Vulpa (text serif inspired by the warm proportions of Plantin)

daverowland's picture

Here's my latest font in the making. It is inspired by a font ID request here on Typophile which went unsolved. Inspired in that I've taken the basic feel of that font and some of its characteristics (mostly the crescent shaped half ball terminals - I'm sure there must be a proper name for these) and 'transplanted' them onto a Plantin-based text font I was already working on. Please note the only thing I've taken from Plantin are the basic proportions and metrics (and for the time being, kerning, which I will no doubt scrap and start from scratch as the need arises). The outlines are all my own. What do you think? Specifically, what are people's thoughts on 'borrowing' metrics from other fonts. Surely this doesn't constitute any copyright infringement. I definitely remember reading an interview with a type designer recently (I forget her name) where she said she usually starts a new design from an existing one.

Anyway, any criticism is greatly appreciated. The aim is to make a readable text font (for print more than for screen) with a bit of character. I'm undecided on the Nike-esque swooshes, and I think the serifs being thicker than some of the thins maybe looks a little odd, but sometimes odd is good?!

PS. nicked the pangram from Craig Eliason - one of my favourites

AttachmentSize
Vulpa.pdf74.81 KB
Vulpa2.pdf48.78 KB
Vulpaitalic.pdf84.52 KB
VulpaBold1.pdf85.27 KB
VulpaBold2.pdf100.16 KB
eliason's picture

Specifically, what are people's thoughts on 'borrowing' metrics from other fonts.

Some earlier threads here:
http://typophile.com/node/15974
http://typophile.com/node/15838

daverowland's picture

Just to be clear on this, I haven't opened Plantin and changed a few points. I've made a new font from scratch for which proportions were influenced by Plantin and kerning has been imported from Plantin (for the time being - I will definitely change it because it doesn't fit my design as well as 'homemade' kerning would). So I'm not trying to 'get away with' creating a new font quickly by modifying an existing one. I will freely admit that spacing is not my strong point and to this end, I have looked at how other fonts space glyphs as a starting point. There's obviously a lot more tweaking to be done on this one. In the end, I dare say it will bear little resemblance to Plantin. What do you think? Is it looking derivative? That is 100% not my intention. I give credit to designers who make revivals but that's not my thing. I think back to art lessons in school, where we would paint copies of old masters' works. The teachers weren't trying to create a bunch of forgers, but to make us identify their techniques and learn from them. That is what I'm trying to do here, but if appropriating similar spacing from pre-existing fonts is frowned upon, I'll simply keep the outlines and space them myself, for better or for worse. I hate spacing so much I might even consider iKern. Has anybody used this service? What did you think?

daverowland's picture

Anybody know if this kind of terminal has a name? It's like a cross between a ball terminal and a Nike swoosh.

eliason's picture

Foxtail terminals!

daverowland's picture

Genius!

daverowland's picture

Foxtail terminals it is then - speaking of which, are the R and K tails too bushy?

Bendy's picture

If you could upload a pdf with text in paragraphs it would be easy to judge from a printout. They don't look quite delicate enough, and perhaps they could be more inclined. I like the direction of this, Plantin is really one of my favourites, and I really admire Kris Sowersby's Tiempos, which reimagines Plantin very crisply.

daverowland's picture

I've added pdf sample to the original post. I've removed all kerning and changed the spacing to my own, so now all that's left of Plantin is the proportions, and even they have changed somewhat. No curves, points, side-bearings etc. are now in any way 'borrowed'. I'm doing it the long way, and hopefully learning more that way!
As I said, there's no kerning for now so it should give a clearer picture of where I'm going wrong with my spacing.
Also added numerals since last posts and thinned out the bushy tails of K and R.

daverowland's picture

how's this eszett looking?

Bendy's picture

This is becoming rather delicious! The numerals are especially nice, and I love the 4. It may need a larger counter (you could thin the stem a little perhaps).

