Sketch 07.04.02.CR

Christian Robertson's picture

Here is a sketch I did last night that has some promise. I still need to work something out for the terminals of the c s r etc. The g still needs some work among other things, but it's a start. Any suggestions?

no_25_viewer.swf (6 k)

Christian Robertson's picture

Ouch it gets kind of messy near the end of the alphabet... needs some polish. The y hurts and the w, x etc... Will update later.

Christian Robertson's picture

I added some caps.

By the way, come on, y'all, there's all kinds of stuff wrong with the face, jump in and take a swing! Either that or tell me I'm cool ;)


no_25_viewer.swf (10 k)

marcox's picture

Can't comment on what you can't see -- I get a blank screen when I click on the link.

Christian Robertson's picture

It looks like I kicked the viewer out in flash 6 format. Here is a link for those behind the times :) .

no_25_viewer.swf (13 k)

Christian Robertson's picture

Some notes on process.

I have thought a lot about the process of creating a face. I have long believed that the medium/process used to create a face is nearly as important as anything else. The modernists wanted to divorce themselves from medium in their designs, but their compases, graph paper and technical pencils betrayed them and show through as clearly as do the chisels and brushes of lapidary hands.

I have heard a lot of people talk about drawing faces out on paper first, which I have never done since I was in the fifth grade (my first font was a memphis style looking thing with a triangular 'A' done as a bitmap font in ResEdit). I have heard about people writing alphabets with tradtional calligraphic impliments, which I have tried, but I have shakey hands, and can't really do calligraphy very well.

process.swf (48 k)

I have been experimenting with a process lately the yeilds some interesting effects, and helps immensely with traditional serif text faces (note that this is the same process I used for my no. 26 sample). In the attached swf you can see the lineal version, then the calligraphic stroke I put on it, then the finished characters, which I edit bezier handle by handle.

I am curious about other peoples' processes. What do you do when you start to design a face? What time-saving techniques do you use. (Time is important in letter design, ask the originators of the cursive egyptian glyphs that some argue are the foundation for our alphabet). How do you make organic shapes from bezier curves. Do you trace hand drawn samples, or are you good enough to just draw them on screen looking at your sketches, or do you start from scratch?

Christian Robertson's picture

An added question for all of the history buffs out there: What have been the historical methods or processes for creating a new face? I remember Tiffany once mentioning some tracing templates of Dwiggins, which is fascinating. Which parts of the characters where reproduced by templates? Any recommended readings? I have seen images of Frutiger looking at large photostats of his type. (I don't really even know what a photostat is).

jordy's picture


There are many different methods or approaches to creating a new face, but for reference material you might look at the biography of Frederic Goudy by D.J.R. Bruckner, also bio of Paul Renner (Futura) by Christopher Burke, the classics, Writing & Illuminating & Lettering by Edward Johnston, Typologia by Goudy, a long and wordy but definitely good book by Otl Aicher (Mr. Rotis) "Typographie" - anything about or by Eric Gill, a very good general book, Twenthieth Century Type Designers by Sebastian Carter, and there are many others of course, but this will get you started
p.s. you neglect to mention what software you use, Illustrator, Fontographer? You use Flash of course.

kentlew's picture

Christian --

The Dwiggins templates that get mentioned periodically were used in the first drafts of his Falcon typeface. Their use was documented by Dwiggins in his letter to Ruzicka. This was later published by the Harvard College Library as WAD to RR: A letter about designing type (perhaps ironically: completely hand-lettered). Dwiggins's employment of stencils in general (usually for the creation of ornaments -- what he once called "geometrical spinach") was described in detail by his assistant Dorothy Abbe in her book Stencilled Ornament & Illustration.

The templates shown by Dwiggins in WAD to RR comprise an ascending stem, an x-height stem, an arched leg, and a bowl.

This template method was not his usual process. And as far as I know, this is the only time he experimented with them for type design. And it is worth noting that two years after the RR letter, Dwiggins completely abandoned the template-derived letters of the first Falcon. In a letter to Chauncey Griffith in August 1942 he wrote: "Falcon No. 1 now seems terribly clumsy and heavy and dead in its modelling and in its proportioning. The essence of type design, as I get it now, is to hit a middle ground between mechanical exactitiude and the flow and variety of a written hand -- suggesting some of the flow and variety, but controlling it so the letter can be repeated . . . Falcon B is all drawn free hand. I passed up the straight-edge lines, angular junctions and templates of No. 1."

