Magenta typeface

MarkyCDavis's picture

Magenta is an extended geometric sans serif typeface designed for legibility at larger sizes (not sure about body text).

This is my first type design, and i'm excited to hear how to make it stronger.
Please, critique every last thing, because this needs some work, specifically width of characters, styling, width of strokes, everything.

I drew from typefaces like Gabriel Sans, Salvo Sans (esp. Salvo Sans Black), maybe Neutraface (subconsciously hehe), Futura, Gotham.

Magenta spec sheet update 7-16.pdf33.9 KB
Magenta update 7-17.pdf34.04 KB
Magenta update 7-22.pdf34.38 KB
Magenta update 8-30.pdf41.48 KB
Magenta update 9-22.pdf52.08 KB
Bendy's picture

Really not bad for a first go! I'm not a pro so take my comments with plenty of salt and sugar.

I'll come back later in a day or three with a more expansive crit, but there are two main things that poke my eye. Spacing is too tight and rather uneven. I'm only slowly learning spacing myself, but I reckon you can open it up a lot more, even for large sizes. The other thing is the stroke thickness. On the whole, it looks rather monoline, which I'm guessing is what you wanted. But look carefully at /b/ for example, and you'll see that where the bowl meets the stem, there are quite dark areas that mess up the overall colour. I can see you've already noticed how your inspiration typefaces have dealt with that problem, but I'd take it a little further.

Ok, two more observations. You've angled the top terminals of K and N but not L. (And similarly on I but not T.) I don't understand the logic, and frankly don't think the angled bits add much to the design and personally I find it distracting. Following a similar idea, look at the terminals of your uppercase and lowercase Cc and Ss...the counters in one case are much more open and the angles are cut differently.

Ok, those are my general observations. Hopefully I'll be back to think about individual characters.

MarkyCDavis's picture

thanks! I'll look at the characters you mentioned, can't wait for further critique!

Eimantas Paškonis's picture

First thing that catches my eye is /a/. It's bowl seems unbalanced and middle horizontal bar needs more logic: why is it a curve when other bars are straight? If it's intentional, then why this angle? Such questions about style's unity are irritating the unconsciousness - like Arial's unknown angle terminals :)

Can't see the combos here, but /J/ seems too wide. Try /LJ/ or similar pair to test.

Is /m/ made from 2 unchanged /n/'s? It might work to condense it a bit.

/t/ bar's right edge most of the times is supposed to be same width as a terminal.

/G/ angled leg is the only such one. Again - breaking the stylistic unity.

/M/ middle connection is a no-no.

And it's better to upload curved .pdf's - that way people can zoom in at desired level in browser - no need for an image app.

Interested to see darker weights :)

MarkyCDavis's picture

Here is an update! Thanks for your critiques, it’s looking REALLY GOOD! Keep ‘em coming ; )

Update=PDF at the top.

Bendy's picture

Hi Mark, I'm sorry I don't have the chance to look thoroughly at this for the next few days, hopefully at the weekend I'll have a bit of free time. In the meantime, think balance, contrast and tension...if you manage to make every decision based on those lines of reasoning, you'll be going a very long way. This is a real improvement, and it shows a lot of promise.

One thing for now is that you've got very unusual proportions between the uppercase and lowercase. I think this can work but look what happens with 'Ma' in terms of the comparative counter spaces between this version and the previous one. Also, check the lower join of the bowls of /d/ and /a/ for consistency.

MarkyCDavis's picture

Oh, off the top of my head, i think “M” would look better if it was wider? right now it is just taller, but it needs to be balanced out with more width (and a lower middle connection) to balance out the diff. would you recommend that I make the bowls for bdpgq more extended so that they match the more subtle curve of the a?

oh, an you can do what you need to, and take what time you need. I'm just excited about everything!

JSuomalainen's picture


For inspiration I recommend to also check Frantisek Storms Zeppelin if you haven't yet.

also for the letter I check

Since I don't have a long history in design I rather not comment too much on details.

