered Latin extended A, some extended B, and just a few glyphs from extended additional, most notably uppercase Eszett. I really hope those ten surviving speakers of Livonian appreciate my supporting their diacritical nightmare of a language! (Just kidding. Actually, I really dig all those moribund Uralic micro-languages.) I've also made old style figures.

Any criticism etc.

eliason's picture

This is really terrific work.
Attractive letters and they fit together nicely (favorite combos include /ra/, /fi/, /tt/). That Arial-slant /t/ even slopes up nicely to an ensuing /h/! ;-) The letterspacing in the regular weight text sample looks tight to me.

I still think /J/ could be wider in all weights.

Looking at it in the text settings, I think the bowl of /a/ should be a hair smaller in the regular weight.

In the bold weight, the /Q/ looks heavy at the bottom - should you push that counter down the slightest bit?
Also in bold, I think the upright segment of /5/ could be heavier by a touch.

In the black weight, the diagonal of /7/ may taper too much - the cartoonish effect threatens to arise.

I like the idea of the narrow /z/, but I think it could gain a little in width more with every jump bolder.

The sterling doesn't do it for me. Did you or could you experiment with a bottom that turns acute at the left, like your /2/?

I buy the "stemless" cedilla solution in the black weight but maybe not in the bold and not at all in the regular.

(Note: the glyphs page for the black weight is mistakenly labeled "TELEFON BOLD.")

Again, great work. Get this on the market and hopefully soon you'll have funded your trip to America to bring me beer.

Sindre's picture

Thanks again for your time and thoughts, Craig. I was starting to feel a little insecure about this whole project, your criticism blew away those cloudy thoughts.

Yes, I've had doubts about the spacing. I guess I've landed on a spacing suitable for display work. But perhaps I should make it looser, so it can be set at ten or twelve points without the need for manual adjustment. But I wonder how much that will affect the kerning. I'll do some experiments. Is it only the regular that's too loose, do you think?

I'll more or less blindly follow your other suggestions, perhaps except for the cedilla thing. I think it works in all weights, but I might be blinded by my own idea. It would be great to have second on third opinions on this. (I kind of like my sterling too, but that glyph is rather alien to me, so I guess I'll follow your advice.)

America, here I come!

eliason's picture

Is it only the regular that's too loose, do you think?
Yes, the smaller counters in the bolder weights make their spacing good to my eyes.

(I kind of like my sterling too, but that glyph is rather alien to me, so I guess I'll follow your advice.)
Well it's alien to me, too, so let's see what Ben "Mr. Pound" Mitchell has to say...

Bendy's picture

Ok well I had a sneaky look at this earlier and the £ didn't draw attention to itself, in fact everything looked unbelievably polished and beautiful. I really like this one.

Well I'm going to look through in super-picky mode so take my comments with even more salt than usual...

a is terrific! I love the egg shaped counter. As Craig said, perhaps it could be narrower but only a hair, it's great.

Tilde looks funny. I think it should be more monoline and more geometric somehow, like two semicircles with horizontal terminals??

aacute seems to need the acute moving left a bit, as the hood is already quite rightward.

aogonek: I think I'd slim the bottom spur slightly to compensate for the extra weight below the baseline.

ccedilla: I think the cedilla works fine, though could do with a final polish (the counter looks vaguely deformed)

eth looks a different size completely.

eogonek is beautiful.

I love f.

g may need a tiny bit shaving off the tail's terminal. It looks a bit getting fatter at the end.

ezh needs a polish on the lower curve. The rightmost nodes may need sliding down.

nacute needs the acute further to the right.

Why is there a smallcap R in the lowercase?

s is incredible. Good work.

scedilla may need cedilla further right.

w is awesome.

Wow, a wynn! Why not indeed.

yacute: move the acute right. And the opposite for ygrave.

Fractions: I think I'd add a hair more weight overall.

£: Now, here's the difficult one! I love the quirky toppling shape of this. I'd pull the straight section of the stem up a bit to make the left side of the hood more taut and geometrical. But actually what I'd like to see is a vertical terminal on the hood and a slab on the right end of the foot. And if you can make the hood's terminal hover over the slabbed foot then it would echo the G. I think a pointy 2-like £ would look out of place in this font.

Percent looks light.

@ might benefit from more space between the a and the ring.

Your punctuation rocks!!

TM: more weight?

Section is such a hard one. It looks wide maybe?


Ccedilla: should the cedilla be a slight bit heavier than on the lc?

D: perhaps the bcps need pulling a few units right on the top and bottom of the bowl?

E with diacritics: the diacritics seem to be all slightly too far left.

Eogonek needs to have the ogonek flush with the right end of E's foot.

Ezh may be too narrow. I'm quite unfamiliar with it really though.

Q may need its right side lifting ever so slightly to even out the density above its tail.

What is that funny R thing?

Scedilla: see scedilla.

OE: I've never seen one like that, but I really like it. Is that ok?

I haven't looked in such depth through the bold and black. See what happens with the regular first!

Really liking this, there's something really 1930s about this style to me, but much sharper.

Bendy's picture

Kern hyphen with numerals:

Sindre's picture

Oh boy, I can only say thanks. Invaluable. I have to go to bed now, but I'm really looking forward to reworking my typeface according to your input tomorrow afternoon.

Yes, that small cap R may seem odd, but it's really a lower case Yr, used for scholarly transcription of Proto-Norse. (The upper case Yr is that weird R with the right part moved a storey down.) Yes, I know nobody will ever use it for this (nor for Livonian), but I want to be able to set "Ek HlewagastiR HoltijaR horna tawido" properly. I have a near-autistic fascination for archaic, classic and mediæval languages, you see.

