Attempt at drawing a typeface

sean_k's picture

Hello to all members of the forum,

I don't know where or how to start to introduce myself, but I have been following some of the forum topics with great interest. I am amazed everytime a forum member comments on a typeface for critique as I will see something that I would not have noticed before, and this proves that there is so much for me to learn here.

I am keen on typography, and my recent purchase of Robofont (without any prior knowledge of font softwares, neither experience in typeface design, so this is a first) allowed me to draw some shapes to be played around with as a font. I have no idea on how to use the software to its greatest effect, but I would like to start somewhere in learning how to design proper typefaces.

I thought the best way to learn was to dive straight in and put it up for critique, and to see if there is any way to eventually develop this to be used somewhere as a display face? Also would be good to know if there is already an existing font like this that I am not aware of.

Two weeks ago, I started drawing these shapes in Illustrator based on a simple grid, and imposed some restrictions with regards to the angles for the different parts of the characters. The thicker ones were an initial attempt, and I recently re-drew a new set with a higher contrast between the vertical strokes and the horizontal and diagonal ones, and some changes were done to the structure for some characters.

As you can see, the character widths are kept the same, and I think this has caused problems with the new set's kerning (don't know how to set that in Robofont either) so this is still monospaced for now? I hope to eventually learn how to kern character pairs to remove the awkward spaces between some alphabets.

I would really appreciate your feedback and comments and how I can improve it to be decent enough for use! Thanks in advance :)

Andreas Stötzner's picture

Sean, welcome to this hilarious club.

Nice exercises. However, such static designs are always rather bulky friend for the reading eye. Nonetheless, enjoy playing around with it.

When you want to dig deeper into the craft one day, turn to writing by hand. It will teach you everything (apart from handling the application, of course).

1996type's picture

Hi Sean. Welcome to typophile!

If you ask me, this is more than a 'nice exercise'. This has serious potential. Something I rarely see with newcomers typophile, so you must be talented. I absolutely hate All monospaced font, except yours. I don't know how you've done it, but you did a great job.

Now, enough for the praising part. First of all, ask yourself this. Do you want a monospaced font, or a font that LOOKS like a monospaced font. The latter would involve optical adjustments in width and spacing, which will make it look more 'monospaced', but, when a line is typed underneath a previous line, they won't align.

An actual monospaced font has it's charms, and is closest to what you've already made, so I'd go for it.

I like your idea to make a high-contrast version as well, but it inevitably causes an uneven 'colour'. I'd stick with it though, because it's something I haven't seen before. Originality is always good, bodoni doesn't have an even colour either :-)

High-contrast feedback:

[1] First of all, I think your high-contrast version would look better if you'd stick to the shapes of the low-contrast version. (Q U J P B)

[2] For /C E F L S/ are all too light. I suggest to attach a small square serif-like thing to the top and bottom horizontal bar, too add some colour. It's not THE answer, but it's worth trying IMO.

[3] For /Z/, also too light, I suggest a more daring solution. Just forget about the grid and give the diagonal the same OPTICAL thickness as the stem (vertical part) of I. Also remove the short vertical bits, first. Another solution for /Z/ would be to go with [2].

[4] To make this into a functional family, you want the low-contrast and the hihg-contrast version to look like they belong together. Although the /O/ in low-contrast, technically doesn't have a horizontal bit in it, it does appear to have a horizontal bit. Thus, the high-contrast /O/ should have a horizontal bit as well. This means that the diagonals in high-contrast /O/ will be shorter. Thus, the diagonals in /A C Q U E F J P R D S G B/ should be shorter as well.

Work step by step. Doing all this at once will give you headaches. Don't blindly do as I say, but at least give it a try. Always save backups of old versions. Good luck.

Jasper de Waard

hrant's picture

Although each of these two styles isn't exceptional
individually, I do see potential in how they might
intermix, for example via layering. I'd focus on that.

BTW, absolutely don't go down the handwriting route.
All it will do is keep you in the dark ages.


Andreas Stötzner's picture

… don't go down the handwriting route.
All it will do is keep you in the dark ages

Very funny.

Sean, you will see more of the kind from Hrant, by time.
Enjoy ;-)

hrant's picture

I might be the most vocal, but I'm certainly
not the only one who thinks that basing fonts
on handwriting is regressive. You might ask
Mathew Carter for one what he thinks.

