First ever shot at a font

Silkjaer's picture

I had a lot of doubt if I dared asking for critique in here, so please be gentle ;)

I use fonts a lot, never designed one though, so wanted to give it a shot to learn a little more about the details, what makes it more legible etc.

This is a shot at creating a legible small size font - very early in the process. I think especially the "e" needs a redo.

Care to give any comments to help me get further? Or should I just delete and start over?

AttachmentSize
serif.png21.88 KB
Tomi from Suomi's picture

Hi, Thomas-

If this is your first attempt, my hat off to you; it has a very nice feel to it, especially considering your attempt to create a font for small size use. More narrow design would work against that goal.

I did notice some of the mistakes I made with my first fonts: 'm' is a bit wide, top of 'a' comes a bit too far to the left (overall width is good), your 'u' is a bit too wide (compare 'n' and 'u', and since 'u' is open on top, and 'n' is open on bottom, u should be a little bit narrower. And indeed, your 'e' does need some work. Your arm of 'r' is a bit thin: I did that too when I first started; I just cut the 'n' and fiddled with it a little to make it work. It needs more mass on the arm. Your 'f' seems odd as well. Why did you decide to slant the terminal? You can always do that with a ligature, if you want to leave room fo the dot of the i. I would also work a bit more with 'o': the width of it looks good, but it seems to try to be an italic. Keep the basic shape more upright, and work with counter shape to give it some diagonal stress.

But like I first said: a very good start.

magnus_gaarde's picture

Hi Thomas

I agree with the above. As a first attempt it is very good.
Some letters do need work as Tomi said.
The 'o' looks a bit strange. Maybe too much broadnib going compared to the rest of the letters. It is a bit squarish looking. Try making it rounder.
I think the 'e' needs a redrawing. It needs more weight to the bottom left and needs a bit of a straightening up. It is tilting a bit to the right. Try looking at some typefaces’ 'e's and 'o's. See how the weight is distributed diffenrently. Also take a look at 'c' while you're at it. I know you haven't got a 'c' in your example but it doesn't hurt to read ahead. ;-)
The 'r'. Try lowering the joint of the arm a bit down on the stem and thicken the arm.
I think the top of the 'f' is 'curling' a little bit too much. Maybe it is just me.

Anyway nice work.

Hils hos 2Krogh

Mvh Magnus Gaarde

Silkjaer's picture

Tomi, Magnus, thanks for your comments! And happy to hear I'm not all lost.

I have been nudging around on the letter forms and attached a new screenshot.

I would like to prepare some more letterforms, but I really get stuck on drawing a "g". Any tips?

magnus_gaarde's picture

Ah nice. Much better.

I know I told you to thicken the arm of the 'r'. But I could have explained m yself better.
The place where the arm joins the stem is maybe a little too thick now compared to letters like 'm' and 'n'. See attached image.
I like the 'f' but I can't quite see the exact shape of the terminal in your example. Can you make a bigger image or maybe a pdf?
I think the 't' is too light at the bottom.

On drawing a 'g'. How do you draw your other letters? Do you start with pen and paper doing sketches or are you at it directly on the computer? I think it is easier to make quick sketches on paper to get the basic idea of the shape. Do a bunch. Do some with a broadnib pen too to get an idea of contrast. Then pick the best and refine it. Then transfer it to the computer either by scanning or eyeballing your sketch.
In Fontlab you can then fiddle with points until you are satisfied. But starting in Fontlab can be hard if you have no idea of where to put the points to begin with.
Here I am pretending that you are using Fontlab but of course any font software of your choice will do.

Looking forward to seeing the next letters.

Silkjaer's picture

Magnus, yet again thanks for all your comments. Appreciate it!

I have attached an update with a bunch of other letters added to the vocabulary. No "g" yet though, I am not satisfied with my results.

Attached PDF of letters

brianskywalker's picture

Awesome. This is looking cool. The ascenders look wayy small, but i don't think there's much to do about that, given the type of font. The only crit i have right now is that the crossbar of the t is a bit thin. I'm also thinking perhaps the upper right corner of the q could be a little more emphasized, though I'm guessing it's good like it is in small sizes.

Briän

dojr2's picture

Hi. I see a lot of very interesting thing. What size do you have in mind?

IMVHO, you need to work on the letter at those 'small sizes' you are referring to. Say, the a would be too thin in parts if you were to use it at the size on screen at the moment. Also the spacing is way too small for use at a small size. If you want to have a look, the best font for small sizes that I ever came across is minuscule.
http://new.myfonts.com/fonts/256tm/minuscule/
Check the 256tm website which will give you a very good overview of the choices you have to make for this kind of work. I am sure you can even contact the designer.

Silkjaer's picture

Thanks for your comments!