A few other observations:

/b/ is floating above the baseline. ('blind' in first para.) Or maybe it just needs more colour bottom left?

Tail of /j/ is crashing into the baseline serifs ('enjoy' in the third para).

/i/ and /r/ look dark.

/s/ is a little too curly for my taste — I'd open out the terminals a bit more and let the counters breathe.

1 might benefit from a wider head.

6 looks a little squashed.

/R/ is causing spacing problems with its outstretched leg, in the third para. I like the shape so perhaps it could just be rotated clockwise to bring its foot in slightly?

The name suits the design, nice.

daverowland's picture

Added new pdf to original post. Updates to most of the above as per Bendy's suggestions.
Maybe I've not gone far enough with the s, but I kind of like curls.
Cut inner serif from Eszett to let it breathe a bit more.
Added more weight to the tittles of i and j. I think their previous size was a contributing factor to the apparent darkness of the stems. Might be wrong.
Taken a bit of weight from the arm of r where it meets stem.
Tucked in leg of R.
Lowered bottom left corner of b.
lowered and reduced in size terminal of j.
Slightly widened 6, but I think its apparent squashedness may have been more due to width of 5 - I'll have another look at this.
1 is widened top and bottom and the top serif changed shape a bit.

daverowland's picture

That right hand side-bearing on r is too small isn't it? Also I'm not a fan of the top serifs of T, and therefore E F and Z. Think I'm going to change it to be more like the top of 7. Updates shortly.

daverowland's picture

Here's the before and after of new top serifs. z 7 and 2 are unchanged - I put them in there to show how the serifs are now more uniform across the font.

On another subject, I'm starting to think about the italic, and was half considering a connected form, or at least semi connected. Does anyone know of any text faces with connected italics, or is this a stupid idea?

Bendy's picture

I personally preferred the curvy serifs on the E and F. The T looked weird for sure, but I think that's more about the openness than the shape. The serifs on Z need to be larger to balance the diagonal.

BTW remember to take my suggestions with plenty of salt and sugar, it's your design and I'm no pro. :)

Bendy's picture

Re connected italics, I'd ask *why* you want to do that. It's going to be very unfamiliar to most readers in a text face, and I imagine it wouldn't help readability. (Maybe I'm too sceptical.) It's worth testing it though.

daverowland's picture


I kind of liked the curly serifs on E and F but I think the new ones are better because they give the crossbar more room. I've decided on the above compromise - basically took out one anchor point and the serifs are now half way between before and after. Much happier with the T - it's starting to look more like a T and less like a palm tree!
BTW remember to take my suggestions with plenty of salt and sugar, it's your design and I'm no pro. :)
Clearly you are a pro! But seriously - I'm not going to go through it changing everything people suggest. Mostly it's a case in the critique section of people pointing things out which I'd notice myself if I was critiquing someone else's font, but when you stare at the same thing for too long you get blind to it.
The connected italics idea was just a thought really because my first stabs at drawing the italic look pretty rubbish. Trying to find a way of getting the 'foxiness' of the upright into it, but I've had a go at connected italics and this is definitely not the way to go with it.

eliason's picture

Thumbs up on that "compromise" version.

daverowland's picture

It's been a while - finally got some time to come back to this. Still not braved an italic or bold yet, but have made a start on basic ligatures and the highly important foxtailed hederas

daverowland's picture

I've added new pdf to the first post, showing where I'm at with the italics. At the moment there is no kerning in either Roman or italic and only preliminary spacing in the italic (I think I'm just about happy with the spacing in the Roman)

I'm still looking closely at Plantin, but I've strayed further from it for the italic than I did for the Roman. I wanted the weight of the italic to be pretty similar to Roman. Plantin's italic looks a bit weedy to my eyes. Uppercase is mainly slanted Roman with some exceptions (K, R, Q) and slight adjustments.

Overall I'm pretty happy with it, but as always, and critique is greatly appreciated.