Inspiring work!

MarkyCDavis's picture

Thanks Jaakko! wow.. definitely never seen those fonts before, but i can definitely pull from Zeppelin 42.. love the sizing of the caps compared to the lower case,

Fugue has interesting character.. the I is something i can look at, for sure.. Thanks for sharing!

Eimantas Paškonis's picture

Now /a/ looks way better!

/M/ short middle connection creates an optical illusion of diagonals getting narrower in the middle. It makes letter look fragile too.

To human eyes, same width horizontal lines look darker than verticals. So there is balance work need to be done. Some examples:
/H/ bar and /b/ bowl top/bottom look darker than verticals.
/A/ bar looks narrower than diagonals.

/&/ "falls" to the left.
/1/ is too short :)

Use some font identification service and always keep looking look for analogues (similar fonts) everywhere:
1. It helps to avoid unintentional copying.
2. Analysing analogues helps solve various problems and questions about your own font.

MarkyCDavis's picture

Thanks Eimantas! The font identification program gave me a lot of grotesk fonts and Antenna light (I’ll take that as a complement..)

something that I don't quite understand is shaping of the bowls of the /dbgqp/.. should they follow more after the curves of /a/, or more after an /o/? or is it a sliding scale between them both to make continuity and distinctive style:

Cillian seems to match the the curves of /d/ to /a/, as does Antenna

however, neither Gabriel Sans nor FF DIN does so, in favor of more conventional letterforms (Grotesk-esk) all the while not pushing letters to unusual or uncomfortable appearances.

It seems the former makes typefaces that are distinctive, since traits are carried through to more letters, while the latter make more “accessable” typefaces since they are more usual. If my purpose was to have a recognizable typeface, but not to the point of uncomfortable letterforms, which side should i err toward?

Also, how does the darkness/line-thickness of /o/ look when compared to the rest.. I'm not sure if it's too dark or not.

JamesT's picture

It's looking good. The /o/ looks fine but the /x/ and /z/ stand out to me as too dark.

Also, both the /o/ and /O/ seem heavier at the top and bottom, as opposed to the sides; I assume this was intentional? The /p b q d/ seem a little awkward where they join the stem. Maybe you could try moving the top and bottom most points on the bowl a little further away and making the change in the stroke weight a little more gradual.

All in all, it's coming together nicely.

MarkyCDavis's picture

here's what i did with d... that's a great improvement, thanks!

Yeah, I made /Oo/ unconventionally so they look more geometric but wider, like the rest of typeface. If it's too distracting, i can make the sides a little heavier. Do you think i should?

Bendy's picture

What I meant was to look at the way the bottom of the bowl of d thins towards the stem, it looks like the same area of a is treated differently, though they're the same feature.

In the latest sample, the bowl of d and the curves of e look quite different..d looks more symmetrical and e more humanist.

JamesT's picture

Regarding the /O/, I just wasn't sure if it was intentional or not. The change in /d/ seems to reflect the intent with the /Oo/.

MarkyCDavis's picture

Ok, thanks Ben:
Geometric /e/

Fixed the constriction of the top of the /e/
Is the flexed bowl with a perpendicular terminal at the bottom of the /e/ considered humanist? I wanted it to match the bowl at the top of the /a/

Thanks for the clarification James.. I have only observed the rules of type design, and wasn't sure if that was a hard and fast rule or convention.

Eimantas Paškonis's picture

Another core principle of font design is:
The counters (inner white spaces) should have same volume (or LOOK like that) across all lowercase or uppercase. In other words, optically there should be equal amounts of inner white space in /b/, /o/, /e/, /n/ etc.
Right now, /b/ seems too wide, /e/ seems to dark.

MarkyCDavis's picture

Yep, just realized last night that the the counters weren't matching after I made the change to the /bgqdp/. I like the width so much, i made all of the other letters wider to match! Also changed the darkness of the e.. and i'll get to the /nmh/ later.. would the /s/ have to change as well, since it is often a different width than /opgbqpae/ and such?

do you have any tips for looking for identifying consistant darkness, because I keep struggling. =)

Eimantas Paškonis's picture

Lower the monitor (background) contrast, squint your eyes and move back from monitor.
By doing this, /b/ in the picture still looks too white.

