Maestrale

Catharsis's picture

Here's the other thing I've been working on recently. It's a decorative humanist display font based on a small x-height, a cap height equal to the x-height, and extravagant ascenders/descenders that reach beyond that core space by 2 x-heights on either side.

I intend to add a number of swash alternates for both upper- and lowercase, easily accessible by way of "ligatures" with the rarely-used, yet easily-typed "grave" and "asciitilde" characters.

I'll be calling the font "Maestrale", which is an Italian name for one of the eight cardinal winds, and happens to mean "masterly" as well.

Here's a little preview:




hrant's picture

This is super cool.

hhp

eliason's picture

It will be interesting to see this pursued. I do think currently there's a weakness in the cap-height premise, since without other adaptations it will result in counters that look small compared to the lowercase (compare your /M/ and /A/ to /a/).
If you're unwilling to make them taller, I think you might have to make them wider or otherwise restructure them to let more counterspace in.

Catharsis's picture

@ hrant: Thanks. :)

@ eliason: I see your point. I quite like the texture of the caps as they are now, but as you say, they look a bit finnicky among the lowercase. I suppose one could simply use the font in lowercase-only and all-caps, but my original intention was to make the letters unisized precisely for the purpose of allowing them to be mixed and matched (not necessarily just using caps for their intended purposes). I suppose I should look into restructuring them, then.

Wouldn't the font generally only be used at a size where the counters of the capitals would be large enough so as not to be a problem? Isn't it usual for caps and lowercase in a font to have different grey-values?

dhannah1000's picture

Great font! Is it a serif-calligraphy hybrid? I see designers make 'em cool.

eliason's picture

I don't think the size of use matters - my issue with the capital small counters is not that they would fill in or anything--just that they looks small relative to those of the lowercase (a proportional mismatch that would exist no matter what size), so they look a bit, as you said, "finicky."

Caps and lowercase do often receive different treatment weight-wise, but my sense is that, at least in recent designs, that will more often take the form like differing stem weights precisely to minimize the gray-values difference. At any rate, I think in your equal-height type design, and certainly if you want to entertain the possibility of mixing case throughout the letter, you should do what you can to get similar counter sizes and gray values.

Catharsis's picture

@ dhannah: I'm not really familiar with the official jargon, but intention-wise, that certainly fits what I'm trying to do here.

@ eliason: Here's my first-draft list of caps. It looks to me like the |M| and |A| are the worst cases, with maybe |X| a close runner-up. I might be able to get away with just making those letters wider — modeling the |M| after the |W|, for instance, and giving the |A| a flat roof (though I had that in an earlier attempt at drawing the |A|, and ended up liking the triangular one better...).


eliason's picture

Yep, I think almost none of the other letters will present as much of a concern. Maybe /E/ and possibly /F/. Your designs for /R/ and /W/ are intuitively nice and wide, sidestepping the issue. Of course you just have to set them all amid lowercase and let your eye be your guide.

Catharsis's picture

Alright, I think I solved the problem with the scrunched-up capitals. It was easier than I thought. I did like the individual glyphs for |A| and |M| better the way they were before, but they do blend in much better now, which is clearly more important.

Also, just for fun, here's a few versions of |g|. A bit too crazy...?

Oh, and this just screams for an |oo| ligature.

hrant's picture

Yes, and infinity-like sign.

hhp

daverowland's picture

Wow, this is really cool. I like the backslantiness of the round glyphs. I'm not sure if your plan to use ligatures to access the alternates is a good idea. See this related thread http://typophile.com/node/96159

Catharsis's picture

@ Dave: I can see the drawback of having a string of symbols that can't be changed into another font. I'll just release a second version of the font with the same glyphs encoded as stylistic alternates, that should solve all problems. As someone who almost exclusively uses typographically unsavvy applications, I find the ligature trick a big help.

Meanwhile, I've established the script-|s|, which used to be an alternate, as the default |s|. Do you think that works? There's always the capital |S| to stand in if you want a more traditional shape. I also have four versions of that |ß|, but this is probably the nicest one:

eliason's picture

I like that /s/.
Would it make any sense to use OpenType programming to revert to the capital /s/ form when it's the first letter in a word?

hrant's picture

Delish.

hhp

daverowland's picture

I'll just release a second version of the font with the same glyphs encoded as stylistic alternates

Good idea!
I think you're on to a good thing with this font. So nice to see something so different from everything else. I prefer the new /s/ but I think the old one needs keeping (with some tweaking of the curves, which look slightly clumsy as they are now) as an alternate. I foresee that your main problem with this is going to be knowing when to call it done - it seems the kind of font where thinking up all the different possible alternates and swashes is going to be a lot of fun!

