Wanted: personal online guidance into finishing type design

Jean Paul Beumer's picture

I know that most of you typophiles are experts and comments from you all are more then welcome, but I'm at a bit of a loss at the moment. So, I'm hoping there's someone among you who's willing to spend some time for the next four weeks (there's a selfproclaimed deadline) close guiding me.
In short: I'm looking for personal contact by e-mail or forum with someone who is willing and able to guide me through (what I hope to be) the final stages of designing, kerning and hinting my type design Aubaine.

Any takers?

Aubaine tekstproef.pdf100.67 KB
Aubaine tekstproef CAPS.pdf393.65 KB
Aubainetekstproef26sep10.pdf727.37 KB
Jean Paul Beumer's picture

Eeh, I should warn you to be prepared to receive lots of stupid questions ;-)

brianskywalker's picture

Well, I'd say I would, but I probably am about as much of an expert as you are. I also probably would be unqualified because I have never kerned an entire typeface before. I also haven't spent more than 45 minutes using easier font designing tools such as Fontlab. (I've been using Fontforge so far.)

My guess is that your experience is much greater then mine. However good luck on your typeface, it's looking quite nice! I'd say the spacing does need some work, but that shouldn't take four weeks to fix.

If you have any stupid questions that I can answer I'd be glad to. :)

Frode Bo Helland's picture

This is A LOT to ask. If you're really serious, submit your types to a foundry. If they think it's good enough they'll probably offer critique, advice and help in the production. From what I've seen I don't think you're quite there yet (I'm not sure if I am or ever will be myself), so I suggest you look into schools teaching type design. Again: if you're serious! Type is such a trendy thing nowadays -- everybody wants to do it. A big investment like an education is only worth it you have other, deeper, reasons IMO.

William Berkson's picture

I would suggest first to draw a heavy weight of your design. That can teach you a lot. Then get critiques.

Jean Paul Beumer's picture

Thanks for your responses guys!

I'm an amateur type designer myself and don't have much experience either. I was never educated in type design, but ever since I saw fonts being drawn during my academy years, I was fascinated. After getting my diploma (I designed a phonetic alphabet in Futura as part of my exam) my dean wanted me to continue in type design (2nd phase study). I talked to people like Petr van Blokland, Just van Rossum and their students and drew inspiration from them. However, I didn't like the idea of spending another year in the academy, so I opted out.

I claim to understand the basics about type design and can see if a font is designed well or not. But I feel I do miss the knowledge to finish the design, to release it, which I really want, but only if it's up to standard. Things like spacing, kerning and hinting I have absolutely no experience with. I'm sure the FontLab manual will tell me all about the technical aspects, but that does leave me with practical and design decisions to be made (things like "Should I incorporate SC in the OT or make it a seperate font?".

I know I am asking a lot but perhaps I can make it easier. How about I send you guys updates by e-mail and you comment on that? You'd be of great help.

@Brian: you said the spacing needs work, is it too wide, too narrow or just irregular?

@Frode: you said I'm not there yet, and I agree. What are your thoughts?

@William: there *is* an ultrablack weight already, though not complete. See the latest PDF.

brianskywalker's picture

The spacing isn't too wide or too narrow, really, although you may want to space it out just a hair for text use. I have taken a closer look at this. (Though it still may be a safe bet to take what I say with a grain of salt.) The sidebearings, I think, look like they could be adjusted better - without the use of kerning as yet. The RSB on letters such as /P/B/R/ could be a little tighter, and the difference in spacing may be a bit too great between the round- and straight-sided letters, but only in some cases, as in some of the words, the spacing is literally less between the straight-sided letters than the round-sided. The sidebearings for harder-to-space letters like /x/g/s/a/e/ seem also to be either too tight or too loose in most cases, where they could be much better with sidebearings alone. The other "problem" is that, the counters of the round-sided letters are much more open than the straight-sided ones in the lighter weights, but the opposite is true of the heavier weights. The mid-weight seems to get it about right though. I'm not sure how far you'll want to go adjusting something like that, but in the lightest weight the rounded bowls seem much wider than the rest of the letters. I don't know if you have started kerning or not, but you probably need to focus on the sidebearings, and in a few cases, adjusting some of the letters a little.

Hope that makes sense.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Another option might be an internship at a foundry, if they exist (?).

eliason's picture

For serious technical questions that the manual can't help you with, the Build forum here is invaluable.

