Technical knowledge for type design. Is it required?

bobdigi's picture

Allow me to oversimplify. Basic type design is glyphs, designing the spaces they occupy, and the spaces of their combinations. In addition to honing those crafts digitally in FontLab, must I know anything else to release a professionally crafted, single-weight typeface? or can I go to File/Generate Font and move on?

I'm trying to figure out what's next on my learning curve and it seems there are a ton of tools tackling problems that I don't even care to understand— and maybe I should care. Any guidance would be appreciated, thanks.

hrant's picture

FontLab is just a tool - the real "honing" happens in your head. And what you've described is already plenty to keep most anybody busy for a decade or more! :-) But I'd say the next qualitatively difficult step is to move from a single weight to a system. The way weights and italics need to relate can get complex (and there's no consensus on how to do it).

hhp

oldnick's picture

Some people are born with tin ears, some with tin eyes.

Knowing how “something is done” will produce a workmanlike product; whether or not the effort inspires others is quite a different matter.

Si_Daniels's picture

>can I go to File/Generate Font and move on?

You need to test (ie use) the fonts in the ways you expect your customers to use them, on different apps and platforms, and different output devices. If you skip this step you're doomed to provide ongoing ad-hoc support as customers will hit issues you should have identified in testing.

bobdigi's picture

> Knowing how “something is done” will produce a workmanlike product; whether or not the effort inspires others is quite a different matter.

Yes, but on that note, I would like to make sure my workmanship doesn't miss something obvious because I lack formal training.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

If you are capable of designing a great looking font, consisting of just outlines in — say Illustrator — I’m convinced it will be taken from there and turned into a working and marketable OTF by eg the tech people at FSI or MT…
It’s about the vision first, not about being able to handle all of the knobs and sliders of software.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

You should look into proper naming, OpenType features, vertical metrics, class kerning, hinting, curve quality requirements &c.

bobdigi's picture

Proper naming? You mean to say that those "Build Set Names" buttons don't work right?

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Yes, but it depends on what you are going to do.

bobdigi's picture

Depends on what? Clearly, I have no idea what to look out for as naming sounds like it would be a fairly straightforward matter. Is there a go-to resource to get a crash course on this stuff?

Nick Shinn's picture

Stick to RIBBI to begin with, that will postpone the naming nightmare.

eliason's picture

Is there a go-to resource to get a crash course on this stuff?

There are worse places to start than Typophile's TypoWiki "How To" section.

bobdigi's picture

I hate to keep asking question after question, but what's RIBBI?

eliason's picture

regular/italic/bold/bold-italic (I had to think about it for a while too)

Theunis de Jong's picture

I guess it's the same as when building bridges. Everyone can design a nice looking one, but it takes engineering knowledge to just use enough concrete.

hrant's picture

Actually structures like that are heavily over-designed. Airplanes by contrast are over-designed by about 10%.

hhp

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