grod's picture

please crit.

application/pdfnsfBook first Draft
nsfSpecimen.pdf (35.4 k)

Forrest L Norvell's picture


I've got Czech type on the brain right now, as I'm reading through the back issues of TYPO and spent last week going through people's reports from ATypI in Prague last year, so I hope you'll forgive me for observing that this seems a little like a more rounded version of Vojtech Preissig's Antikva. It's more rounded, of course, but the pillowy serifs remind me of Ionic capitals (on columns). I'm not sure they work, but they're certainly different.

The choice of Kafka for the specimen text is apt, because the typeface as a whole reminds me a little of Edward Gorey's handwriting.

I like the squared-off interior spaces in the C, D, G, O, and Q. The U doesn't work for me, though

grod's picture

Thanks for the feedback, I've made some modifcations along the lines you've suggested. Here is my current revision.

application/pdfnsfBook revision
nsfSpecimen4.pdf (38.5 k)

grod's picture

Well, for whatever reason this hasn't elicited much interest. Nonetheless, I'm still working on it. This sample has what I hope is the final form of the roman style. I've added some semi-random ligatures and swash characters which are fun, though I'm not certain how useful. I've set the first chapter of Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat, along with a bunch of other stuff in an attempt to explore the range of the face. It also contains a very rough draft of the italics. I'd really, really, really love some feedback, especially on the italics. Thanks in advance.

reader/x-pdf19pages oh my!
specbook3.pdf (130.0 k)

Forrest L Norvell's picture

Whoah! Too tight! Too tight! The character spacing in your example setting is kind of insane.

The face itself feels more balanced now, and strikes an interesting balance between the "antiqued" rough fonts like Antique Caslon and the Czech fonts I was talking about before. I'm still not sure how I feel about those convex serifs, though.

The italics feel a little too straightforward next to the roman. The figures work better now, though. Those swash-ligatures are ridiculous. I'm pretty sure in a good way, too.

Aside from that, I don't have a lot to add. Good choice of setting!

cerulean's picture

Those characters have character. Your realization of the interrobang is much better than the original kind; I can actually imagine it being used and read as intended. I like your g very much, and I don't think the swash g lives up to it.

Your cap D is rather wide, and your smallcap D is far too wide.

grod's picture

Forrest, thanks for the "Too tight!" Here is what is going on. Tracking is at zero. Kerning is set to Optical. The metrics/kerning in the font is nearly identical to the optical setting in InD, though not quite as smooth. The problem is that I tweak the metrics and kerning a lot as I work and at high magnification on a decent display a 5 unit sidebearing looks ample. Most of the glyphs have 5 units for the sidebearing or 1/20th of an EM. I haven't run across a recommended width but seeing it on screen at 11pt it is unpleasant. However, printed at 600dpi (default for most laser printers) the color is very nice and even, although reading it does feel a little off. I have considered adding 1/10th of an em to either side. There is a hairspace character in the font set at 55 units. That seems too wide a space to have between each glyph, but perhaps 20 units on each side would work. I don't really know.

It is interesting that you specifically mentioned Caslon, an early version of the face was based on several different digital interpretations of Caslon and the over all proportions and x-height are still relatively faithful to that model. My initial concern was that it would be seen as a Caslon knockoff. However, reading it on paper it retains the features I sought to introduce, what you have termed expressionistic started out as an exploration of how much tension I could place between the edge of enclosing space (the white space around a glyph) and the edges of the space the glyph encloses. I think it works as a text face precisely because the exterior of the forms is familiar, thus not challenging to read but the interior establishes tension and horizontal movement, the effect at 8pts is, for me, to pull my eye across the text. I'm pleased with how this experiment is shaping up. I'd originally feared that the experiment would hinder the goal -- that being to create a useful book face.