(Tiffany, anything to add?)

If you can find a copy of WAD to RR, I recommend reading it. (I see several copies available from the network of dealers at, but they aren't cheap.) Also, you should look for a copy of Walter Tracy's Letters of Credit.

A photostat is a reproduction made by a photographic process -- often used for enlarging or reducing, also for making halftones, etc. -- involving a large process camera, photographic paper, chemicals, that sort of stuff. That's how we used to do things before all this new-fangled digital stuff came along.

-- K.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Ymmy. I love hearing other talk about the process. A great analogy would be tasting an amazing dish, not knowing the essential ingredients at first, enjoying it for what it is. Then joining the chef in the kitchen to see what goes into making it and then tasting the dish again only to be able to taste the different ingredients.

I would also highly recommend reading Chris Burke's book on Renner The chapter on Futura is most applicable to your questions, but the entire books is worth any typophile's time. Also found at Hypen is Fred Smeijer's 'Counterpunch'. And also ... not to exclude the plethora of information ... anything on Gill. The reason I like Gill's way of looking/seeing, is because he saw (as all those old schooler's probably did) the negative as well as the positive. I cannot say that I have carved stone (missed that opportunity) or cut metal. But just the act of it must force you too see things much differently. (Thoughts?) (( I think I have the 'Letters of Credit' photocopied too. ))

As for Dwiggins, well Christian I have an entire folder from the Kentucky archives should you be interested as well as two binders full of notes and such. Including the 'WAD to RR' as well as different templates used by WAD. He was, from what I can gather, on of the first to draw at the template size for the routing machine. (correction?) Goudy drew at much larger sizes which had to be sized down and so lost even more detail. And the fact that Dwiggin purposefully put seemingly odd nooks and crannies ... well one reason could have been because he knew that the cutter would lose some of it at 12 point. maybe?

Some might think that Falcon in it's original form was odd, but that is where I think it was at its best. When he stopped experimenting and starting conforming is when is became boring. Grief, I need to re-read my own writing on Falcon, but I really think that is true. One former Reading Professor agreed with me on that too.

Grief, it is early...

Obviously because there is no longer (necessarily) a need to cut metal and draw larger templates, it isn't necessary to add overly exaggerated nuances to the letters (unless on purpose). But in your letters, Christian, those are the characters that I find most interesting. The UC 'K', the splayed (RIGHT?) UC 'M', your UC 'Q' and the details of the 'X'. The angle of the pen in general I do really like, but I can see where is some characters it becomes too much. For instance, the UC (alernate?) 'A' and 'E', as well as the 'C'. the 'S' loses some of the uniqueness IMO too. your lc 'b' is a little to Tschichold (RIGHT?) or was it Bauer? Grief! I really like the lc 'e', the cross-stroke on the 'f' is too high IMO. again the lc 'k' is wonderful. Wasn't it you that said 'k' is your favorite character? I'm not sure about the descending stroke (?) serif (?) on the 't' and the 'l', it seems contrary somehow. and I like the lc 'y' and some of the details again in the 'x'.

Shrinking the window just now. reviewing the characters. the alternates 'AFE' stand out too much (approx viewing them at 14 pt)the beard on the 'G', the stroke becomes too think and the end of the beard becomes too thin? Still like 'KLMNOPQR'. 'S' is almost sans serif looking. maybe just a little less curve on the 'VWX'. the 'Y' needs ... kinda looks like a martini glass. the vertical stroke needs to be shortened? the 'Z' is too wide? the 'b' is quite as obvious, but still stands out. i really like what happens to the 'g' at the smaller sizes and the 'k'. what was odd in the 'pq' is now very nice and the 'w' is almost just right. the 'x', your nuances help to leave it open IMO. i still like the y and the z isn't as bad either.

what at larger sizes is calligraphic is now useful. woah that sounds too much of a blanket statement. but your faces, Christian, have always had a utilitarian/bookish flavor to them. which is so much more useful and wouldn't it be nice if the books we read were nice to read?

it is early. i've just ridden a bike for an hour. these statements could be over the top. Christian. Get in touch with me if you want to borrow some of the Dwiggins stuff.

