Sketchbook for typeface project

castro's picture

Im am currently doing a project, to come up with my own typeface. I have not done any typeface so im lost with how do i start off.

Quincunx's picture

You could start with what kind of typeface you'd like to design, what kind of use would it have? For example one for display use? Or one for text?

If for display; what kind of display, e.g. for example a signage face for use at airports? Or for roadsigns? Or maybe just for really large sizes in newspapers?
If for text; what kind of texts, for in a magazine, newspaper, book?

You could give yourself a fictitious assignment to define these parameters. Maybe you have a favorite magazine or newspaper, imagine they have asked you to design a custom typeface for them.

Another way is to just start sketching characters, see if something comes out of it, and go from there. The downside of this method is that you don't have clear boundaries or a direction you can follow.

ncsu_ml's picture

Quincunx has some good points. I'm a third year design student and had a typeface design project end of last year... continuing into this fall semester. The assignment was to design a display face. So, first of all, definitely decide what catagory your typeface would fall under. Generally, if given your first type design project, I would generally go for a display face. - This seems to give much more room for creative exploration of form than something that would be used for body copy. Next, figure out where this typeface would live- what would it be used for? who would be affected by it? / audience?

But even if you don't know that, just pick a typeface that you particularly appreciate and start to examine why you appreciate it. A typeface family is such an interesting series of forms that all relate in a system, if you really look at it. There are certain letters that use the same forms (ex. O, D, C) and figures that are more linear like I, L, F, E. You really need to look at how other designers made decisions about how all these figures could relate to each other - while still being an "O" or an "E". print out some typefaces and just draw on top of the letters. Literally write out some bullets of what the rules would be in that typeface, maybe it has a tall x-height, or maybe all the curves have a slight tweak in them... it sounds dumb, but it really helps so you can start to realize, all it is is a system - you don't have to reinvent the wheel here. In order to make working design, you need to see working design and be able to understand why it works.

So with that being said, you just need to start on paper, don't spend too much time planning in your head. Once you get a few forms down (or even one), you can ask youself, "well.. if an "E" looks like this, how would that translate for an "O"?

Quincunx had said that the downside to just sketching characters is that "you don't have clear boundaries or a direction you can follow", which can be scary. That is why you need to not get overwhelmed by every single possibility for the typeface (essentially no boundaries, millions of directions, ah! headache) just think of one trait that you want to push and go from there. For example, you could use the tool of contrast to get across a message in your typeface. In this case, look at the relationships of thicks to thins (contrasting line weights) like in Didot or something. What would be the rules here? Maybe every cross bar will always be thin and all verticals will be thicker. Start drawing.. and stick to the rules. Ok, so say you get a good H that you really like... think about the round forms now, like "ok well if the H has a thin crossbar and thick verticals, then maybe an O would start thin on the top and bottom and slowly get thicker on the left and right sides.

Once you get going with it, type design is kind of enjoyable (I'm sure at the time that I had the project, I was banging my head against a wall), but in retrospect, it's a learning process. So it might feel like a different language now and you have no clue where to start, because I definitely felt like that too. So just start by looking around, and then just drawing one at a time. The rest falls into place, copy and paste repeating forms, plug and chug. good luck!! post some iterations if you need feedback

castro's picture

Oh great! Thanks for the advice people.. Its been a great starting points here

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