Schola, a dark mannerist face

Sindre's picture

This is my second attempt at typeface-drawing. I have no typographical education, so this is a didactic project rather than a typeface intended for actual use – I'm just trying to learn the basics of type design through self-study and experimentation. That's why I've chosen the renaissance model for the letters, and that's why this is intentionally not a very original design – and probably a very untrendy one.

It's a very constructed typeface, the proportions of the O and the o are used as a template for almost everything, except for the numerals, which are built from the lower and upper case zeros. (The lining numerals are intentionally upper case in height, I know this is wrong, but I want them to be used exlusively with upper case, not as tabular figures.)

This typeface is intended for nine or ten points, I will make several versions adjusted for larger sizes (and probably one smaller size) when I'm done with this base design. No small caps yet, and I've just started drawing the italics. That's ... difficult.

I'd be very grateful for any kind of criticism. I really want to learn.

schola.pdf177.08 KB
schola_210309_mod.pdf169.49 KB
text.pdf44.87 KB
schola_220309_update.pdf177.31 KB
schola maior.pdf184.71 KB
satwik's picture

I think its a really great effort. Its very inspiring for others like me who have no formal typographic training. I am only a little concerned about the y. It would probably blend in a sentence with a single y descender like many but might stick out in a sentence which has typography, for instance.
I have probably thought through that. If you did, do tell me why!

satwik's picture

sorry i forgot to enclose many and typography in quotes!

Sindre's picture

Thank you for your kind and encouraging words, Satwik. Yes, I think you're right about the y, the descender is too fat and slightly too long, and perhaps out of tune with the other descenders. I will post a revised glyph as soon as possible.

Sindre's picture

New y, follewed by the old one for comparison. Also, revised lc numerals, they were just too weird, especially the 3 and 5.

Quincunx's picture

I think both y's work. The new version might blend in better, it's weight is probably more in line with the other letters. But I think it did lose some of it's character.

Sindre's picture

Thanks for commenting, Quincunx. Yes, I took too much off that y, so I've made this compromise. The larger fonts will of course have longer descenders and ascenders, so I will use a more angular and muscular y descender for them.
Am I getting closer, do you think? Do you see other glyphs that need more work?

Quincunx's picture

Well, I would routinely go through all your characters, and check the curves. They are slightly bumpy here and there, like in the g (counter). The last y does look better than the one you initially made as a toned down version of the first one.

I also think the serifs might be a bit short? They are sufficiently thick, but they're not really pronounced. It's a question of course whether or not you want them to be pronounced, but it's something to think about.

And is this a regular weight? If so, I think it's too heavy. It looks a bit like a medium or something like that.

Sindre's picture

Yes, that g has been a headache. I'll make a revision as soon as I'm home from work.

The serifs are intentionally rather short, I think that's appropriate for a typeface in this style. Van den Velde's English No.28, scanned by John Hudson in this post was my initial inspiration, but I realise I've made my serifs even shorter. Perhaps they need a few more units, I'll make some tests. Do you think I should make the ascender serifs more uniform, by the way?

About the darkness: Yes, this is supposed to be the regular weight, I don't think there will be any other weights. I'm going for Dutch style darkness, like the beautiful but ridiculously expensive Renard from Enschedé. Also, my typeface is intended for use at eight, nine or ten points, I'm going to make lighter, tighter and more refined versions for larger sizes.

Sindre's picture

Just to explain my point about the darkness further, here's a very quick mock-up (done in Illustrator) of the 12-point cut of my typeface. This is very unpolished, and serves only as a rough illustration.

Sindre's picture

And here's a new g (and gj-ligature, makes Norwegian look better), and a new e.

raph's picture

I love it. I wouldn't worry too much about the bumpiness of the outlines - in this case, I think they add to the character of the face. Zeno was similar in this way.

Some detailed thoughts, which you can take or leave.