Dojr2: I have sizes about 8-9pt in mind, but would like to make it work from around 6 as well. When i have completed A-Z I'll begin having a closer look at it's weaknesses, thanks for your link!
About spacing, I haven't really looked at it yet, the examples I have uploaded are just quickly hand kerned, I'll make some more serious metrics/kerning work on it later.

dojr2's picture

Understood. Beware, though, that the spacing is an integral part of the design of a character/glyph. When you space out more, you'll be tempted to enlarge some of the glyphs so they don't float too much.

IMVHO, as it stands, the z looks a little too wide, the w a little too wide too (and a bit too similar to two siamaese-v ), the t is too weak in general (and you may need to make a choice about the upper left part: vertical or diagonal, not in-between), the b is weaker than the d (are you sure you got your optical correction right at the bottom?), the i si too narrow. It is, however, difficult to tell inside a word. Try just presenting the glyphs next to each other and tell us which are your reference glyphs (the ones you think are successful and you don't want to change).

ps. f may look too weak too and y too weak at the bottom. The horizontal bar of the f and t don't have to be at the same height as the serifs of the x-height glyphs. Lower them and your character may find their balance.

pps. Good work all in all.

Silkjaer's picture

Just a quick update - made some changes to a bunch of letters and have started on some new.

Attached shot is the current state, hopefully I'll have it much improved in next update - setting some text with it makes it really clear that many letters need a lot(!) of tweaking.

Silkjaer's picture

Small update - haven't had time to do much more work on it yet. Hopefully I'll have an evening off to do it justice.

Thomas Phinney's picture

I can't tell at that size if it's still an issue, but I was going to suggest that for the slanted serif-like structure at the bottom right of the "u" that it should go half below the baseline and half above. That way, "on average" it is on the baseline....

And I whole-heartedly concur that for a first attempt, this is very good.

Cheers,

T

Silkjaer's picture

Thomas: Thank you very much for your comment! I will note the change for the u. Would you do the same for a?

Thomas Phinney's picture

I would, yes.

Cheers,

T

Silkjaer's picture

I have drawn up a few more caps, and nudged some of the lowercase letters a little.

Here is a PDF with all the letters and a little text set with it.

Best,

Thomas Silkjær

magnus_gaarde's picture

Hi Thomas

Nice to see some cool caps.

One thing I notice is that some letters need optical correction to share the same baseline, cap-height or x-height.
I think your 'A' looks too short. The asymetrical serifs on the 'H' makes the it look a bit out of balance. Especially the lower right one looks too long in my opinion. Maybe one of the legs needs to be flipped so the serifs get mirrored. The 'I' might have the same asymetrical issue. The 'M' could need a wee bit more white in the right counter. (does that make sense?) Pull the right leg a bit to the right. There is something about the curves in the 'O' which needs tweaking. Some parts look a llittle wobbly. Also look at optical correction of this letter. A little more overshoot to make it appear the same heigth as the rest of the letters.
'W' and 'V' need to drop a little more below the baseline to fit the other letters' heights.

Once again I like the overall look of your typeface.

Magnus

gege04's picture

hi thomas

i just came across this thread and really enjoyed following this genesis of your font. great work for a first try.

as i am no typedesigner i will not go into finetuning comments as there are plenty of people here that have the knowledge and experience to advice you.
one thing i'd like to point out, though, is that i miss a bit of personallity in your caps. don't get me wrong: they are all nicely done (and i'm sure you will finetune them properly) but after the developement of the lowercase letters i expected to see a bit more of your personality in the caps - something that tells me at a glance that this is Thomas Silkjærs font. i think some of the lower case letters do show more of this personality than this first attempt on the caps.

anyway: i really like what you're doing.

gerhard

Silkjaer's picture

I must say that I am truly honored that so many care to help me on this - thanks for all the input!

Magnus: I really appreciate your attention to details! I have made a bunch of corrections to the caps already, and are working on the remaining.

Gerhard: I think I will continue this path, getting all the letters done, and then focus on personifying them more. I agree that they lack it, but the main focus now is to make them match the lowercase letters.

So basically I think I will focus on getting the full alphabet from A-Z done, print out a lot of sample text, get some metrics in place, and then start nudging the single letters even more, both lowercase and uppercase.

hrant's picture

A macro thing that I think needs fixing is the vertical proportions, where the descenders are too long compared to the ascenders. I might recommend making the ascenders (and as a result probably the cap height) taller but seeing that your forms are pretty dark you might want to shoot for small text with this (like 9 point) in which case I would recommend making the descenders shorter instead.

And something micro:
The "g" is too smooth; it needs some of the angularity to fit in.

BTW may I ask where you got the idea of putting that gap in the "e"?

hhp

Silkjaer's picture

hrant: Thanks for the comments. Small text is the goal for the font, ascenders and descenders are the same height now, but maybe you are right that the descenders should be even shorter!