And /s/ is a tricky part - you'll have to trust your eyes, not the numbers.

Anyway, it's getting better and better. I'm starting to like this :)

Eimantas Paškonis's picture

(Why I can't edit posts?)

Also don't look at individual letters - try to view word "as a whole".
For me it helps to look somewhere slightly above or below it.

MarkyCDavis's picture

That's a great idea Eimantas... I'm always just tinkering away with the letters that seem to have a problem rather than seeing if everything is cohesive.. I'll definitely try that! and thanks for the screen contrast bit.. that's already helping i think.

Eimantas Paškonis's picture

One more thing I remembered - it's often a good practice to use foreign language words.
We tend to associate our mother tongue words we see with their meanings. And it becomes more difficult to look at letters (or their sequences) as pure graphic elements.

(I know, it's kind of meta - but right now I don't know how to explain it better...)

MarkyCDavis's picture

Here's what I have.. I worked on /nmu/ so their open counters are optically equivalent to the counters of other letters.
worked on /e/ darkness counters compared to both /a/ and /o/
took off the tail on /l/ (copying Akkurat for little reason)

yes i know i misspelled doppler... whatever. =P

That's a great tip Eimantas.. would it be a good idea to look at individual letters flipped on their x axis so that the meaning of the letters is even less of a factor?

Eimantas Paškonis's picture

Absolutely. Flipping, mirroring, BW inverting - all these "routine breaking" things are good (but you don't want to be designing letters upside down all the time though). :)

/m/ is too condensed.
/y/ right bar is too dark.
/t/ bar and /r/ terminal heights don't match.
/t/ bar looks darker than /e/'s.
And I still would condense /d, p, q, b/. Letter /o/ should be the widest of them.

I know how in beginning it is fun and easy to work with modular constructions (o+l = b, d, p, q) (n = u, r, m), but it hurts legibility and most important (especially for such semi-modular, non-decorative fonts) makes them less warm and interesting. My two cents.

MarkyCDavis's picture

Ohh... lol i was trying to make the open counters put together equal the open counter under n hahaha...
Actually the bowl of /dbpqg/ are different at the connection to the ascender/descender.. but i thought almost exact copying of parts of characters was a usual way of creating continuity through all the characters.

Also, didn't know /o/ should be widest compared with /dgbpq/.. working on it!

And thanks for the encouragement to take the hard but rewarding route, instead of the easy route.. needed that!

Eimantas Paškonis's picture

Yea, (maybe it was MY bad explaining) I was talking about letter's whole inner white space (both enclosed and open).
In very decorative and very modular (therefore hardly legible) fonts, copy-pasting works well.
In more sophisticated designs like yours, you have to trust the eyes, not raw geometry.

P.S. It can be anyway you want, but fore me /l/ tail gave the typeface one more stylistic feature (and not being just a bar) + it would help to differentiate "Il1" combo.
For stylistic unity /a/ also should lose the tail, but then it would look more boring. :/

MarkyCDavis's picture

I think you're right.. i'll un-nix the tail.

any more tips on the bowl and descender connection? It's looking dark there, but I'm trying not to use inktraps to lighten it up b/c they break the geometry..
should it be a small inktrap?

PS Also, when I make the bar in /e/ match the bar in /t/, it looks to heavy compared to its eye.. should i split the difference between the 2 widths so both match, but /e/ looks happier?

MarkyCDavis's picture

Updated alphabet spec sheet at top.

Eimantas Paškonis's picture

Just try moving the lower connection point up a bit too see what happens. Again - not the geometry, but eye judgement is important here.

The bars HAVE to match - you can't have different stroke widths.

Eimantas Paškonis's picture

Lol, why sometimes I can't edit posts?

