Grottesco - trying to draw my own neo-grotesque font

daniele capo's picture

I'm trying to draw a 'neo-grotesque' typeface. I have drawn the letters (I've already posted some images on my flickr gallery), no numbers, no punctuation, etc.
The first version of G and R (in brown) was too Univers-esque so I decided for a different shape.
Basically I'm trying to draw this font for my use to replace Helvetica (in posters and short texts).

AttachmentSize
grottesco.pdf9.17 KB
grottesco3-2-2010.pdf29.22 KB
grottesco7-2-2010.pdf34.79 KB
grottesco15-2-2010.pdf32.88 KB
grottesco23-3-2010.pdf47.23 KB
Sindre's picture

I really like this, it's got a friendly roundness and economy seldom found in grotesques. That "g" is a nice touch! I would really like to take a closer look, could you post a pdf? That will make it much easier to criticise, at this resolution anti-aliasing artifacts play tricks on stems and curves.

eliason's picture

I like it too. It's nice to see caps like /B/E/P/S/ not be stretched towards square as in typical grotesques.

I think the black versions of the letters are better, but would you consider including, say, the brown /r/ and /R/ as alternates? (And maybe an alt /g/?)

I think /b/ and /p/ taper too much at the top intersection - it knocks the glyph out of character IMO.

/e/ might be too fat where the crossbar intersects (and/or too thin at the southwest) (but Sindre's right, we need a pdf to judge).

The /g/ is clearly the signature glyph. Right now the shape of the link seems a bit indecisive but it's hard to see exactly what's going on there at this resolution.

/W/ looks quite wide. /d/ may be a bit narrow.

The black /G/ looks very ellipsoid - should you bump the corners of the curve out, at least on the bottom?

On the /M/ I think you could spread the upper vertices out even a bit more and let the side counters creep up a touch more.

I wonder if that /f/ crossbar's length on the right will make spacing difficult.

Looking forward to see this develop.

daniele capo's picture

Thanks for your comments. I've attached a pdf.
/r/: I didn't like the 'short' /r/ and Hrant (on flickr) suggested me to try with something like this (at least, this is my interpretation of a "faucet" beak), and I find it more interesting.
/W/: yes, I simply joined two /V/ (not the 'correct' way, I know) to see what happens. I need to compress a bit or I can try with an 'overlapping' W, I have to think about it.
/R/: I also think the curved-leg /R/ is better

Craig, 'where the crossbar [of /e/] intersects did you mean on the left side?

Now I also see that uppercase letters are too heavy, what do you think?

Sindre's picture

I agree on the "r", it adds to the quaint character. But I would work a little more on the shape, and perhaps start the joint a little lower. Keep in mind that such an "r" will create spacing issues.

I too prefer the curved-leg "R".

Don't worry too much about weight differences in this typeface. I think it suits this style. Just look at MT Grotesque, where the difference is much more pronounced than this.

"a" needs some work. It's a great shape, but take another look at the curves.

I've never been a fan of MT Grotesque-like slanted-cut "c"s, but it seems to work here. The uppercase "C" I'm more uncertain of. Have you tried equal cut angels?

I agree on the bowl to stick-joins, but don't overdo the adjustment. Some contrast will work just fine here.
"e" counter looks a little too egg-shaped.

"f" and "t": Curves again a little uncertain.

"g": Very different counters, one is square, the other is not. And I think a monoline join would look better.

"s": Needs some smoothing. Perhaps slightly top-heavy?

"w" and "W" and "M" all look heavy. X-es need some cross-compensation.

"U" needs a more generous curve.

I have little time now, this was a very quick run-through. I'll have another look later. And please take my advice with some salt, I'm not a pro.

Keep up the good work! This is going to be great.

eliason's picture

Craig, 'where the crossbar [of /e/] intersects did you mean on the left side?

Yes, but seeing the pdf those issues are much less apparent. I think the situation is that the top closed counter doesn't go as far left as the bottom open counter so it picked up a row of pixels in the jpg.

daniele capo's picture

I've changed some of the letters:
/a/: slightly changed the top curve
/f/: changed the hook
/j/: shortened the hook (it was too long for a neo-grotesque)
/r/: I've tried with a shorter 'beak'
/C/: now is more open
/M/: tried to add ink-traps (I think is not enough)
/W/: tried with a different, 'overlapping' version (I rarely see this kind of /W/ and I'm not sure about it)

I've also fixed the counter of the lower loop of /g/: it was really too squarish, but I think the monoline junction would be too 'hard'.

I decided to keep the R with the curved leg, it was better.
I've also tried a 'fatter' intersection in /b/ and /p/, like the one I have in /q/ and /d/. But now I don't know if it doesn't match with the intersection in /n/, etc. (I like it in /n/ and I don't want to change it there).