Dave

daverowland's picture

æsc time. 4 options ~
1. most similar to Plantin
2. less teardroppy a
3. standard double storey
4. Rowland form rears its ugly head again

spacing and kerning not fixed for any of them!

daverowland's picture


here they are in text - spacing is terrible for all of them, so try to ignore that

riccard0's picture

It would be better to see them alongside a and e and possibly œ. But surely #1 is a clever way to give a distinct "a" feel to the italic æ. The only possible downside, if one could call it so, is that it’s the "a" part that does all the job, while the "e" one retains its shape unmodified.

daverowland's picture


From the Millennial Oldstyle post where this cropped up, I don't think there are many occasions where ae and oe appear much in the same language, so ambiguities leading to confusing the two are rare. I'm leaning to #2. #1 just looks a little strange to me - almost like a swash small cap R

riccard0's picture

#1 just looks a little strange to me - almost like a swash small cap R

Now that you’ve pointed it out, I cannot un-see it ;-)
#2 is beautiful, but it looks to me almost just a cursive a.
I still think you should try to “sacrifice” a bit the shape of e.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Well, you don't read or write it daily, do you? Of these #2 is the only half-decent option. This is how a you learn to write a lowercase æ in school.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

But the execution needs some work ... Just sayin'.

daverowland's picture

How about this one? Moved the centre 'stem' to the left a bit to balance the a and e portions better

Bezier Abuser's picture

Any news about this? I wanted to do something VERY similar for a while now

daverowland's picture

I'm working on the bold at the moment. Hoping to have it finished by the end of January. It will only be regular, italic and bold. Maybe semibold too but no bold italic. I'll post updates soon.

daverowland's picture

I saw that just the other day Hrant. Love the ffi ligature

daverowland's picture

As promised, Bold weight is now in process. I've attached new pdf to initial post which shows bold and also italic swashes. Here's image of the bold:

daverowland's picture

I've added another pdf to initial post which shows the three styles together. I struggled to get enough weight into the bold /s/ but looking at it now I think I may have gone too far! Anything else glaring? I think I could do with narrowing a few of the italic uppercase characters.

Martin Silvertant's picture

Looks damn gorgeous! I think the capitals are a bit too dark compared to the lowercase though.

daverowland's picture

I think in the italic they are fractionally too dark (especially some of the swashes) but I don't see it in the regular or bold. I'm going to make the italic uppercase slightly narrower anyway - at the moment they're pretty much slanted romans so too wide I think.

Martin Silvertant's picture

> but I don't see it in the regular or bold
I see it in all three styles. The /C/ in Bold looks right but most other capital letters look slightly too dark.

Did you settle on the design of the ae character yet? I really like the texture of the text in #4. I'm not sure if ae in italic should really match the one-story design of /a/ but if you insist on that then I think the latest design you posted works really well.

daverowland's picture

I'm pretty happy with weight of uppercase in regular and bold - there's a few that need lightening a touch (W especially) but all in all I think they're fine on test prints.

The last ae was the one I settled on.

daverowland's picture

Coming soon....

mars0i's picture

Proviso: I'm not a type designer, or any kind of designer. It would be reasonable to ignore my comments. I'll say it, and then you can ignore it:

I like the updated T, but still would prefer crisper corners. Just seems un-T-like, even distracting maybe. I want the bar to feel like a bar and not a canoe. The upper corners on the E and F are more pointed--why not make the T's corners at least as sharp as them, maybe even more so?

1996type's picture

exciting :-)

brianskywalker's picture

This reminds me of a Plantin-ish font I saw in scan of a very old book. Actually it was attempted to be ID'd here, but no one could find an exact match. Now there's a closer one! (haha!)

daverowland's picture

This is the ID request that inspired me - http://typophile.com/node/83962
not an old book I don't think but Plantin-ish with nice curly terminals

Catharsis's picture

Vulpa looks nice, and that promotional tableau looks professional to me (as an amateur).

But I'm sorry to say that it was the link to FF Pitu that really blew me away. Those |f|s! swoon

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