/o p b q d/ looks better!
Now /j/ falls out of style. Connect it with either /l, f, g, y/ or something.
/y/ upper inner space is unbalanced (asymmetrical).
/x/ has too evident "pyramid" shape.
/2/ diagonal is too thick.
/3/ connection has to move higher.
/4/ diagonal is too thick.
/&/ is falling on it's back.

I still have doubts that wide /J/ - I myself always try it with "ALJAZEERA" or "ALJANS":)
And I would make /I/ narrower - to differentiate it from /T/

I'm a bit worried most of the comments are mine - it can lead to subjective results.
Also I highly recommend getting hold of Karen Cheng's "Designing Type" - it's an anatomy analysis book for every letter (serif and sans) + most of accents and punctuation. The book even has sections about spacing and kerning. You can get a used one for cheaper. It will help you in a long road.

P.S. and by "lower connection point" I mean "outer connection points" (can't edit previous post).

MarkyCDavis's picture

i haven't been working super hard on the numbers and /&/ yet just trying to get a start on them, but I will polish them a little

I already changed the width of the horizontal stroke, because it felt wide, and it didn't match the width of the horizontal stroke of the /a/ and that letter's my baby.

Im putting bars on the top and bottom of /I/ so that it has character. Most sans serif fonts do that, and with mine, it will help make the I look more extended like the other letters, but you're right it should be narrower than /T/

working on your suggestions..

MarkyCDavis's picture

Apparently I'm having trouble editing too...
Looked at other fonts and realized that J was narrower than L! wow!
Working on it..

PPS Karen Cheng's "Designing Type" book.. looks facinating!! I've bout a couple of type books but none are about design..

MarkyCDavis's picture

So i've worked on the /xy/

How's that?

Also, do you have any tips on punctuation letterspacing? Should /’/ be kerned close to letters so they aren't distracting? Should I use kerning to automatically place periods close under letters?

MarkyCDavis's picture

Ohh, just made a big connection.. darkness of a letter is not only defined by the thickness of the line, its how big the counters are in comparison! ohh, duh type is design with BOTH the positive and negative shapes in consideration..

Eimantas Paškonis's picture

Oh my, I think I have to apologise...
What I mean by "same width bars in /t/ and /e/" was same VERTICAL width = thickness.
Words - the source of all misunderstandings.

/x/ looks better.
/y/ looks better.

What about giving /d/ a tail?

Period is about the same size as dot on /i/. And it has to connect to to that shape too.
Can't tell much about punctuation spacing - just make your eye judgement. Of course the will have to be kerning involved for specific letters.

One thing that is important to know: some fonts advertise themselves by having thousands or gazillions or kerning pairs. Don't be impressed much - it means that their metrics are bad, so they require so much kerning to fix that. Even 500 pairs can be enough for properly spaced fonts that have all the accents and punctuation kerned.

JamesT's picture

A tip for kerning that I try to follow: less is more. Like Minerva said, try to fix most of your spacing issues with metrics and use kerning sparingly.

MarkyCDavis's picture

Yeah, i knew what you mean about the /t/ bar

should the /e/ be narrower than the /o/ and /a/?

Thanks for the reminder about kerning pairs.. when i started 3 months ago I made all the metrics the same and kerned the difference haha, now I understand what metrics do most of the work, and kerning is for the exceptions.

I'll try a tail on d.

Eimantas Paškonis's picture

Nice work on /j/. I just would shorten the hook a bit to differentiate from /t/ and /f/.

/f/ right side of the bar has to be aligned with terminal. Same goes for /t/.

About /e/ width - again, the equal inner space is the waypoint. And it looks almost fine as it is now. When put along /a/ it looks s l i g h t l y bigger, so it may help to narrow /e/ a bit. But it's nitpicking.

/K/ has problems:
Middle diagonal is too thick and it's height doesn't match capital height.

Try raising /R/ bowl to differentiate from /P/.

Is /L/ bottom bar as long as /E/ counterpart? If yes, it needs to be shorter. /L/ naturally has a too much white space, so we need to solve that.