Kevin, I'm very pleased that you enjoy my interrobang, I've always had a fondness for the character but found the standard rendering to sedate. Thanks also for pointing out the overly wide D and smallcap D. I'm also very pleased that my lc 'g' works for you as it is one of my favorite characters to draw but I find it challenging to strike a balance between expression and usefulness. The swash 'g' was a discarded character that I did not want to let die, and, while it is somewhat out of place, I imagine someone could find a use for it.

Thank you both. I will probably have another revision of the roman if I can get some free time and then I need to put some serious effort into the italic.

grod's picture

OK. I've adjusted the D glyphs and put together a simpler sample. I've also increased the sidebearings on most characters. The chapter from 3 Men in a Boat is set at 11/13.2 with optical kerning and 5 units of tracking. Too loose? Too tight?

reader/x-pdfhow is my tracking?
specbookb1.pdf (90.2 k)

Forrest L Norvell's picture

I like the new letterspacing much more, but now there are some kerning pairs that need tweaking

grod's picture

I'm in the process of setting the entire text of Three Men in a Boat, 1 spread to a landscape oriented 8.5"x11" page, intended to be printed double sided on an office or library laser printer (i.e. for free :-) ). Then I can get some unsuspecting person to read it and find out if it reads well to an uneducated eye. I'll take a look at the ligatures and spacing again. Especially that "Th"

grod's picture

This sample contains some minor and major adjustments to most of the glyphs as well as a crap load of work on the metrics/kerning of the thing. I'm trying to learn how to do this, so any feedback on good or bad kerning pairs, overall spacing, etc. would be very much welcome.

test.pdf (91.0 k)

raph's picture

Noah: a suggestion. Delete all of the kerning pairs in the font. Now run some text (use real text, not my nere ntin; the latter is best suited to finding rare badly spaced pairs in an otherwise solidly spaced font). Tweak side bearings only until the spacing looks fairly decent, resisting the urge to kern.

Then, when you feel there's nothing to be gained from tweaking the side bearings, start in on the kerning. Be careful to avoid overkerning (like your small-cap AV), but at the same time don't be afraid to kern pairs that really need it (like ab).

It's hard to tell which of the spacing problems are due to side bearings and which are due to kerns (which is why I suggested removing all kerns while working on the sb's), but I can offer some educated guesses based on your sample: rsb on f is way too large; you'll want to plus-kern special pairs like fb fh fk f). rsb on j is too small; remember, you're working from the main stroke, not the tip of the serif, so the right numeric value may seem alarmingly high. lsb on b is probably too large (ib seems to loose, and shouldn't be). rsb on u is a shade too large (probably d too, but it's not so bad). Both lsb and rsb on x are a bit too large.

Side bearings on rounds (obdecopq) probably need to be 5-10 units (out of 1000) bigger; your round-round spacings are consistently too tight.

You've got some kind of problems with ligs; fe is way too tight but ffe is way too loose (as is ist). Once you get into kerns you should make sure that the ligs are consistent with the base letters.

Best of luck! I'm struggling with the spacing in my own font, so I can definitely appreciate how hard it is to do well.

grod's picture

Wow, good advice, the number of kerning pairs is getting insane. Thanks for the specific examples of metrics problems, especially with the 'f' and round round spacing, I knew something was wrong with the 'f's but hadn't worked out that the round characters were spaced too tightly, that has probably thrown a lot of the other stuff off. I can see I've got a lot more work to do than I'd originally imagined.
Thanks again!

grod's picture

well, right off the bat I've noticed that these appear too loose:

reader/x-pdfnsam with no kerning
nokern1.pdf (49.3 k)

grod's picture

OK. This is very preliminary, but the metrics on every character have been adjusted following the principles laid out in Chapter 10 of "Letters of Credit" I am going to begin tweaking more carefully, but I'm not certain where to start.

nokern3.pdf (56.1 k)

hrant's picture

> Tweak side bearings only until the spacing
> looks fairly decent, resisting the urge to kern.