Catharsis's picture

@ Eliason: I'm trying to make as few decisions for the user as possible. In my ligature-based encoding, for example, I don't currently have any automatic ligatures for f_f_i and the likes, since those interfere with the user's ability to change individual letter shapes. Maybe the "typographically savvy" encoding should have such ligatures enabled and assume the user knows how to switch them off if they don't like them.

Also, I kinda like the script |s| even at the beginning of words, as in the following image (which also shows off an f_f_i quasi-ligature). I'm not familiar with script fonts; is it very uncommon to allow script-|s| at the beginning of words?

@ Dave: Yeah, I'm having lots of fun with character alternates, especially ones that interact with other characters. I haven't even been through all lowercase letters yet, so I certainly can't call it a day anytime soon, but it's going to be hard to stop. ;o)

Is this |S| better?

daverowland's picture

Yes, that /s/ is certainly less lumpy. May be slightly top heavy and/or leaning forward.

Andreas Stötzner's picture

the onset of the new s may be more steep.

the whole concept has a great potential.
the g’s are gorgeous.
SALVE

mch's picture

Fantastic - I look forward to its release!

Catharsis's picture

Having fun playing around with alternative umlauts designs... oh, and I made a crazy-ass alternative |m|. You don't have to use it if you don't like it. ;o)

Now I kinda want to start a goth band called Götzentum so I can use that wordmark.... :P

eliason's picture

I like the inventiveness, though it's hard for me not to see that /m/ as /sn/.

Catharsis's picture

Yes, I can see the problem. It's really only an alternate though, so it can't hurt.

I've added some starting and ending swashes, and more ligatures... but I'll have to stop soon. There are some lowercase letters with no alternates yet (|r| comes to mind), which needs to be amended, but I think I'm going to leave the uppercase be. Maybe a tailed |R G K A X Q|, and that's it. As I see it, this font will mostly be used as an uncial anyway...

And here's the font's nametag! :)

hrant's picture

The classiest orgy I've ever seen.

hhp

Andreas Stötzner's picture

the tittles on the o in “götzentum” read as an “n”.

– maeſtrale:
the onstroke of the m is mechanical and illogical. it ought to link to the upper onset of the first stroke.
the a’s are great.
the ſ_t is very nice.
– Ever thought of the round r?
the offstroke of the final e is perfect.

> The classiest orgy I've ever seen.
Come on.

hrant's picture

I meant it as a compliment!
Although I have to admit that one of my very few references is this gem:
http://themicrofoundry.com/other/typorgy.jpg

hhp

Catharsis's picture

Hallo Andreas,

that particular umlaut recalls the Sütterlin |e|, which is the origin of the umlaut.

Onstroke of the |m|: I currently only have a set of four offstrokes that I compose with letters by simple juxtaposition and overlapping. I didn't use an upper-level onstroke for |m| because the one I have is designed for crossbars (like on |t|, or on the family of letter variants designed to ligate with a crossbar), so it wouldn't fit the slanted top. I suppose I should make a set of slanted on/offstrokes for that purpose... though unlike the horizontal ones, they're going to be very sensitive to spacing. So far, I only have glyphs with built-in on/offstrokes for |a|, |e|, and accented variants thereof.

(That said, I still rather like the |m| above. The upward swash is a welcome counterpart to the downward one at the end of the word. And calligraphy does involve a lot of pen-lifting after all.)

Round |r|: Funny that you should say that — I'm just working on a round |r| as we speak. :) It's not a modern script-style |r|, though, but rather based on the carolingian minuscule one:

Bogdan Oancea's picture

Beautiful font, but are you sure the beak of "regular" lc |a| has to go over the left extrema point of its counter?
(And I agree with Eliason about that alternate |m| and, besides, it is so symmetrically centered to the middle stem that it looks out of place next to |o| and the other letters with their slight left-leaning stress).

Other than that, like I said, it's really beautiful—congratulations. If you happen to make Romanian diacritics for it, I'll give further opinion about them. :)

Lasko Dzurovski's picture

NIIIIICE WORK! I like it.

Catharsis's picture

@ Bogdan: As usual, the |a| is one of my favorite letters... and I think here that beak needs its length, lest it be perceived as a serif.

I do have the Romanian diacritics, and they're even included in a few of the stylistic alternate series. Below, you can see their compatibility with the initial and terminal swashes, as well as with the one-story |a|.