Kent -- don't you agree that Dwiggins hand-writing is amazing?

jordy's picture

Tiffany, Kent, Christian
Yes, the Walter Tracy book, Letters of Credit is great, especially section on designers and their types, Van Krimpen especially, but also Goudy, Dwiggins, et al. Also interesting, though the copy I have is in Dutch is "Haagse Letters" edited by Mathieu Lommen & Peter Verheul, with chapters by Gerrit Noordzij, Frank E. Blokland, Peter Verheul, and more. There is an edition of this book in English but I don't (unfortunately) have it and I can't ask my Dutch friend to translate the whole thing!

kentlew's picture

One of the things that impressed many of Dwiggins's contemporaries was his ability to draw his letters at the brass pattern size (64x 12pt) and accurately predict what would happen to them in reduction. Also, keep in mind that all of the letterforms were cut in mirror image for casting. Dwiggins would work both sides of a sheet of tracing paper, transferring the image back and forth as he developed it, eventually winding up with the backwards image for CHG and the Linotype drawing office.

Yes, Tiffany, Dwiggins's handwriting is amazing.

-- K.

fonthausen's picture

I could help you if there some things you'd like to know about'Haagse Letters'. I was a student in The hague when this book was made.(see P.14).

About the studies in The Hague (although there are known for there typography classes, it is part of the graphic design course!):

plubird's picture

This discussion is very interesting. Im would say that I made a lateral entry into Type Design. I learnd a lot from my teacher while i did my master. The Master (German: Diplom) was about a Screenfont (postet it in Bitmap Section -> NNF) So this was my first Typeface (the first real typeface) Original i study Multimedia. But the "Diplom" really change my opinons and my life (not as much as THE ONE other did...). After this I also tryed to develop a scaleable Font. First i did it in Illustrator. Than I tryed to draw an digitize one. I learnd typedesign in a little traditon way. I really like it to draw each character. IMO the characters are unique with a similar (or same) style. So the face "StandUp" (posted into SansSerif) is a face i created without any drawing. Just try a new programm (FontLab 4). I was very surpriesed about the result I got.

Im very happy to see that other people work in a other way a they get also a get (maybe even better) great result.

Greetings to you

PS: Hope your understand my bad english

Christian Robertson's picture

Thanks for the comments. I know the calligraphic terminals on the CEF are over the top, and don't work that well with the rest of the face. I tried keeping them around, just because they were so beatiful on the lineal version. I think I will have to make a sans from the lineal. Any suggestions on those terminals?

Thanks, Kent, for your run down on templates. I was fascinated by the idea because I copy/paste a lot in illustrator. Obviously the serifs are copied a lot as well as the bowls. I'm kind of embarassed to say that often I copy the bd and flip them into a pq and alter the terminals a bit (I don't know if this is bad news or not). Apparently Dwiggins had more patience than I.

Like I say, this font is as much an experiment on process as anything else. The first roman face I did, raisin nut text, took weeks and didn't yeild a very good result. This one only took one night for the first round. I'm sure there're folks out there that can do it even faster than that (I read frere-jones sp? saying you could do a font in a day).

And thanks for the 'utilitarian, bookish' comment, Tiffany. Somehow it seems like the ability to make a solid, yet unique text face is what separates the men from the boys, so to speak. I'm sure I'm not there yet, (I haven't even tried an italic yet-- maybe that will be my next project).

plubird's picture

I dont like the "template prozess". So also a drawn type can be done in minutes. But IMO the result of a fast template prozess and a fast hand-drawn are the same: they arent very professional. I cant believe that anyone can make a font in one day. Of course you can make all faces in few minutes but at this time the real fontmaking prozess begin. So fontmaking is more then copy&past templates (I really dont like copy&past).

What does other think?

Greetings Jens

Christian Robertson's picture

> I can't believe that anyone can make
> a font in one day.

That's what they said to Monet about painting. I think there is a place for both.

fonthausen's picture

It depends what you are aiming for....

My girlfriend once wanted to know about what we are doing (she isn't a designer). Then I showed her fontographer. She took the calligraphy tool and made a font in 2 hours (the whole character set!).

If I would gone over it afterwards, it would have lost its liveliness. So making a quick font can lead to good result.


plubird's picture

... can lead to good result...

Yes you are right. It is good that there is many room to make and publish fonts in different styles. So you see that you also can draw a font within 2 hours.

Under the point of different usage of a font you can make a quick font.

Let me make a statement: Everyone have his own way to generate a font. So I guess every type design get his style out of his font making process.

Greetings Jens

sevenfingers's picture

Hey, let's not forget tarmsaft font factory! I read they did quite a few grungy designs in an hour or two... I bet the names took longer to figure out. (ståintepåminkukslyna is a classic).


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