Jean Paul Beumer's picture

You're opinion is highly appreciated! Sometimes, when I've been looking at something closely, I develop tunnel vision. I'll take all your comments into consideration.

For the moment, I've made a proof with the unaltered fonts, please check out the PDF above.
As far as I can see now (I'm talking about character shapes, not spacing) all accents and punctuation (too thin), g (curve between upper and lower bowl too diagonal), m (too narrow), t (upper part too thin), l (too fat but it could be my printer), s (leans towards the left) and Q (flag too close to bowl) in ultralight need adjusting. Also in the black font, besides all accents and punctuation, e and a (too fat and too little white), v (too fat), m (too narrow), w (too fat), r (too little white in connection), s (too fat), g (as above), Q (as above), W (too narrow), Y (contrast is off), B (too fat). I "use" the interpolated medium font to check both ultimate weights.

That's not a bad idea at all! It would have to fit in with my work though, and since I'm getting more and more jobs, i'ts very unlikely. Perhaps you would like to comment on the PDF, I'd appreciate it!

Jean Paul Beumer's picture

I've added another PDF proof, all Caps.

William Berkson's picture

On spacing, my impression is that everything is more loosely spaced than most sans are—too loosely IMHO.

Your "bolding" is problematic in places. The white space within the lower case letters of the black weight should be visually more equal. For example, the white in the counters in the a and e and g are too small. So is the top of the A, and bands of white in the E. The white space in the m is too narrow compared to the n, etc.

You have a very nice feel for letter shapes; I think the thing you are not "getting" yet is how to handle the white space, and how it relates to side bearings and to the white space in other letters.

Have you read Tracy's Letters of Credit? Briem's site on type design?

The best school, other than critiques by masters, is opening in FontLab fonts you admire that are similar to yours in some way, and studying them in detail. To understand both spacing and weights better, open a really well crafted humanist sans—so in the same "design space" as yours—say Myriad by Robert Slimbach. Make the same words in the "metrics window" in both yours and Slimbach's and put them side by side, in the same weights. Do this for two different weights. Compare the spacing. Then copy and paste his weights over one another. Copy and paste your weights over one another. Compare the results, and what he did.

Most of the work in learning in any case is self-instruction, though the guidance of masters can be invaluable. And be warned, type design is a lot of work. After you've done the above, if I were you I'd take my work to some of the masters and ask for a critique. Since you are living there in "scriptonia" where you have a lot of great type designers in a small country, I'd think you'd find some people who'd give you 15 minutes, which is all it would take for an initial critique. Or if you want to come to New Orleans next summer, sign up and get a critique at TypeCon from Matthew Carter, Akira Kobayashi, and John Downer (that's the usual crew). Or go to one of the European type conferences and ask some of the designers you admire to critique your work, and offer to buy them a drink or lunch.

Jean Paul Beumer's picture

Stupid question number 1:

Suppose H has a left and right sidebearing of 100 and O 50. Does the same apply to lower case, so, let's say, i 100 on both sides and o 50? If not, what's the relationship between the sidebearings in caps and lower case?

William Berkson's picture

Answer: read Letters of Credit or Briem's site, or both. Try, then ask again.

Jean Paul Beumer's picture

@William: that's really funny, Brian suggests above to space it out more, not less :-)

When I printed the proof I saw exactly what you mean with the inner whites in the black font. I will address this.

You're right; I don't see the relationship between inner white and sidebearings. I spaced the font by feeling. The ultralight is spaced wider than the black. Is this wrong? I did it because there's less white in the black font and want the spacing to feel right next to the inner white. Perhaps I'm thinking wrong?

I haven't read Letters of credit, but am familiar with Briem's site. I did read Karen Chung's Designing Type and Cabarga's Bible. I even went to Gerrit Noordzij's last public college, but he didn't say anything about sidebearings ;-)

Funny you should mention Myriad, I always found there is some sort of similarity with Aubaine. Great tip on looking at other fonts in FL! But I don't want to just copy, I need to understand.

I do know some people from my academy years who know type designers. My wife suggested the same, to contact them and ask their opinion.

New Orleans sounds great, but the only way I can fund such a trip is if Aubaine sells really well ;-)

Thanks for the input, William!