I think the tail of the 'a' comes up too close to the main stem. That tends to look okay up close, but in very small sizes it gets muddy. The 'c' is top-heavy - it's okay for it to lean forward a bit (that's true to the Jenson/Aldus/Garamond model), but I think the tail could come out a little more. I think the center stroke of the 's' could be less vertical (the capital doesn't have this problem). Also take another look at Jenson's original here - he thins it slightly in the center, so it's not a fat blob. The left serif of the 'u' could be heavier (and also, in the traditional model, more horizontal - it doesn't match the 'n'). Your 'z's have inconsistent chirography - in the lowercase, it looks like you've tried to follow the pen, but in the uppercase, the more traditional weight distribution. I would choose one or the other, likely the latter.

I want to see some text settings to see how the short serifs on vwx work out. When paired with rounds (vo etc) they might create too much openness, but perhaps kerning can help with that.

Serifs on 'EF' look heavy to me, and don't really fit with the rest of the font (I see you've done something more delicate with 'Z'). Why the spur on the 'J'? Center point of 'M' seems too far to the right. Bottom of 'U' is too round, I'd have just a little more straight (especially noticeable on the right).

3 leans a bit to the left. I find the open 8 distracting. Ampersand is not quite as delicious as the rest of the font - I don't really like the long straight diagonal. Traditional '@' construction is thin on the right side curve. I'd put a little more weight on the curly brace. Question mark has a nice shape but looks too soft and low-fi - maybe just a bit more stroke contrast.

I'm seeing lots of good attention to detail here - I think it'll be a great font when it's finished.

Sindre's picture

Wow, thank you very much for your very detailed feedback, Raph. Something like this is exactly what I was hoping for. I don't yet have enough typographical routine or theoretical knowledge to see my own mistakes -- and having worked on this for more than three weeks, I'm starting to feel a little type-blind.

I will use your advice and make some major revisions to my typeface, but I really need to let it rest for a day or so, having spent every waking hour when not at work on this. Drawing type is turning into an obsession, really. I know now I can never live without it, and I curse the years wasted on not drawing glyphs. :-)

Thanks again!

Bendy's picture

Your z is very special! :)

And what a nice hyphen too.

W and perhaps V and X look a bit light. M looks on the narrow side, maybe. I'm not great at knowing 'ideal' proportions so that's just my taste. Actually I would knock the outside legs outwards rather than having them vertical.

I love the ampersand, and the question mark makes me smile. (It looks like toothpaste)

Sindre's picture

Thank you very much for your feedback, Bendy! You're right, I've fattened up the V, W and X (slightly), and I do think they look better now. I've also made slanted legs for the M, and tweaked its proportions a bit, as you can see. I've done some minor changes to the question mark, following Raph's advice, but I've retained its "toothpastey" quality.

Raph, thanks again for your invaluable assistance, I've followed most of your suggestions, as you can see. I've made a more conventional ampersand, but I've kept the other one as an alternative glyph. I'm not sure I understood what you meant regarding the at sign, but I've fattened up the SW curve. Does it look better to you?

About that strange J: I saw that glyph in a dream, and I thought I'd try it. Obviously, the spur is related to that wonderfully weird trademark l in the Romain du Roi. I'll keep it as an alternative glyph, and make a normal J for use in the waking world.

I think I'll keep that fat lowercase z, it's probably my favourite glyph. For some reason, I like the z to stand out a little in a typeface. I'm not really satisfied with the upper case Z, though.

I've added a pdf showing the altered glyphs to the original post.

I'll upload some text setting examples later today.

Sindre's picture

I've attached text set in several languages to the first post. I've auto-hinted the font, but it looks way off. I'm probably doing something wrong. Sigh. There's a lot to learn.

Quincunx's picture

Ah, thanks for the clarification about the weight. The 12-point-cut looks quite right with regards to weight as a 'regular'.