"It will teach you everything"?
That's not funny, that's sad.


sean_k's picture

Thanks guys, for the warm welcome :)

Thanks for the suggestion. I definitely want to dig deeper (getting more exciting the deeper I go) and eventually try drawing a typeface that is friendly to the reading eye :)

Thank you for the kind words. It is very encouraging to hear.

I started drawing them monospaced, but saw the flaws very obviously in the strong-contrast version, so am not sure if I still want it monospaced or to develop it in that looks-like-monospaced direction.

I will try out the suggestions you made regarding the serifs and structures of the alphabets you pointed out. It will be interesting if they eventually can be a family, but I guess I will have to get the basic character structures right first! Looks like a lot of re-structuring based on your suggestions, but I really appreciate it :)

When you mentioned how they might intermix / focus on layering, did you mean those fonts where there are multiple layers that can work on top of each other to create one font, and still work individually? I imagine that to be very challenging, but I would like to give it a try once I have got the basics ironed out. Thanks :)

Hope to find time to re-look into this, and post updates soon.

Andreas Stötzner's picture

"It will teach you everything"?
That's not funny, that's sad.

As long as you don’t take ‘everything’ too literally (for which YOU are certainly alert enough), the sentence is neither sad nor funny.

Regardless of what kind of font you’re going to work on, the essence of Schrift can only be experienced and understood when you practice Schreiben (writing).

Martin Silvertant's picture

> BTW, absolutely don't go down the handwriting route. All it will do is keep you in the dark ages.
> You might ask Mathew Carter for one what he thinks.
You might also ask what Gerrit Noordzij thinks. I'm all for his theory of writing in "the stroke".

hrant's picture

> did you mean those fonts where there are multiple layers that can work
> on top of each other to create one font, and still work individually?

It's definitely tricky, but like I said I think you need to go for that.

> the essence of Schrift can only be experienced
> and understood when you practice Schreiben

I think trimming a goatee is more relevant.

You want essence? The essence of type is notan, which
cannot be ideally achieved by simply painting the black.

> You might also ask what Gerrit Noordzij thinks.

I know what he thinks. But look at the results. I personally think
Ruse is not that good; for one thing the vertical proportions are
a joke. Carter's fonts? Different story. But anyway I'm not one for
idolatry. It just has to make sense - and chirography doesn't.


Arthus's picture

Those are nice starts, but with capitals you quickly run into the system. It's a good training ground, so go slow, try different contrast systems, try to look into lower case. Try to find the contrasts which will turn from display to legible, how thick can you make the high contrast and how thin? Try to enlarge the grid and have a look what kind of shapes you can make.

In all, when learning, try to have fun first, and only focus on the more theoretical parts later. I must say that handwriting route isn't bad, but this serves just as well.

So keep on going!

sean_k's picture

Hello everyone,

Managed to make some updates to the drawing.

As before, looking forward to your comments and suggestions, particularly ‘T’, and the little serif-y strokes on ‘i’, ‘j’, ‘l’? I think the main challenge was in trying to balance the space around each letter caused by the rigid grid, but not sure if that created inconsistencies across the entire set.

@Jasper I introduced a thick diagonal as suggested, along with the little serifs. Is there an identity crisis happening? :D And due to the introduction of the lowercase, I guess mono-spaced is not ideal for now?

@hrant I have not ventured onto the layering approach yet. Going slow, but hope to get there :)

@Arthus Thank you. Yes, with this update, I explored the lowercase, and sort of “broke” the grid in a lot of places. Hope this is an improvement!


1996type's picture

Nice! Just a few remarks:

- The small block on letters like a, y, e, z, looks uncertain. Either do something daring with it, or get rid of it. The terminals on letters s, c, r, k, x are much more attractive, so I'd keep those.
- I think it would make more sense to make the left part of e and c like the left of d.
- I would like to see the right bottom part of g and y, similar to the right bottom of j.
- x is too wide
- J and L are too wide.
- Spacing/kerning is too tight.
- The dot on the i and j is quite close to the stem now. Perhaps make it a bit flatter, to create a bit more white.

Keep it up! Cheers, jasper.

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