Both of /A/ counters have to share the same optical volume. The bar needs to be lowered.

P.S. There are lots of methods for spacing, most of them start with two symmetrical letters: /o and n/ /H and O/.
Start with /n/ - space between two letters should NOT be similar to bars or counters.
Then start to incorporate /o/: nnonn nnonon nnoonn nnnonoononnon.
This initial spacing is the most important, don't be afraid to spend a lot of time on it. This is your foundation for all other letters. You will not enjoy respacing everything because of improper beginning.

Important: When doing metrics, use as big letters as you technically can (pixel distortion). Also keep moving away from monitor and x-flipping everything. Squint your eyes, look slightly above letters and see whole sequence as one element.
Set a value and then undo. Did it look better, worse? Look for inconsistencies to remove.

MarkyCDavis's picture

Yeah, I saw the thread where Speikerman was talking about using the HOHOHO technique.. if its good enough for him, it'll work for me, and I was sooo helped by reading the technique about dividing the letters into 3 classes based on what the lefts and rights look like.. That's what i was doing, but with kerning, so I fixed that...

Here's /E and L and T/ (I made /T/ narrower, following the logic of the /L/) and also I fixed /G/ its arm at the top looked wierd..

Here's /d/ with and without a tail. I like it either way.. the tailed /d/ has the same sort of disarming novelty that the tail on the /a/ has. I also like the negative space in between the letters..

Eimantas Paškonis's picture

That tail is charming indeed, but now it seems that /d/ is better without it. Too much is too much.

MarkyCDavis's picture

It will be an alternate! Actually, is there a methodology for including alternates? like less is more ; ) or making a style set with more stylized letters?

Bendy's picture

Hi Mark, I was going to give some crit but I think you are doing very well without...often you'll find as you work recursively through the glyphs you'll automatically be balancing the forms to better fit together, and I think you're doing exactly the right sorts of things.

If you want my opinion, my main concern would be that the overall aim of the face is not clear enough. I'm not sure if this is intended as a text or a display font. Thinking through what you want the face to do will help fix the brief and determine some of your choices. For example, what's the thinking behind the ascenders being lower than the caps? I'm very much for experimentation, but something this fundamental could restrict the usefulness for some people. I'd want to put the font into the intended typographic space (a paragraph, headline, poster, website, logotype) and see how it looks before settling on these sorts of parameters. Another thing I'm struggling with is the this planned to be an extended width to go with a narrower cut? Normally one would draw the regular width first, as an extended cut would be less suitable for extended reading, and therefore difficult to appraise in its own right.

I'm intrigued by the way you're blending humanist and grotesque influences here, something I'm quite keen on myself.

If this is merely an exercise in drawing letterforms, at the next level of detail I'd suggest:

Your K and k need some attention as they're not harmonious.
I can see you're attached to the shape of your /a/, but I'd suggest making the curves tauter, more defined and less flabby.
e does look a little wide to me.
I'd make f and t wider.
G has a very dark spot.
Bowl of R is rather large.
Curves and proportions of ampersand are bad.
Curves of B don't quite harmonise with the other bowls.
Does I need to be so wide?
The bowl and stick letters still look dark and spotty around the spurs; as the triangular notches are rather shallow, I'd suggest simply pushing their vertices further in towards the bowls.
Numerals look interesting, maybe try bringing in some of that funkiness to the alphabetic characters?

I hope this doesn't put you off, as I can see you are developing an eye for good curves and I think this has potential.

MarkyCDavis's picture

New PDF spec sheet at top!

Thanks Bendy! I appreciate your critique! Let me apologize for the state of the /&/, I haven't been working that hard on it, but i will be improving it. You have not deterred me in the least!

To begin with the Cap-hight versus ascenders, (to quote Samuel Johnson) “Sheer Ignorance.” I started it as such and i thought it looked good and different..

The reason my /a/ is flabby is because I trying to make a distinctive /a/ letterform. When I started the typeface, i was scribbling letters and I made an /a/ that looked like this..

