Assignment 4 – Show Me Font Development

Part of the brief for this assignment was to design the font for use on the cover of a magazine called type. 

My research had shown that designing a typeface is an incredibly time consuming and complex task. There is even an MA course in typeface design. To be honest I felt quite dwarfed by the challenge of designing and creating my own font. The magazine cover that I am designing the font for is called ‘Type’ and so I decided to focus on designing the four characters of the title rather than the whole alphabet.

My initial approach was to try drawing some letters in my sketchbook and see if I felt inspired by any of them. I experimented with capital and lowercase letters, different stem widths, letters formed from geometric shapes and my own handwriting.

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I wasn’t really very happy with anything I had sketched. My ideas all seemed to be lacking in definition and personality. With the exception of my handwriting it was all a little bit random. Most of my sketches seemed to be more sans serif than serif but beyond that there was nothing particularly distinctive leading me towards any type of design style. I thought back to some of the articles I had read about designing a typeface and was reminded to consider the purpose of the font. When thinking about it in terms of the title on the cover of a magazine called type it didn’t really help narrow down what the typeface may be trying to communicate so I decided to consider the article that I was going to write instead. The focus of the article is on how typefaces are constructed and defining features of their personalities and what makes them interesting. This gave me the idea that my font design could potentially be construction based in its theme. I had a look online and found some examples of typefaces which were in a similar style.

I then experimented drawing some letters which were constructed using a combination of geometric shapes.

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I was definitely making more progress here but the design still felt a bit forced. The letters in the sketches above looked more like I had stuck bits onto the side of an existing font such as ‘Ariel Black’ rather than drawn something with its own smooth identity. I drew two grids and tried again to form some letters from different shapes.

Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 15.16.19

Thinking along the lines of geometry I had an idea to try applying a formula to the construction of my font. I decided on the following:

  • To place a square at the end of each top line
  • To place a triangle at the end of the baseline
  • To place a circle at any point where two lines crossed
  • For all vertical lines to be formed of two outward facing arcs and all horizontal lines to be formed of two inward facing arcs

I did a quick sketch of the idea with the letters ’T and ‘Y’

Screen Shot 2017-07-11 at 15.16.24

I was much happier with this design. The letter style was more elegant and felt in better proportion than my previous sketches. I guess it would probably be categorised as a decorative font rather than a serif. My next step was to produce a digital version.

I built my font around the basic shape of the well known sans serif typeface ‘Gill Sans’. I did this in order to ensure that all of my letters were in proportion to one another. I did have considerable trouble aligning all the elements of my characters and the arcs which formed the stems, ascenders, descenders and cross-bars were slightly different shapes. The glyphs weren’t really coming together as well as I had hoped but I had already spent so much time on this section of the project that I couldn’t really devote any more to starting over. I would have liked to have used a font development program like ‘Fontlab’ or ‘Glyphs’ to digitise my design but I didn’t have access to more specialist software. In the end my characters looked like this

It turned out to be a bit lighter than I had anticipated and hoped for so I added a stroke which emboldened the font slightly.

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 12.57.21

This was my final font design

I have found this whole process and task extremely challenging. I think that my design holds some promise but it really requires far more detailed development and investment of time than I can give it to do the whole thing justice. I do wonder whether I should have focussed on producing something with a handwritten quality as I think the process would have been more straightforward. I do think that typeface design probably comes more naturally to designers who are more artistic and skilled illustrators than I am.

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