Sindre's picture

Thanks, Quinqunx. I'm a great believer in optical scaling, I think it's a shame that so few typefaces featuring this is available, and most of them have only a text and a display version. For scholarly work, I think it's very important having a seperat cut intended for footnotes, all too often they are hard and uninspiring to read, being to tight and sharp and light of colour, compared to the body copy. There's a huge difference between type intended for eight points and ten points. Also, I think the serif length question you brought up will be solved, they will become more pronounced in the larger optical sizes, as you can see in the 12-point mock-up.

Sindre's picture

Er, by the way, about the text settings I've uploaded, the spacing and kerning are still very preliminary, I really haven't had time to work properly on it. Having never seriously done such work before, I'm prepared to spend horrendous amounts of time on the job. Any spacing and kerning tips are extremely welcome. So far, I feel like stumbling in the dark.

eliason's picture

The closed 8 looks better. I love these figures - awesome.

Is the terminal at the top of 'c' too heavy?

The relationship between counters in the ampersand looks distractingly off to me, and my eye catches on the corner on the left side of the top one.

Sindre's picture

Thanks! I've been uncertain if the numerals were any good, so it's great to know someone likes them. They're probably ruining the historical accuracy of the typeface, but who cares. These are post-postmodern times, or something. Yes, the c terminal is heavy, I want some "hot spots" in the text, you see, not the even grayness of the ideal renaissance face. But perhaps it needs a couple of units less, I'll think about it.

Bendy's picture

I'm really enjoying looking at this! :) It's really good!

Have you tried the Z with the same contrast as z? I think it works really well for the lowercase one.

Quincunx's picture

> Also, I think the serif length question you brought up will be solved, they will become more pronounced in the larger optical sizes, as you can see in the 12-point mock-up.

Yep, I saw it. Although I must say that I'm not too bothered with the short serifs anymore, now I've taken a better look at it. I guess you get used to it. I had also been looking at very prominent serifs of a design I'm working on myself, so the contrast was rather large. :)

mehallo's picture

(Just had to tweet you - I love where you're going with this)


Sindre's picture

Thanks, Mehallo. This resulted in me opening a Twitter account.

mehallo's picture


eliason's picture

I was also thinking of suggesting what you just suggested to Bendy: that your M middle vertex might inch a little leftward. Alternatively (and maybe preferably) you could move the top left vertex a good bit rightward: I can see this font working well with a left M leg kicked out asymmetrically, and that would reduce the top counter which reads to me as maybe too large.

Sindre's picture

New M drawn after Eliason's advice, and new Z following Bendy's suggestion. I feel really type-blind now after too much continuos work, so you really have to tell me if this is all wrong, guys. Thanks!

Edit: Okay, that Z was too fat. I replaced the image with a saner version.

eliason's picture

Relationship of counters is working beautifully in M now.
That Z is a no from me though. Did you try one way serifs (like the base of 2)?

Bendy's picture

I think Craig's right. That's a lovely Z but perhaps draws too much attention with all those angled serifs. I love the thin spine. I think it works better with lowercase as it's a bit more lyrical than the other caps.

M works excellently too. This is really really pleasant.

Sindre's picture

I can't seem to make the thin spine version work without double serifs. Here's a single serifed version with opposite weight distribution. I think it works rather well, though it changes the mood completely. What do you think?

Bendy's picture

That may be the only possible solution. It looks like it fits well with the other caps. I'd include the other one as an alternate.

Sindre's picture

Major update. New pdf attached. All glyphs a--z, A--Z, oldstyle 0--9, the question mark, the exclamation mark, the at sign and the ampersand are altered since the first pdf. I'm working on the Greek lower case at the moment, great fun, though very challenging for a Barbarian. I keep reminding myself that Eudald Pradell, that great Catalan Fleischmann-imitator, could not read at all.