Oh, and I have been taught about the need for comma accents rather than cedillas, don't worry. ;o)

Bogdan Oancea's picture

OK, except for some rare special cases, the comma-below should be smaller than the regular comma (sometimes even down to ~50%), and in this case also positioned a bit closer to the letters; the circumflex is too tall—bringing it down closer to the same "normal" height like the breve would be better. The breve is perfectly proportioned and placed, although IMO making it stray just a bit from perfect symmetry would make it match the style of the font better (not to mention looking a little less "devilish" :D ).

(About comma-below vs. cedilla—good!) :)

Catharsis's picture

@ Bogdan: The circumflex and comma accent are deliberately designed to use up a lot of vertical space so as to fit the concept of the font (ascenders and descenders extend up to 2 x-heights beyond the x-height). I didn't do that for the breve, dot accent, or ring accent because I couldn't make it look good.

Incidentally, though, I just had the idea of making yet another stylistic set for Maestrale, focused on ultra-short ascenders and descenders. That should include letter-hugging diacritics like the one you drew. :)

Bogdan Oancea's picture

OK, got it—seems like good reasoning for an exception to the rules :)

Catharsis's picture

Alright, I made a chubby, x-height-hugging version of Maestrale, lacking most of the full version's alternates and swashes. I'm thinking of releasing this one as a free teaser font under the name of Maestrale Baby. Whaddya think? ;o)

Catharsis's picture

I've gotten some persistent feedback (mostly from my parents ;o) that the tiny capitals look weird. Now, I wanted the caps to be freely interspersable with the lowercase to make mixed-case texts, but in principle I could use the small caps for that functionality...

So as an experiment, I moved all my previous caps from Maestrale Baby into small-caps slots and enlarged all my caps by 25%. I rather like the new proportions, and they really do feel more like caps now. However, all the stroke weights also scaled up by 25% in the process. I know caps are supposed to be drawn heavier than LC to compensate for their greater space requirements, but perhaps this is too much? I feel that the caps currently stand out rather distinctly by their blackness. Then again, it's not unusual for caps in calligraphy to be eye-catching.

What do you think? Should I lighten them up a little?



eliason's picture

Yes, you'll definitely have to lighten them some. I like the size though!

Catharsis's picture

Alright, I lightened them up quite considerably (to only 110% the lowercase weight). I like it much better that way! :)

Catharsis's picture

Alright, I've done some spacing and kerning on the Baby version (surprisingly easy with Glyphs!), added a few more variants (such as an italic-style |k|), and encoded a few stylistic sets (such as one that replaces the |a| and |e| in smallcaps mode with the lowercase versions, for a nice mixed-case look).

I'm starting to like this version well enough to decouple it a bit from Maestrale and let it stand on its own two serifs. I'm thinking of renaming it accordingly (maybe to "Misurina" or "Dolomiti"?). My current plan is still to release it for free, though, and to hope that will generate a lot of interest for the commercial Maestrale (or even for Octant).

Whaddya think?



daverowland's picture

In my opinion, releasing it for free is a bad idea. While it may well generate interest in the commercial version, I think it's far more likely users will just use the free version and not feel the need for the paid one. Both fonts look great, and they will find their market. Just give it time! I personally like Maestrale Baby as a name, it's cute! I don't think it's different enough from Maestrale to warrant a different name, and if the two fonts are sold together, with a discount for getting both, it would add to the value in the minds of potential buyers. I think if you get the price point right, you'll have a big hit on your hands. How about 40$ each, $50 for both, half price introductory discount? It's a balancing act, but selling too cheap (and especially giving away for free) gives the impression that you're not as proud of it as you should be. Under $20 and I'd be thinking there must be something wrong with it for it to be that cheap!

eliason's picture

I think Dave's 100% right.

hrant's picture

I really want to believe Dave. And I used to, 100%. But then came Jos Buivenga. Does the freemium model really have no place in type?

hhp

Catharsis's picture

Thanks for your insights, guys!