Bendy's picture

I thought it must be something obscure. Is the lc intentionally larger than the other lc glyphs? Proto-Norse! I too love the branches of language families...I didn't know about the possibilities of extinct letters as well! Should you have yogh if you have wynn?

Well, take what I say with plenty of salt, as you know I am by no means an authority or anything!

Sindre's picture

Slowly working my way through your suggestions. I've made the currency symbols more equal. Here's the present state:

And here's your slabbed pound, Ben. I don't know if I prefer this shape, but you're the expert. What do you think?

Sindre's picture

In fact, the glyph you both saw as ezh was in fact meant as a yogh. But I find that the shape I've chosen is as good as deprecated, because of ... ambiguity. My books are old. Sigh. I guess I have to make new yoghs.

I had no intention of including ezh, as that is only used by the moribund Skolt Sami. (And transcription of some African languages, but I definitely won't support any of those.) But then again, now I'm just a few glyphs away from Skolt Sami. Here we go again ...

eliason's picture

FWIW (maybe not much) here's a rough approximation of what I meant with the bottom of £

Sindre's picture

I feel that pound sign is a little out of character, as all sharp points elsewhere are the result of diagonal meeting stem or crossbar, Craig. It would be appropriate if I made a "curly" pound sign, like Futura's, but I'm keen to avoid that.

eliason's picture

Fair enough.
That spacing is better. But that sample makes me think your /u/ may be too narrow, which I didn't catch before.
I also forgot to mention:

Is there some kind of hinting help you can give to your superior figures? Vertically they rasterize all over the map when I zoom out of the pdf. See how the threesuperior looks large and the onesuperior looks low compared to the twosuperior?

Sindre's picture

I've been suspecting that for a while too, but there's a lot of things to forget when you draw a typeface. Does this look good?

About the superiors: All hinting so far is auto-generated, I have to read up on hinting before I do anything. But perhaps their design is flawed too, I haven't paid much attention to those little guys. By the way, I've made slightly fatter fractions (and superiors):

Sindre's picture

Thanks for all help so far! I have to leave the house for several hours now. If I had to choose between a social life and type design ...

eliason's picture

Yes, I think you've nailed it with that /u/ width now.

riccard0's picture

If I had to choose between a social life and type design ...

Typophile: social type design. ;-)

Sindre's picture

Yes! I choose Typophile! That's why I'm back much earlier than I expected. Been thinking about that troublesome tilde all the time. Contrast-free tildes are impossible!

eliason's picture

Here's Calibri's—pretty monoline and work well I think.

Sindre's picture

Ah ... I made this in the meantime.

Sindre's picture

Is mine a hair too flat and wide?

Sindre's picture

Apropos the pound sign: My first draft had a pound like the one you suggested, Craig. Have a look at the picture on the first post.

eliason's picture

Is that where I got the idea?! :-P

I think that tilde is close, though my eye sees it as thinnest in the middle which may exacerbate its squiggliness. Compare the way your ass-kicking /s/s thicken slightly along the spine.

Sindre's picture


Bendy's picture

FWIW I find tilde one of the most annoying shapes to draw. I think maybe you could take a fraction off the thickness at the ends leaving the centre as it is. (Or perhaps reducing the reflexivity of that central curve?)

I very much like your new £. I personally love the one with the slab, because the other looks a little too simple and naked against the more complex forms of the other currency signs...but of course it would occur with numerals which are very simple shapes. In terms of harmonising then, the slabless one proabably wins.

eliason's picture

I think maybe you could take a fraction off the thickness at the ends leaving the centre as it is.

I agree - I'd just have the inside contour not come around quite so far - it looks like it's flaring out at the very ends.

sgh's picture

Nice work! One small comment: while I was looking in telefon_080310.pdf, I noticed that in Telefon Black the right edge of the eth appears to be a bit lumpy. Most of your other curves are quite smooth.

Northbay's picture

Any update on this project?

hun's picture

i love this type of geometric san serif styles!
digging the scandinavian simplicity / geometric proportions
some even french i guess..

strong work!!

reminiscent of itc ronda (especially A!) and toronto subway (E) and so on
also loving the M! and the diagonal slashing on top of the t :]
S kinda like futura and some are like gill sans
but this is a strong unique work that has many facets! and i am digging it
ooh! and i also love the old type figures.. loving the overall movements rhythms

i love how closer to geometrical prime-shapes so things look edgier simple and straightforward
when i went to norway i liked the sign of the store norli :] and narvessen logos
have a nice day!

shaileshc's picture

I came across this post while looking for Norweigan inspired fonts. I think Telefon is an excellent typeface. I haven't read all the comments. But I'd like to make clear my interest. I am in the next 2 weeks getting involved in a big book design project for a client based in Norway. I am bsed in London. I am looking for a Norweigan inspired modern typeface. Telefon looks on first impressions a typeface i'd like to use in the book as a principal headline style. Would you be interested in collaborating?

Bendy's picture

(I don't think Sindre is very frequently here at the moment, you might be better to message him offline.)

Frode Bo Helland's picture

I can contact Sindre directly if you want.

1985's picture

That's a shame, his work is great.

shaileshc's picture

If you can contact Sindre for me that would be a great help. My address is
If anything comes out of this... will keep this post updated.

Sindre's picture

Hello again, typophiles. It's been a long time. Thanks to Frode for calling me back. Thanks to Andrew for encouragement. Shailesh, thank you very much for your interest in Telefon and for your very kind words. I am indeed interested in your proposal. My address is I'm looking forward to learning more about your project.

Syndicate content Syndicate content