Yes, but don't try to make the kern-less spacing perfect - or even optimal; as you're doing it think of how the kerning will eventually help. Balance the compromises from the beginning, to arrive at an optimal total.


raph's picture

don't try to make the kern-less spacing perfect

Yeah. After thinking about this some more, I think the best approach would be to create a text without digraphs in need of kerning. Make the spacing of that perfect, then graduate to text with full digraph coverage to do the kerns.

Noah: the spacing is much improved. It shouldn't be too hard to figure out what to kern - just look for spacing that looks too loose, and tighten it up a touch. Spacing a la Letters of Credit will result in very few pairs that need loosening; f) is the only one that readily comes to mind.

grod's picture

Raph, thanks, the spacing still has a long way to go, I think, but it does feel better now. Here is another text example, the metrics are tweaked and there 36 kerning pairs.

application/pdfanother example
minimalKerningpairs.pdf (108.0 k)

aquatoad's picture

Hi Noah,

It looks like your serifs are all the same length regardless of glyph or location. I'm currently investigating how serif length affects spacing. There are a few that should be longer just for balance: Right side of the r. RIght side of the f. Right side of the F etc.

Also, glyph construction can give you bad spacing. the construction of your t is causing problems (plus it's spaced too tight on the right). The ear on the g is another difficulty. See the ga combination.

It all looks slightly loose to my eyes. (Though i'd probably lengthen the serifs as a start if this is for extended reading as it seems to be. Note: this will change its character a lot.) I also find the caps slightly dark.

Keep it up!

grod's picture

Randy, I changed some serifs, as you suggested.

I've re-done many of the glyphs and the metrics and have added a great many kerning pairs. It still looks choppy. Any suggestions?

application/pdfanother fricken sample!
spacingtest5.pdf (74.3 k)

grod's picture

I think this is pretty good, but as always there is room for improvement. Any and all suggestions are welcome!

application/pdffenimore cooper tests my spacing
spacingtest7.pdf (78.6 k)

grod's picture

All right... all metrics several different text settings, I like it best at smaller sizes and think I'll do a display version. If this is done, what should I do with it?

reader/x-pdffinal version???
spectest1.pdf (96.4 k)

grod's picture

I've decided I don't like slanted romans so I'm trying my hand at a pseudo italic. I like italics that have the same width as the roman. Here is a very rough draft.

ode.pdf (23.5 k)

Forrest L Norvell's picture

The italic looks nice! Some of the letterforms still need work, like the 'v', 's', and 'y'

grod's picture

I need help with the italic! how can I get each character to take up the same width as the roman and have good spacing?

application/pdfn!samual italic
italictest.pdf (105.6 k)

grod's picture

Is this italic that bad, or is it just that no one is interested?

Forrest L Norvell's picture

You need to lower the contrast for the italic. Maybe that means making it less geometric and more curvy, but the current version looks spindly on the page. Also, looking at this specimen makes me think that the N needs attention in both the italic and the roman.

The italic r looks like it's dripping fluid off its terminal, a vivid and not entirely pleasant impression.

Make the e, x, and z more cursive.

The counter in the k needs work (it probably needs to be smaller). The counter for the g, by contrast, needs opening up; it looks squashed.

Why do you want your italic to occupy the same width as the roman? Traditionally, italics are narrower than the romans they accompany.

grod's picture

Why do you want your italic to occupy the same width as the roman? Traditionally, italics are narrower than the romans they accompany.
Good question. There are several reasons. The first is purely aesthetic, I like the way it looks. The second is a more practical consideration, while I understand that the italic form has, historically, been more economical while retaining legibility, no one really uses italic as an alternative to roman in current practice, instead the italic is used for emphasis. A wide italic is just as capable as a narrow one for this purpose. Yet another reason is that if you do a tight layout and then need to italicize a lot of text, you have to redo much of the layout. If the italic occupies the same amount of space the substitution won't cause any problems. Finally, I don't like reading large blocks of text in normal italics, wider glyphs are more readable to my eye.

grod's picture

It's been a while since I requested feedback on this font. n!samual revised. What do you all think?

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