I'm very grateful for all the great criticism you've all given me, it has been a great motivation in this work, and I hope you'll keep it up. This typeface is barely begun ...

eliason's picture

This is fantastic work.

a - should the tail end in a short segment like the serifs?
f - maybe extend the foot serif rightward to try to keep up with the reaching hook?
k - arm looks a little weak - would it make any sense to emulate your foot serifs (with the straighter right sides) there?
x - outsides of the / stroke look bare at the ends. Maybe a hint of serif on that side, or maybe just flare them like you did the upper right of 'y'?
oldstyle zero - looks light
H - looks awfully wide!
J - I trust you'll have a notchless option!
K - arm a little too spindly?
Q - tail looks very strange to me but they often do in this type of face. Have you played with other structures?
T - segmented underside of crossbar looks a little weird to me. (Sorry that's not much help)
section - looks out of character for the font

Sindre's picture

... and this is fantastic feedback. Thanks!

a: Er, could you elaborate? I'm not sure if I understand quite what you mean.
f: Definitely. Consider it done.
k: Perhaps. That k cost me a lot of worries earlier, and I've sort of forgot about it. I'll give it a go.
x: I think you're right, I'll make a suggestion or two.
H: I believe the width it correct after the Renaissance model, but yes, it's too wide. I've already made a slimmer version.
J: No way! This is the typeface of the notched J! :-)
K: Yes, a little. Do you think the Y and X arms are thin, too? Verticals are difficult to get just right, two units to much or too little often overthrows the balance.
Q: I tried a two-stroke variant, sort of like a huge mirrored 9, but I couldn't make it work. But it'll be easy making an alternative one with a shorter hook. Er, I think I've got one in the mask layer already.
T: Yes! That T has been a nightmare! As I've made a rule of no curves on stems, serifs and crossbars, it's awfully hard to pull off. Any suggestions, anyone?

I'll post some progression images in an hour or two. Gotta get some food now, before I implode of hunger.

Sindre's picture

Er, yes, that section mark is weird. It's actually a stylised square sail on a mast ending in a hook. (I'm a great fan of traditional Norwegian boats, still built and sailed here after several thousand years of unbroken tradition, you see.)

Have you looked at the pdf with the text-settings? I use it a lot there, and I think it works. I might be wrong, though. Do you think I should go for the older C-type sign, if I should make a new one?

eliason's picture

Sorry, no, I absolutely love that sail glyph - I was referring to the one just left of it on the latest pdf, the one that looks like a hollowed-out S.

Y and X thins work for me - it's just the K that's too thin to my eyes.

re: the a tail. Looking up close I realize this is not the way it's drawn, but from afar it looks like a curl leading to a single point. I think it might look more fitting to terminate it in a small perpendicular snip (something like the top of 'q''s stroke - or see the end of R's leg).

New comment: in the lining figures, nine (and maybe seven) tip rightward and three tips leftward - I'd consider making those more upright (but don't touch the oldstyle versions).

And: on the ampersand, it looks to me like the thin stroke enters that upper intersection higher than where it comes out on the left.

juhani's picture

The question mark (old & new) caught my eye too. The supple elementary shape combined with a soft brush-like character makes it look a bit less formal than the other glyphs. (The paragraph mark & '@' are in the same vein, & also the top of the '5' and the descender of the 'y'.) The asterisk, the daggers and the ampersand, for example, are more rigid & formal in character. This could be an interesting contrast, of course, but should be applied more systematically I think.

Bendy's picture

Whilst it has a friendly aura, the ampersand looks like its head has flopped rightwards. I think X and Y have slightly the same tilt. Their thins seem to be stretching more than the heavy strokes.

I love the spurs on G and J, really unusual. I wonder if the top right serif on M could be longer (compared to L it looks short). I think it could even be heavier. Where is N?

I think the ogonek on E should begin flush right with the baseline arm.

I like your 4; same solution to stress as I found on Mint, though very different of course!

Does S need heavier serifs perhaps?

Sindre's picture

Thanks, Eliason and Juhani. I've redrawn the a tail, prolonged the f foot (by 13 units), redrawn the k arm, strengthened the x arms, tweaked the T by flattening and thinning the vertical stroke and fiddling with the serifs, and also thickening the stem by a split hair. Some work to the lining numerals, too. The Q was so boring, I'll do it later.