Igor Freiberger's picture

Jean Paul,

I'm not the one to help you in kerning as I still did not reach this stage. Anyway, you can write me about T1 hinting and sidebar issues so we can at least try to find solutions. I'm pretty busy to follow your tight schedule, but some help is always possible.

About you project, let me add two little suggestions.

First, you may find useful to add other characters (numbers, punctuation, special characters, currencies etc.) before going to refine sidebars and doing kerning. Without the complete set of glyphs, your kerning will need to be expanded later. Tests with spacing are also more rich with all glyphs available.

Second, it's interesting to play with anchors before doing accented characters. After creating anchors, you can build very easily all characters with diacritics (see FL's manual about this, it's well explained).

I think these two procedures must be made before kerning to achieve a optimal workflow.

Michael Green's picture

re: kerning and spacing

you may want to check this out if the aim is to finish the font rather than learn spacing/kerning this time around


good luck

Michael Green's picture

also i noticed there is an issue with your capital K in the pdf

William Berkson's picture

Jean Paul, just check the spacing of successful humanist fonts like Frutiger and Myriad, and see for yourself. And test your own font looser and tighter and see what you like. As Briem expains, much of type design is testing variations, and picking the one you like best.

>But I don't want to just copy, I need to understand.

Don't worry about copying. You already have your own sensibility on type. What you need to learn is the craft, and that is there in other fonts. You need to look at what different designers do, not one, and that should re-assure you about copying too much. And even copying the sidebearings from a font with similar character widths as a start is ok to learn—and then adjust. Metrics are not copyrightable. The goal is to look good. Similarly, seeing how different designers handle different weights will help you decide what you want to do.

I would not go to ikern before you have spaced your font. Spacing and glyph design are really one process, because you may want to widen or narrow glyphs, as well as changing their sidebearings, to get the best rhythm and look in your font. You may even want to change some of their designs to get them to space better.

After you've designed and spaced it, you could go to ikern, though frankly I think it is beneficial to learn kerning the first time around, as unpleasant as it is, particularly before you get fast at it. The point is that doing it yourself the first time trains your eye.

Ps. If you read Noordzij's The Stroke—and you can read it in the original!—you will gain some insight on the relation between white space in counters and sidebearings.

Jean Paul Beumer's picture

I like the idea of us two helping eachother out; I am going to take you up on that offer soon. Kerning is not yet in progress; spacing is hard enough for now. I read Briem's site (www.briem.net) extensively and I found some great tips, not just about spacing.
You're right to tell me I should finish all glyphs as far as possible first. But I'm an impulsive and sometimes impatient guy and guess it won't hurt to look into spacing at this stage. It'll probably mean some extra work, but I accept that. About those anchors, I have heard about them but no idea what they do. I'll have to read the manual.

Not sure about iKern. I mean, it looks like a great tool and would release me of quite a bit of work, but like I said, I'd like to know what needs to be done. And you're right, there's something wrong with K. However, when printed, it's resolved (in my case anyway).

I'll check out Myriad and possibly Meta and Unit, I like those two latter fonts. Also, Briem has great tips on spacing, I'll go from there. I do have The Stroke (signed copy!), but it's in English! Probably too long ago, I'll read it again. Finally, I'll buy a copy of Tracy's book next week.

William Berkson's picture

Designing fonts well requires an insane amount of patience and attention to detail. You have to really love those little letters! But you evidently have the love and a gift, so good luck!

Frode Bo Helland's picture

And you need to take your time with this — at least I do! I’m constantly learing new things and discovering new issues and possibilities, even years after drawing my first bezier curve.

.00's picture

I think you have to come to accept the fact that the first 50 or so fonts you design will all be dreadful and just keep at it.

Any advice you get you should take with a grain of salt. Especially here. Personally I think your font looks like a mash-up of several designs. That Q will always be a problem. But if you take my comments (or anyone else's) seriously then you have no business designing type.

Everyone will give you a different take on drawing, spacing and kerning, so you'll have to follow Duke Ellington's (paraphrased) advice: "If it looks good, it is good."

William Berkson's picture

James M., there is a difference between thinking something over, and making up your own mind, on one hand and on the other hand automatically agreeing—or in other words, not having your own mind.

It seems to me it is not a good idea to *dismiss* others' views but rather to listen and consider them, especially when you are beginning. Also it is smart to consider the source, and the quality of their work.

