The 27th letter

drewheffron's picture


I am new to this board.. well posting wise.. (my first post!) but i've been reading it alot over the past few months.


oh yes.. i posted this in the design forum because it seems that you cant make threads in the critique forum for some reason?

currently im taking typography 1 at my college. its alot of fun, our current project is to design a 27th letter of the alphabet using a provided face. of all faces I was given times new roman! haha! anyways, I wanted to see what people thought about this, or any suggestions. I am still learning about type, and i figured this place could help me out. we have to render these in ink at 2.5 x height, 5 times, replacing the created character with a letter in a 5 letter word.

my current concerns pertain to the descender on my letter. should it be the same distance down as the 'j' ? or should it be smaller? personal preference? i was looking at the face, and i guess i could argue that it was meant to be a unique form in the alphabet like the loop on the 'g' my professor brought this up in critique tonight.

kerned example

thanks for any feedback!

hrant's picture

Fascinating project! Your teacher is good.
And Times is a great candidate: it's "constructed" but has good readability, plus it has all those funky IPA characters designed for it which you might look at.

I see some problems with you proposed new character, but I think you need to back up and look deeper at the problem before going too far towards a solution.

I would start with the "Intro to Typeface Design 110" under Courses on Typophile itself. It's a great "formal" aesthetic approach in understanding not just shapes, but their underlying structures.

But there's a world of richness beyond that exercise. There's the issue of spacing, where your new character is problematic (it may hit a subsequent left-hand descender*). There's the issue of what the/an alphabet needs: does it need a character that fits in more (like the "n") or that diverges more (like the binocular "g")? And does it need an x-height, ascending, or descending (or both!) character?

* It might help to decide if the new letter is a consonant or a vowel, or if it's just phonemically superflous (like the "c", "q" and "x" are already).

I would love to make concrete recommendations, but since this is about the process of learning, it's better if you try to answer questions like the above - the answers will draw out the solution from within you.


aquatoad's picture

This got posted in the critique section also.

hawk's picture

how do you access "typedesign110"?

David Hamuel

hrant's picture

Randy, since email delivery is down (not just for me, I assume?) I was working my way down manually, and I saw Drew's thread here first, then the other one with your post! :-)

Since I think the Design section is a better place for this than Typography/Composition, just to streamline things here's Randy's post from the other thread:

Hi Drew,

Let me be honest. I think the length of your decender is the
least of your problems! Sorry...

As a start at curing your letter of it's maladies, let me point
you to Jonathan Hoefler's course at typeophile that looks at
the very assignment you've got: Type Design 110

Honestly, first check out what he's saying. What are the
characteristics of times roman? Given that, is the basic
stucture of the "letter" consistent with Times? How could it
be more Times-like in structure? Where is there evidence of
a pen? What angle is it held at? As a result, where are the
thick parts? Where are the thin parts? Where are the serifs?
Where does times roman break it's own rules?

Your glyph needs all these questions to be asked. Take a
look, and if you're still at a loss, I'll give you more specific,
practical pointers.

Looking forward to seeing the fruit of your studies!

BTW, I agree with what you said, except I would [predictably] caution against the "pen" approach. You'll note for example that Drew's glyph has one thick horizontal and one thin: depending on the "structural context" of the rest of the glyph, that might actually work best, irrespective of chirography.


hawk's picture

i know. i see that. but whenb i click - "typedesign.." - i don't see anything. something. [there's no need to pay or something like that?]

aquatoad's picture

Nope. No need to pay.
It pops up the Flash based course in a new window.
Do you have a pop-up killer? Or Javascript deactivated?

Hmm. Jared? Joe?

eomine's picture

This is a great exercise indeed.
Also, check page 5 from this piece (pdf) written by Alejandro Lo Celso. It is from TypoRed, a great pdf magazine in Spanish (last issue is from June 2002, though).

BTW, Hoefler's "Intro" is working fine here.

drewheffron's picture

thanks alot guys.

I took a look at those tutorials. Honestly, I learned more looking at those than the 5 weeks into this semester of this class, however our first 2 projects involved just tracing letters at 5" xheight in ink *pefectly* to appreciate differences in the forms. Then we did kerning.

Attached are a few revisions. I started to think about how you would write it with a pen, and where the serifs should be. I am not sure how to determine whether it is balanced correctly? like, the counter space.. too big? small?


drewheffron's picture

Ahh the thickness of the top right serif just caught my eye. To be consistent I guess it should be as thin as the serif in the inital glyph.

aquatoad's picture

Hi Drew,

I've made up a pdf that shows your glyph alongside times roman. I've pulled out specific characters that should inform the way that this

aquatoad's picture

Tiffany, you cheater :-)

aquatoad's picture

Oh, despite the glyph I chose in my pdf, I think the 1st of the three has the best chance of being moulded into the 27th letter. (without being a one off of other letters

hrant's picture

> the counter space.. too big? small?

> I guess it should be as thin as the serif in the inital glyph.

Before you worry about the finish of the glyph, you have to figure out the structure of the character. Before you figure out the structure of the character, you have to figure out the essence of the letter. For one thing, in the Latin alphabet letters have two cases, and they're related.

A letter is not a shape, it is an idea.
The idea has to be solid before you can build a structure of it, and then build a shape on the structure.


You're probably enthusiastic about the project in general, and what you've done so far in particular, and enthusiasm is extremely important! But the end-result quality of the glyph depends most of all on developing a solid alphabetic foundation.

Don't polish a boat when you need to build a car. :-)


And what Randy said.


aquatoad's picture

Just by giving part of the answer to question 1 I had for Drew. No worries, hence the :-)

Chris Rugen's picture

Drew, are you at CMU? They use this project.

If you'd prefer not to say, that's cool.

drewheffron's picture

Im at Winthrop University in SC..

I wanted to thank everyone for their help with this project. And yes.. heh. my glyph looks really bad next to a ' y' and a ' j '

I ended up using this as the final because of time constraints.. but thanks for the help everyone! ( I'm not too worried.. you guys should have seen some of the other work from the class. but hey, this is Intro to Typography)

Miss Tiffany's picture

The most odd part of your letter, Drew, is the hanging direction of your descender. It seems contrary to the flow of the latin alphabet. Isn't it supposed to be the 27th character for the latin alphabet? I agree with Hrant, that you were give a good type face to start with. Something with irregular serifs could've caused many more problems.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Randy, how did I cheat?

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