Callisti: An attempt at a book font

Catharsis's picture

Hi all,

I suppose the goal of producing a font good enough to write a book with is a bit audacious for a blatant amateur's first "serious" typeface. Well, I've given it a first try anyway.

I admit that many (if not most) serif types look alike to my untrained eye. Recently, however, I fell in love with FF Quadraat on the cover of a book. It managed to look beautiful and original despite being perfectly legible and "well-behaved". Of course, I immediately wanted to create something like it of my own.

My design goals were to make each letter as beautiful as I could while still maintaining a consistent style across the letters and a comfortable reading feel at small sizes. After some exuberant doodling followed by some grudging tempering for legibility's sake, I finally ended up with the following. Working title: Callisti, Greek for "most beautiful". I'm also thinking of other nymph-based names, such as Pegaia or Naiad.

Whaddya think? Is it worth pursuing this project? I know it's a lot of work, and I'd rather not start with it if it is doomed to fail.

If a book-capable font turns out to be too hard, I will probably turn this into a display font. I started out Callisti with an extremely low-bowled a that I had to moderate in order to make it legible at small sizes. For the display font, I would probably return it to its former extreme:

Opinions?

Catharsis's picture

And now I'm getting rebellious... are those q and k still legible enough for a book? Stop me before it's too late. ;o)

riccard0's picture

Q looks unicase.
Big white shade text on a dark background isn’t the best way to judge a book face.
s looks a bit heavy.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

Hard to figure out. You’d need to see it in a real situation, e.g. in a book like environment (which would be something like 10 pts on 14 on a 80 mm line — black on white).

Catharsis's picture

I'm aware that the q is modeled after the anatomy of a capital Q... I was wondering whether I could pull it off, though. In small sizes, it looks pretty similar to a traditional lowercase q.

I decided the k was too far away from the intended style, and made a more normal one:


Good point about the heavy s, I'll look into that.

Thanks!

riccard0's picture

q is still distracting. Also because it could look like a misprinted “Benguiat g”.

eliason's picture

Just my impression: deep down you really want to do a display face instead.

riccard0's picture

deep down you really want to do a display face instead

Well, he started with looking at a font on the cover of a book… ;-)

Bert Vanderveen's picture

Come on guys, the incidence of /q/ is soooo low, that critiquing this design should not revolve around that sole glyph. Let’s see what is around…

brianskywalker's picture

Ideally, you should post a pdf with dummy text, in multiples sizes, although what Bert recommended would probably work well. This can be zoomed for a closer look, or printed. An example of something similar would be: http://typophile.com/files/20120401-text.pdf If you're designing this in Illustrator, that might be difficult to do, but required if you're doing a text font. If you're not already using a font program, you should move into that as soon as possible. A great program for beginners is Glyphs. Fontographer is also good. Most pros use Fontlab, although some have moved to Robofont, or use in-house development tools. I mainly use Fontforge.

I have a few recommendations. Take what I say with a grain of salt—there are a lot of different schools of thought among Typophiles. I think this is probably worth pursuing, and there are a number of interesting things going on. However, you need to work on optically unifying the weights of all your strokes. The x-height also bounces up and an awful lot. In fact, letters like 'u' extend even above the round shapes. That's a no-no. There also seems to be varying levels of finish on your letters. Try an think about them all as members of a family, and not individual letters by themselves.

If most serif fonts look identical to your eyes, you might consider learning about the differences and classification, and studying the forms more. Another thing that might help you is to read other critique threads here on Typophile. You can learn a ton from them. The thread on Ernestine is really great.

riccard0's picture

the incidence of /q/ is soooo low

It depends, of course, on language. In italian, for example, very common words like “this, that, some, when, so, any”, all start with q (questo, quello, qualche, quando, quindi, qualunque/qualsiasi). And there also are water (acqua), square (adjective, quadrato), and so on.

hrant's picture

What Craig said.

hhp

Catharsis's picture

Just my impression: deep down you really want to do a display face instead.

You know, I'm getting much the same impression. ;o) The letters I had the most fun with were the non-standard ones. I suppose I should just do a bookface-inspired display face for a start and as a learning experience.

Catharsis's picture

Thanks for your suggestions, Brian.

I'm currently working in Inkscape, and intend to move to FontForge. So I should be doing the rest of the characters inside FontForge?

So far I've tried to keep the thickness of the stems and the two diagonals consistent between characters, but I suppose one needs to keep those flexible in order to achieve optical consistency. Is there a trick to balancing out the weights of different characters? Or is it just fiddling with all the strokes until it looks right? Same thing with the x-height; the fact that even the vertical stems have slanted and flat parts at the top makes it tricky.

brianskywalker's picture

Is there a trick to balancing out the weights of different characters?

I'm not sure there are any "tricks", but to do everything optically. I had a lot of trouble with that originally—I always wanted to make the stems exactly the same thickness (mathematically), and optically it doesn't tend to work. Your stems all seem to thin right now compared to other parts of the letters. The diagonals don't actually work—in the case of the 'v', the left side should be your thick side and be about the same thickness as the stems. Note you need to measure at the angle of incline, if you're measuring. I use some old calipers for measuring (stole the idea from Dunwich Type), and that works really good because I hate fiddling with digital measuring tools, but you can use the ruler in Inkscape or Fontforge and that'll work fine. Or you can copy a straight-stemmed letter like 'i' and rotate it over top of your 'v' at the angle the stroke goes. That would be a good starting point for the thick side. The thin side wants to probably be as thin as the bar of the 'e' or crossbar of the 't'.

I'm currently working in Inkscape, and intend to move to FontForge. So I should be doing the rest of the characters inside FontForge?

I highly recommend it. That will get you thinking about things like body size and sidebearings much more early on, and allow you to quickly make tests for print. It's hard to get used to at first, but you'll need to learn Fontforge anyway if you plan to use it. I'd recommend opening up other fonts and seeing how they're put together. It's probably a good idea to look at Fontforge files too, since they will be the most "human understandable", because it will be in source form, and some of the background layers and other things will probably still be in there. My Neuton has the .sfd files available in the download Raph Levian also has some fonts on his website with download of the .sfd files, although many of them are not at all finished.

hrant's picture

How do you use the calipers exactly?

hhp

brianskywalker's picture

Hrant: Mine are just old small friction outside calipers. (Like this, but smaller.) I hold 'em up to the screen and adjust them to the width of whatever I am measuring. I always measure to compare, so I then move to the other part or glyph I want to compare it to and hold it up. Works like a charm—better than a ruler for comparison. I think straight "pointers" or something to that effect, used in drafting, is more appropriate, but I don't have any of those. Anyway this saves time for me.

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