I've uploaded a new pdf.

riccard0's picture

Now that I see it, the b design, while beautiful in itself, seems to be a little "too modern" for a grotesk.
On the other hand, the overlapping W has a "retro" feeling.

eliason's picture

I'd still try to narrow the top counter in /M/.
I'm also not sure about that /W/, although it doesn't look half bad in "BROWN." Maybe inch the "V"s a bit closer, and make sure the strokes in the middle don't get too spindly at the top.
I'm not sure which /r/ in the pdf is the right one to be reviewing, but I prefer the shear angle on the gray one.
I think /b/ and /p/ are improved and I don't think they pose any problem for /m/ and /n/ as they are.
On the /g/, I might try heightening the lower loop and shortening the link correspondingly, just a little bit.
Forgot to say that /w/ is too wide too.
/C/ looks much better to me. I like /j/ too.
One thing about /a/ that bothers me is this:


The lower contour of the tail implies a stem that is quite a bit off from what is determined by the right side of the counter. Perhaps just changing the control vector angle of that tail contour as it comes out of the acute angle to something less vertical would fix the issue.

daniele capo's picture

Added a new pdf.

The lower contour of the tail implies a stem that is quite a bit off from what is determined by the right side of the counter.

Yes, the 'disconnection' of the tail was exaggerated, in the image below you can see two alternatives (the black one is my choice, the first grey is slightly different and the last is the original.)

I've also made /v/ and /w/ a bit lighter lowering the vertex of the counter.
Changed also in the same line /M/. The two grey M are the previous versions.

/X/ and /x/ still need changing, like Sindre noted.

/r/: I have three!, maybe the shorter one is better for texts.

Now that I see it, the b design, while beautiful in itself, seems to be a little "too modern" for a grotesk.

Ah! I understand your point, but I don't want to change it (for 'sentimental' reasons), you can see it as the 'Nuovo' part of the 'Grottesco'.
To avoid too much anachronisms I've removed the 'overlapping' /W/ and moved toward a more conventional one (and also narrower than before).

Below you can also see the numbers (4 needs to be changed, I think).

eliason's picture

Those letter changes are good.
I think the figures 2, 4, and 7 all have the same problem - the shear at the acute angle. With a face like this my eye wants to see that vertical as the termination of the horizontal stroke, but the vertical shear is clearly longer than that termination would be.


Not that the nodes should align mathematically, of course, but I think this may be at the root of why those particular figures stand out as clunkier than the others.
I think a 7 stem that gently arced, and narrowed towards the corner, could work well in this font.
Related to this, the bottom right corner of /N/ also looks too thick to me.

Bendy's picture

@ RiccardO: Do you think the b and q need spurs, or did you mean something else by 'too modern'?

@Craig: Do you think the M has the same thing at its centre vertex? I think z does too.

@Daniele: Looking extremely good, especially when I zoom in on the pdf. S looks perhaps wide next to R. Word space may be a touch too wide, or letters too tight. Counters on e look bumpy. p and d look slightly narrow. Right side of c looks heavier than left side. k looks narrow — maybe stretch the bar out more a few units? x: maybe slightly narrow and/or dark/needs a little offset?

eliason's picture

@Craig: Do you think the M has the same thing at its centre vertex? I think z does too.

Maybe so on the M. I was very close to mentioning the z too, but its overall rectangular form gives those shears a little more logic than in the figures, so it didn't seem quite as problematic.

riccard0's picture

@Bendy: yes, more or less I meant that. The fact is, I see the pronounced "tail" in the a as a typical feature of grotesks, and one that clearly shows the historical development of the style.* Thus, seeing that "retro" feature next to a spurless b made me feel the b a touch out of style.

* Insert here the countless thread about "neutral" typefaces.

daniele capo's picture

It was a busy week but now I'm here with something to show.
1. New numbers: I decided to redraw my numbers.
2. I've also redrawn some letters, like /e/, /p/ (and /d/, /b/, /q/, of course). I'm still not sure about /e/ however.
3. Added basic punctuation

I still need to properly space everything (but now I've reduced the word space).

I've also decided for the short /r/ (the other one will be an alternate.)

In the new pdf you can see everything together.

daniele capo's picture

Ok, I'm here again after a BIG break. I've tried to add the 'other' glyphs. At this point, like always, I start to suspect that everything is wrong. The spacing, for example. (See my last pdf)
I don't know why but I've placed the 'quotes' in the wrong place, aligned with capitals letters and not with ascenders. Also, after changing and re-changing again /S/, now it looks too wide.

eliason's picture

It's coming along nicely. Glyphs I think are working well include /Q/m/n/a/ae/5/8/.

I would still say that those diagonal figures /2/4/7/ are still clunky to me, especially /4/. And I would still say that the /G/ looks too much like a perfect ellipse.

I think you're right that /S/ may be too wide. /A/ looks wide to me too. /H/ may be too wide, too, given the narrowness of letters like /E/F/N/U/.

Your diacritic tilde rises from left to right; is that intended?

On /b/, where the bowl comes into the stem at the bottom left, I think the stroke has too much contrast—almost a calligraphy-pen effect. The corresponding part of /q/ is similar.

/$/ looks dark. /t/ and /a/ may be a touch dark but I'm not sure about that.

/£/ looks wide and Euro looks narrow.

That signature /g/ still jumps out to me quite a bit. I think its bowls, like the shape of /G/, seem like stock ellipses that don't have their relationships or connections with each other worked out. Its basic proportions work well though.

Keep it up!

daniele capo's picture

/A/ looks wide to me too.

I was thinking the same thing.

For Tilde, Euro, £ and other glyphs I have to study how they need to be drawn.

oneweioranother's picture

Daniele, any progress?

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