I understand your consistency worries, Juhani. Could you briefly sketch how you think creative inconsistency could be successfully applied? You see, I've had similar, but vague ideas about combining austerity with playfulness while drawing this, but everything has been done at breakneck speed, so I really haven't given much systematical thought to it. Do you think I should make jollier asterisks and daggers?

I really want to keep that question mark, and I belive it's not that out of character, look at Adobe's Jenson or Garamond Premier Pro.

I'm sorry about mixing terms, Eliason, it's kind of difficult keeping track of nomenclature when you think in one language and write in another. What kind of section mark do you think would be right for this face?

eliason's picture

What kind of section mark do you think would be right for this face?

I think the structure you've chosen is certainly workable, it just looks a little too flowy and blobby. Maybe there's just a little too much modulation of thickness in the strokes. I might just try thickening the thins (particularly the inside stroke where it joins the other at the very top and bottom).

Changes you show just above are all for the better, IMO.

Sindre's picture

Followed all your advice, Bendy, though I'll wait with the tweaking of the diacritics. Seems like I've forgotten the N altogether. Here it is.

Did a quick sketch if a more toothpastey and Renaissance ampersand, more in style with the question mark, which has had few tweaks, as well. Do you think this directio is worth following?

Sindre's picture

Thanks, Eliason, I'll give the section mark some darn good whacking.

Bendy's picture

I don't normally like the ampersand with that bump halfway down the diagonal stroke but this is definitely very nice.

juhani's picture

Satyagraha, I don't have any specific suggestions. I think the contrast of two somewhat opposite qualities should generally be within each glyph rather than between different glyphs. This could mean for example soft counter forms and hard outer forms (or vice versa) throughout the face.

I think it's good that the whole thing is pretty crisp, considering the weight. An oldstyle face with too much softness can end up looking like typical bold cuts or nostalgic ink-spread imitation. The narrow serifs are also good since they bring some delicacy to compete with the robustness.

The daggers look fine next to the A-Z & a-z. If you want more contrast or tension of different forms, maybe emphasize both the roundness and the sharpness at the same time (like Garamond & Caslon).

Sindre's picture

New, less formal punctuation, nothing is completely circular anymore, and curves have replaced most lines. Any sore thumbs here, or do these like each other?

Bendy's picture

Your asterisk! Wow! I was just doing my asterisk earlier, but yours really beats it!

Sindre's picture

Thanks, Bendy! The asterisk just drew itself, really. Lucky accident, really.

Thank you for your feedback, Juhani, seems like I misunderstood your advice, though I think my new punctuation is better than the old one. Yes, I like that tension idea you're talking about, and there will be more of it in the larger cuts of this typeface (I'm planning a 10 point, 12 point, 18 point and 72 point version, this is the 8 point cut). I think too much sharpness and tension at eight points is a little wasted. I agree on your view of soft revivals, though they may look nice on the right paper, they all too often turn into their own parodies. I'm sure Baskerville or Bodoni or Fleischmann would have embraced the crispness of modern technology, and designed their faces in accordance.

NewGuy's picture

I like this. (See, I CAN same something nice when I have something nice to say.)

I would encourage you to explore other weights of the face before tweaking for point sizes or drawing every fist, dagger, and pilcrow.

Sindre's picture

Thanks, James. I'm new to this forum, so I have noe idea of your reputation. :-)

You're right, of course, the making of this typeface has turned into an obsession, now I really have to leave it for a while, to regain some perspective. But I can't. I don't think I'll make other weights, though, at least not for this small size-cut. But I'll make an italic, of course, and small caps. I'm also considering a gothic based on its skeleton, which will have several weights. But that's future stuff. Boy, I wish I could spend all my energy on this instead of working.

Sindre's picture

This is the first draft of the 60 point master of Schola, the largest cut of this typeface. I have a vague feeling I've exaggerated its details and the thinness of the hairlines, please tell me what you think. A pdf is attached, if anyone wants a closer look.


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