It didn't do well in anything other than very large display sizes, and even then It was very grating to look at, so I adapted it to what it is now so that it would feel like the letter i made originally, but be more accessible.

I do realize that most type begins narrower and is re-drawn for extended sizes, but I saw Gabriel Sans and I loved how it was natively set extended. This font is still largely inspired by Gabriel Sans: It is fairly mono-line, is natively extended, and I believe it mixes humanist with grotesk (which I didn't realize I was doing when I started this face).

I think you're right, I haven't really decided if it is going to be display or body or logotype.. I think it would be a strong typeface for display and headlines.
Maybe some other time I could condense it so it can also be a body-text face

What changes should I make for this typeface to be effective in display and headline settings? I can make the caps less extended if they are too pronounced, i thought it was interesting character, but it might only be disregarding rules of Type, yielding unattractive results.

Eimantas Paškonis's picture

What Bendy said: knowing the intended purpose of typeface is crucial.
Display typefaces are used at larger sizes, so every inconsistent curve or black spot is more visible.
Big sizes allow room for details - use that.
But space in headlines or posters are quite limited, so you need to make your font economical.

1996type's picture

This is a good starting point. All the above is important. I would go for Display. Text fonts simply require a greater understanding of lettershapes, proportions and balance. Display type doesn't have to be flawless, though off coarse, that's what you should aim for.

Give S more whitespace at the top area.
Make the terminals in C end at the same horizontal point.
Try adding a vertical (not horizontal crossbar) to C, to make G. I'm not saying it's better, but you should at least try it. It usually looks cleaner.
E F K M N P R U slightly narrower (10-20 units)
Consider a descending tail in J (goes below baseline). This also requires a different structure for the tail itself. Right now, J causes a huge white gap.
O and Q need slightly more overshoot.
Complete the numerals. Good numerals are important!
Extend the top terminal in G towards the right.
Move the lef of R towards the right.
I prefer /I/ without horizontals, but it's your choice. Look at the context.

Move the most left nodes in the bowl of /a/ down.
k might scare away potential buyers/downloaders.
Lift the dots (tittles) at i and j up.
s same as S
n m h slightly narrower (5-15 units)

Move the top bowl of & to the right
Please have a look at some other options for the comma and quotes. It needs to be cleaner.
@ too light
Move top of ? to the right.


From now on, drop the measuring tool and trust your eyes. STARE, change, STARE, change, STARE, -coffeebreak-, STARE, change, untill ALL STROKES appear to have the same thickness. Sorry for my poor use of ALLCAPS :-P

Pay special attention to diagonals, and make sure you're zoomed in enough to avoid rendering issues.

Keep going.


MarkyCDavis's picture

Thanks so much Jasper!! Really encouraging and inspiring actually.. I have been using the measuring tool too much because I'm meticulous. I'll get started.

PS. new /Kk/ and working on /a/

JSuomalainen's picture

Nowadays there is this nice trend of making both optical versions and non optical versions. So when making display, or be it body text, typefaces without too much optical corrections might in some cases look better.


MarkyCDavis's picture

I love lineto! I based some of my /a/ and /l/ off of Akkurat
I might consider taking this route.. I think I might have too much optical correction

1996type's picture

When you design, anything really, you want to make it LOOK in a certain way. By not applying optical correction, you make it LOOK as if the strokes don't have the same thickness. Nobody cares if they ARE the same thickness, if they don't LOOK that way. Something's been done in the past without optical correction, that doesn't mean it's good. I can't think of any good reason for you to make the strokes LOOK different in thickness.

MarkyCDavis's picture

Ok. I'm wondering if I should be using more anchors, because I might not be getting the best curves possible because they are being overextended. This /B/ is an example.

Futura uses few anchors, but does my typeface need more complex curves than futura, and more anchors?
Using more nodes is challenging for me because the only way I know to make the curves at the top of the bowl match the bottom is by using the same ∆x ∆y (but reflected of course).

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