But I agree that if you don't have your own mind, there's not much point in doing it.

.00's picture

You just can't help yourself, can you Bill.

William Berkson's picture

James, if you could get over your sour tone, I'd find your contributions a lot more enjoyable.

.00's picture

Ya see!

Jean Paul Beumer's picture

Me too, I'm constantly making miniscule changes to curves in both weights, hopefully for the better.

Your reaction has strengthened me in my endeavour.

I agree, and I like to think I'm headstrong (not per definition a good quality) - people around me can confirm. I will take other's comments into consideration, but in the end it's *my* design.

fonthausen's picture

Hi JP.

zowel in de regular alsook in de bold/black, zijn de binnenvormen erg belangrijk. Nu heb je in de vette welliswaar alles vetter gemaakt, maar ten koste van de binnenvormen. Het contrast (verschil dik/dun) zal in de lichtere gewichten afwijken van de vettere, maar als het ritme en de structuur overeind blijft wordt het er beter van.

Wat de spatiëring betreft, zou je moeten beginnen met woorden als 'minimum, noon, honolulu' etc. Met andere woorden, je begint met de basisvormen zoals onder meer de n, o, l en i. Pas als de onderkast goed loopt, zou ik met de kapitalen beginnen. Dit moet een tekstletter worden. Dus de kapitalen moeten bij de onderkast passen qua spatiëring. Vermoedelijk zullen de kapitalen iets ruimer staan dan de onderkast. In jouw voorbeeld van de linkerwaarde van de 'H'(100), dan zal de linkerwaarde van de 'n' een stuk krapper staan (bv. 80). En de linkerwaarde van de 'h' dan weer iets krapper (bv. 70). Dus stap voor stap een basis maken, waarop je de rest baseert.

Je mag altijd mailen.


Sarcoma's picture

Something weird going on with the K. Fixes when zoomed in though

.00's picture

Just some overlapping paths. The dieresis is also a problem, the intermediate weigh of the interpolation has the two elements overlapping, just a path numbering error. I'm surprised Bill B didn't point this out. Come on Bill, pay attention!

As to Bill B's advice to read Breim and Tracy, I never read either when I was learning to design type. Breim didn't exist and I didn't know about Tracy. Recently I've tried to read Tracy, but it just gives me the feeling I should hit myself in the head over and over again with a hammer. Dreadful stuff, and so obvious!

Get your hands on Frutiger's latest opus. It revisits his old "Type, Sign & Symbol" which offered some of the most helpful information I ever found about designing type.

Hey Bill, with you it's always Bringhurst and Tracy, time to get on another trick pony!



brianskywalker's picture

What's the title of Frutiger's latest? I've read Type Sign & Symbol already.

Regarding my suggestion on spacing, that's based upon me own experience, and I've only done a serif so far. I do realize sans need to be spaced a bit tighter, but it still looks to me like not enough to me. :P So, it really depends. I would probably space a font differently than you would.

Jean Paul Beumer's picture

Before I begin spacing, I noticed two comments that were about character shapes, or rather, the obvious differences between the ultralight and black. I thought I'd better handle that first... So, after a day of redrawing most of the glyphs, I think I've achieved a more consistent feel - the ultralight and black fit better together. Please check out the 3rd PDF above.

typerror's picture

@ James

Gunnlaugur has been around longer than you think!

.00's picture

Gunnlaugur has been around longer than you think!

Maybe so, but all these internet tubes are a rather new phenomenon when it comes to my type design education!

ScribblezGfx's picture


Looks really good, few letters bug me like the uppercase A when the two A's are
next to each other.

I would suggest try to, put weights next to each other. This will help you with checking the X-Height, also ascender & descender. From looking & zooming into the pdf attached the lower case dots on the (i//j)arn't touching your X-Height meaning they are taller than your UPPERCASE they should be level.

Tip try to judge your font with other known fonts to match kerning etc.

follow this gudie; http://www.nhsdesigns.com/images/examples/graphic_typography_anatomy.jpg

Jean Paul Beumer's picture

Thanks for the feedback Scribblez. Perhaps I'll make a stylistic alternate for AA :-)
You're right, the dots on i and j aren't on the same level as the caps. However, I don't see the nessecity, as long as it looks all right, it's okay by me!

Jean Paul Beumer's picture

Taking a break from Aubaine here...

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