What letters to start with?

epiktet's picture

Hi,

I'm not a graphic designer by trade but I have decided to create my own font. I have been doing some research and initial drawing (see http://www.doppel-n.com) but I was wondering what letters I should start with in terms of "setting up" the alphabet. I imagine if certain shapes are settled they can be reused for similar letters. Help is very much appreciated.

HP

sevag's picture

In an interview with Baseline Magazine (Autumn 2011) Matthew Carter says that he would start with letters h, n, o, a. Welcome to Typophile!

eliason's picture

Some more suggestions in this old thread:
http://www.typophile.com/node/6319
(I think there have been other discussions too but searching sucks here)

dezcom's picture

Start with the glyph that made you decide to produce that particular font--don't worry, it will surely change before you are finished :-)

hrant's picture

To repeat from that old thread Craig kindly dug up: if it's for text try starting with "n" and "o"; if it's for display try starting with "a" and "g". BTW the last time I said that our resident troll called me clueless (actually he used harsher terminology) but now that Sevag has quoted Carter as having said something similar (which I had heard too) maybe he won't have the guts.

As an aside, your site is a cool idea. BTW have you tried the Polish Nutella? Around here it's half the price and almost as good.

hhp

oldnick's picture

Well, it’s an ambitious project, and an excellent source of many and varied answers to the old “How had can it be?” question, right?

And, Hrant: isn’t it amazing how someone’s opinion of your opinion changes, once a recognized luminary puts it out there? Of course, in Formal Logic, the Argument from Authority is a fallacy—but, since when have the Clueless been bothered with that petty details? Hell: even demigods like Hermann Zapf screw up from time to time—witness the thread on Optima Nova elsewhere…

So, give it up: what is the Polish Nutella called? I love that stuff…

hrant's picture

It's called Nutella... I don't know if it's an official variant or an imitation. In Lebanon we had an amazing "chocolate butter" called Chocomax. It was so good they made an imitation called Chocomix.

hhp

epiktet's picture

Thanks for all the kind suggestions. It'll be a display font so I'll try a and g first. Should I start with lower- or uppercase?

As for the the Nutella: unfortunately haven't tried Polish Nutella. It is amazing though how the slightly change the flavor according to different national tastes.

Typogruffer's picture

@epiktet, Cool website and you should consider including the following books in your fonts 101 section.
Designing type by Karen Cheng,
The Stroke: Theory of Writing by Gerrit Noordzij
and also The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst

And as far as which characters to start, i find it more easy to start with Uppercase and in uppercase start with letters with flat edges( H and N) , then go the ones with Slanting edges like V, W, X and then go to the ones with curved edges like C , O and R. For the typeface I am currently working on, I drew all the characters on paper but unfortunately the design I finally got is different from the original one( it's better, so no qualms). As far as lower case is concerned , follow what hrant said, though i would keep g and s characters for the last.

hrant's picture

BTW, an important note: "start with" does not imply "end first". :-)
The "g" will need much care throughout.

hhp

dperdiko's picture

I usually start with "a", "e", "o" ,"n" and then go to something like "handgloves" but it really is a matter of preference.

Typogruffer's picture

still don't fully understand how one can take advantage of reoccurring shapes throughout the alphabet in designing a font

Leslie Cabarga in her book Learn Fontlab Fast tells that :
If we construct our characters in a methodical and consistent way from the start, by copying and mirroring serifs, bowls, angled stems and so o, the computer does the measuring for us

I hope this answers your question and you understood what I was trying to say. Try finding out common and recurring shapes like, the vertical stems of n, m, u, h should be of same width. etc.

.00's picture

Leslie Cabarga in her book Learn Fontlab Fast tells that :

Leslie is a guy.

This all says volumes of the advice offered here.

Typogruffer's picture

This all says volumes of the advice offered here.

Am I supposed to apologize here? I thought Leslie is a common English female name and I am mistaken. And as far as the volumes of advice is concerned, I tried to throw in my two cents here and I think what I said is relevant. I might not be a great typeface designer like you but nevertheless trying to become one.

hrant's picture

No need to apologize. Not knowing Leslie's gender speaks volumes about nothing. I happen to know Leslie is a guy (in fact I have a small mention in his book) but James claims I'm clueless anyway.

Just look at the type of posts people make here to gauge their reason for being here, and filter out the "advice" that smells like overflowing sewage after a big storm.

hhp

greenboa_1229's picture

Aww....

Awwwww...

asas

sasd..

sad....
asdasd...

.asdd.

oldnick's picture

@greenboa_1229—

Thank you for your contribution: it certainly elevates the tone of the thread.

So, are you a boy or are you a girl? Sunny could go either way…

Nick Cooke's picture

Is that supposed to mean something? Not everybody speaks in acronyms.

hrant's picture

SSDD.

hhp

.00's picture

@Typogruffer
If you are trying to be a competent type designer, don't hang around here.
Read some books, draw some letters, and never, never, ever listen to what Hrant says.
And while you are at it take these books off your list:
Designing Type by Karen Cheng,
The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst
A set of more useless information regarding type design I have never laid my eyes upon.

Bringhurst is the ultimate typographic cootie. His talks are filled with complaints about the state of this or that, Arabic, Greek whatever, yet he could commission the work he needs, yet he chooses to complain rather than commission.

For lack of a better term a Cheapskate.

hrant's picture

Yes, only hang around here to froth in the mouth and vent your frustrations at being ignored for making fonts stuck in the 80s like James. Everybody else should be on TypeDrawers being tagged a Troll like James.

hhp

sevag's picture

What are some good books that you recommend James?
(It's the first day of November over here – have a good month everyone.)

Nick Shinn's picture


This is the first digital type I made. Admittedly I did have some professional experience at drawing and (rough) lettering for comps, but then again, Tobias Frere-Jones’ first typeface, Dolores, was along similar loosey goosey lines, and he was in art school at the time he designed it.

Things were a bit more experimental 20 years ago, but nonetheless, I don’t see why the same approach isn’t valid today. You don’t have to create a meticulously subtle and professional masterpiece at your first attempt.

The advantage of basing your design on your own drawing or writing is authenticity. Cut and paste is a terribly banal thing if used without discretion, and discretion is something that must be acquired. There are a lot of hand-drawn types, of varying degrees of finish, that are quite popular and useful. Some of them have an idea about letterform, such as those skinny affairs where the lower case descenders don’t.

oldnick's picture

Jeez, Nick—

Is that a lot of fun, or what? So, how come you’re such a tight-ass? Most folks mellow with age…

Nick Shinn's picture


“Noblesse oblige.”

.00's picture

To set the record straight my current Typedrawers stats:

I would love to see Hrant's stats if Typophile had this feature.

hrant's picture

Hey, get back under the bridge!

hhp

.00's picture

When I see you hanging from it.

epiktet's picture

Hi all,

thank you for the constructive advice (I guess we digressed there for a bit in between).

@typogruffer: Thanks for the book suggestions, I'll check them out.

By the way, I decided to try my hand at a lowercase "a" and "g". I'll keep you posted.

Thanks

hrant's picture

BTW, I just read this:
http://www.myfonts.com/newsletters/cc/201204.html
According to Hofrichter, Günter Gerhard Lange liked to see "n", "a" and "g" first.

hhp

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