How to design a typeface?

mindlessworld's picture

can any one help me how start designing?
right from the starch.

bemerx25's picture

Pencil, meet paper. Lines helpful. Graph paper really nice if you want it to be consistent. That's really all you need to start...

blank's picture

Buy the book Made With FontFont and read it. Then get to work.

hashimpm's picture

Get inspired by some typeface and start improving upon it by sketching on paper, scan them up, make evctors with any vector program you are comfortable with, graduate to Fontographer/ FontLab and map them onto the characerset one by one, generate fonts, test them, finetune them, generate again, fine tune again,...until you are happy with the results!

nithrandur's picture

Cook up a general pattern or rule for your typeface, and sketch it (or draw it directly on a vector program if you're not as skilled with the pen as I am) up. Then see if it works or has good potential. It's very tedious, but for a typophile, it's love.

Nick Cooke's picture

All the above.

Then just practise every day for at least 25 years until you become quite good.

Nick Cooke

cuttlefish's picture

"the starch"?

I guess potato block printing is as good a medium as any to get started in punchcutting.

piccic's picture

Beautiful illustration (thanks to the great statement as well!)
I like a lot the ambigrams on your site!

piccic's picture

Of course, I wrote in the wrong thread… :=(

jordy's picture

Here is one place to get started starring the old guy Chank

also do everything noted in every note already posted - I started with Fontographer, then Type Tool 2, then FontLab Studio. Read everything, study hard. etc.

This guy is great too

good luck!

ebensorkin's picture

Nice advice everybody - I second Jordan's advice re: The Briem site.

Depending on how serious you are you could apply to the University or Reading's Typedesign MA program or the program at KABK.

On a simpler level think about what the purpose of the typeface is. Advice re: type design can change depending on several factors the more important one of which is probably the purpose of the font.

My advice is don't look for rules. Instead look for complex relationships of factors and tendencies.

typerror's picture

I know it is not cool in this day and time but... start with the Ugar tablet forms and work your way through the calligraphic genesis of our alphabet, all the while familiarizing yourself with contemporary font generation software. A solid historic(al?) understanding will provide you with the capability to create informed contemporary adaptations.

P.s. Briem is one of the most informed people I know about the history of form and language.


piccic's picture

Definitely, Briem's pages are one of the most simple and effective resources to get started in technical terms. I recommend also to look at the history of forms (even in a quick and simple way) to have a better understanding, as typerror suggests.

victor ivanov's picture

i'm starting by looking at any type book I can get my hands on!
'the elements of typographic style' is a must.
i'm trying to find 'counterpunch' but that's proving difficult.
also, will be getting 'the stroke of a pen' soon.

at the same time i'm familiarizing myself with the broad nib pen, brushes etc.
(when i design letters i try to get them as perfect as i can on paper 1st)
also looking closely at the type i really love and trying to understand why i love it.

type inspiration books are also great. I've managed to get my hands on 'Dutch Type' about a month ago. Since that moment, not a single day passed without me flicking through it.

I am still learning, and this advice is just something that I believe is helping me.

all the best!

hrant's picture

Start by doubting. Doubt the grid, doubt the pen. Type is no different than most other fields: 90% of it is crap. Actually, 90% is exceedingly kind.

If you're a true designer, and not merely an artist, think about what users need, not what you feel like creating. But note that what users say they need isn't necessarily true. And this is exactly the sort of dark complexity that type is all about. And why so few people can actually make things worth keeping. Good luck.


typosapien's picture

Agree with hrant 100%. It is not design unless it serves a purpose. Start with a problem that a new typeface design might help solve. Doing it this way will help focus your design and make it distinct.

brianskywalker's picture

i’m trying to find ’counterpunch’ but that’s proving difficult.

Try interlibrary loans, just ask at your local library, they'll know what you mean.

cslem1's picture

I think it's very helpful when you are starting out (once you have started sketching) is to print out 2 pages of the same full alphabets. This way you can hold them up to the light (or light board) and see proportions and relations. So for example how a "u" and an "s" fit together. or how wide an "M" is compared to an "H". Stuff like that. It's almost enlightening the first time you do it. :) Pick a font that you are sort of going for. So say baskerville for a nice old style typeface, or helvetica if you want to go all swiss designy like.


James Arboghast's picture

@Hrant: Start by doubting.

I started this way.

Doubt the grid, doubt the pen. Type is no different than most other fields: 90% of it is crap. Actually, 90% is exceedingly kind.

I doubted both the grid and the pen, and found they are both exceedingly useful in the end. Doubting these two things is equally exceedingly useful too. Don't be too keen to throw out the old things, and don't be too keen to retain them either.

If you’re a true designer, and not merely an artist,

I am a true designer, but I'm a true artist as well in the sense that I try to renew the tradition I belong to by creating original works. Stop bashing artists because there is an art to design. Type design involves both strong design skills and an agenda devoted to design, and type design involves artistry. Get over the art part and stop referring to it. It's starting to get boring and you're starting to sound like a parody of yourself Hrant. No really.

Art is neccessary, and this is coming from a guy who is very big on design.

think about what users need, not what you feel like creating.

I did both, and will keep doing both.

But note that what users say they need isn’t necessarily true.

Users are mislead by market trends and the persuasive powers of peerage.

j a m e s

hrant's picture

Art is indeed necessary, and it's a part of anything a human does. But the difference -as always- is in the intent. In Design (which, like Art, never exists in a pure state) the intent of expressing one's self is absent; in pure Design, art happens in spite of the creator.


Quincunx's picture

- draw
- draw more
- kern
- kern more
- ????
- profit!

1985's picture

Essentially everyone here will help you design a font.

WType's picture

"Designing Type" by Karen Cheng (2006, Laurence King Publishing Ltd) could be a great help too. Very details step by step and lots of students examples.

nina's picture

Pieter: I was going to say that too, but even Typotheque seems to be out of stock now. It says "Availability: 0 copies" in the right hand column. :-(

Quincunx's picture

Don't buy Counterpunch now, there is a Second Edition in the works.

mindlessworld's picture

thanks guys
nice comments
will try to work on all of those


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