I lack the experience to judge what will work best, but at least there is some data for freebie fonts generating a lot of interest. My cruddy freefonts from a while back have been downloaded on the order of 40,000 times in the past few years! I might not have made money with them, but they did get used. I miss that aspect of type design. :P

The two fonts are quite different in scope, with Maestrale Pro spanning more than twice the vertical space of Baby and featuring lots of swashes, whereas Baby has almost none. Are you sure people would use Baby when they have their eyes on Pro?

daverowland's picture

I just don't know how much free fonts actually publicise the paid versions. Especially on MyFonts, customers are finding the free fonts by just searching for free fonts, probably downloading everything they find, and ignoring the few paid equivalents (I have two fonts that are free, and they get downloaded loads. One of them is just a shadow addition to another paid font, and on its own is virtually unusable. It still gets downloaded. And many, many times, I see the same 'customer' downloading them over and over again. This is why I think they're just downloading everything free on the site, not even looking particularly at what they're getting). I think Jos is an exception, but I still wonder if Museo is successful because of, rather than in spite of, the free weights. One thing I do know - you can test the waters by offering both as paid fonts, and if you get little response, make Baby free, and see what happens. If you start with Baby free, you'll never know if you could have had the same response (or better) if it was paid.
I know the frustration of slow selling fonts, and the temptation to make them free just so they get used is there, but I think selling one license is better than giving away thousands. For all the use your free fonts get, how much of that would you say is good design? I personally would rather a few people, who really wanted my font, bought it and used it well, than a few thousand, who only wanted it in the first place because it was free, used it at all. Ultimately, though, it's up to each individual designer how they approach this issue. This is just my opinion, and I haven't got enough experience to know anything with certainty!

hrant's picture

I think a bigger problem than the mindless zombie downloaders (who actually don't harm anybody, except maybe themselves :-) is the negative perception that free (or very cheap) stuff engenders among the more serious potential customers.

So what I wonder is, how many people ever think for example: "I'm not going to buy any of Buivenga's fonts since he gives some of his stuff away for free so he can't be that good."

hhp

Andreas Stötzner's picture

I run two single fonts on MF for $0 and I increasingly wonder if that is a good thing to do. An impact of the free loads onto the sales is literally untraceable. To get your product known, I rather do introductory offerings, 20% for 4 weeks or so.
Maestrale is a very original design which stands out from the crowd. It will get noted by those who are decent enough to pay for a good buy.

Catharsis's picture

I just checked out the live sales map at MyFonts (http://www.myfonts.com/fontmap/), and noticed a few font names popped up frequently; in particular Museo (in its different variants) and Fenix. I checked, and sure enough, Fenix is a free font, released in May 2012 but still downloaded like crazy.

@ Dave: I'm not sure I agree with your sentiment. Of course I'd like one good designer to use my font. I would also like for thousands of amateurs, non-designers, and casual computer users to use my font. Now, I know from my own experience than any kind of payment will block most casual users from getting font. However, there is nothing at all that stops a professional designer from using a free font, if they like it... shouldn't a pro know better than to judge a font by its price tag, rather than by its look and feel and functionality?

Also, how does MyFonts feel about permanently changing the price of a payfont to zero? Is that even possible, legally?

@ Andreas: I just checked MyFonts, and saw Andron Freefont is one of your free ones. Nice! I downloaded that one quite a while ago. I have yet to download any payfont from MyFonts. Does that make me a zombie? ;o)

hrant's picture

I'd heard that MyFonts does not include free fonts in their rankings. Is that false?

You can't be a zombie, because you make fonts. Zombies just eat them (and don't even bother digesting).

hhp

HVB's picture

Must be the same people who look at the sample tastings at Costco and Zabar's and say "I'm not going to buy that because they give some away for free."

hrant's picture

Sorry, but that's a pretty weak analogy.

hhp

Catharsis's picture

After some feedback from the TypeDrawers forum, I'm thinking of releasing Baby in two cuts, one of which contains the calligraphic elements inherited from Maestrale (such as the curved |d|) whereas the other sticks to more consistent serif forms:


As you can see, I also made some changes that apply to both cuts, such as giving consistent terminals to |f c r y roman-s|.

Maybe the "sober" version would also profit from a serif-bottomed |l|?

Oh, and if I'm to release this in two versions, perhaps Misurina is a better choice of names after all; I wouldn't want to have to use a three-word name.

Catharsis's picture

Alright, I've finally managed to wrap up my work on Maestrale and submit it to MyFonts. It should be available for purchase by the end of the week.


Aside from the default version that uses ligatures with rarely-used but easily-typed characters to render stylistic alternates accessible, I've also made a "Pro" version in which the same glyphs are stored as stylistic sets (.ssXX). The Pro version also includes a lot of contextual alternates and proper ligatures that aim to resolve any collisions in plain text, thus it doubles as the "beginner version" of Maestrale.

I'm furthermore offering two cuts of Maestrale Baby for free. Maestrale Baby Boy aims for a "roman serif" look whereas Girl has an "upright italic" flavor.

Cheers

hrant's picture

Beautiful.

hhp

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