I really agree on the "g", which I am far from satisfied with currently.

In the "e", I originally had the crossbar cross the stem, but discussing it with a colleague I was suggested to make a gap instead.

dojr2's picture

IMVHO very interesting. Descenders are typically shorter than ascenders because they play a lesser role in making the font legible. If you want to look at asymetric serifs which work very well, check Ambroise from Jean-François Porchez and note how he follows the ductus to achieve this. You can also balance the serifs on a diagonal (NW with SE and SE with NW on the I for example); or you can alter the design of the serifs so they are visually the same length despite not being the same length (unfortunately the Marcellin Legrand has not been digitised yet, or this would give you a great example for your V & X serifs). Just ideas, of course. I am not an expert like the others are.

Silkjaer's picture

Time for an update.

Dojr2: Thanks!

I have been nudging some characters and tried to complete alphabets from a-z in both upper- and lowercase. The letters are all there now, but still I always find things I need to adjust further.

I tried printing out some text samples on a laser printer today, and I must admit that I am quite impressed by the texture already, hopefully I will be patient enough to make something useful out of it.

Still I haven't given metrics much thought yet.

New PDF attached

Silkjaer's picture

Next update, more characters added, and new text examples.

New PDF

Thomas Phinney's picture

Although it's reasonably functional as is, I'd prefer the crossbar on the "f" to be a few units heavier, maybe less tapering on the left side.

eliason's picture

/C/, /G/, /S/, and /g/ seem too monolinear - they don't get thin enough to fit in with the rest.
Top serif of /a/ and /c/ doesn't quite work to my eye; I might try a little thicker or a little shorter.
/M/ might be too narrow.
The shape of /q/'s tail's terminal seems backwards (since you've flipped the asymmetrical bracketing).

Silkjaer's picture

Thanks for the last comments! I'm nudging the letters some more before my next update.

Gary Lonergan's picture

First of all I think this is a great first effort I'm quite jealous
as I'm attempting to design a face as well.

A few comments The lowercase g is the character that irks me
the bowl needs to have thicks and thins that match the rest
It's too monoline at the moment. and See Hrant's comment on angularity.
It reminds me a little of Cheltenham in its ruggedness

But keep going its going to be a good one

Silkjaer's picture

Gary: Thanks!

I am also rather annoyed by the lowercase g - but i nudged it a bit yesterday, and i think i might steal the look of the letter from Minuscule (as dojr2 pointed out), removing the lowest part of the bowl. I'll keep this g in (when nudged in place) as a stylistic alternative though.

Any advice on how to handle metrics and kerning is appreciated! Where to start, how to get the metrics in place, when to start kerning, buying a license for MetricsMachine?

Gary Lonergan's picture

A type designer I know very well used to draw in Fontographer kern in Letraset FontStudio
and manufacture in Fontlab.

Walter Tracy's "Letters of Credit" has a great chapter on spacing
He outlines the method he used at Linotype.
Much the same information in included in Karen Cheng's "Designing Type
What software have you used?

Silkjaer's picture

I started out in Illustrator, continued in FontLab. I'll take a look at the two books you suggest!

dojr2's picture

IMVHO, what the g needs is mostly to be less flowing, at the moment, it is very 'diagonal', whereas your typeface calls for something more orthogonal (vertical v. horizontal). I would not go as far as Ambroise or Didot Elder, but look at least at Bodonis, Didots etc. then mend your design, without copying what you see.

The solution used by the outstandingly fantastic minuscule is mostly for characters with very small ascenders & descenders. It can be seen in fat Bodonis too.

As always, I might be wrong.

Silkjaer's picture

I have attached a small JPG showing my current g's - I think I'm going to adjust further to use more of the descender space. Not totally satisfied yet, I'll keep my mind and eyes open :) Thanks!

eliason's picture

I'm afraid that /g/ looks like a misprint, like the computer has clipped off the bottoms of the characters.

hrant's picture

I find myself recommending a Koch-style
"g" for the second time in a few days!

hhp

Silkjaer's picture

I still really like the idea of a clipped g, so here is an altered version.

eliason's picture

Looks a bit like a Q that has somehow become a flagellate. I've seen successful partial g-bowls that came down to an angle out of the upper bowl, then started around, rather than the s-curve you have here. That might be worth a try. See the first example here. (Some good Typophile discussion of such /g/s here.)

Silkjaer's picture

I see what you mean - got blinded trying to get some angle in it. I have tried flattening it out a little, only angling the top of the bowl, to get some similarity from the "e".

Gary Lonergan's picture

Remember what Stanley Morison said “But if my friends
think the tail of my lower-case r or the lip of
my lower-case e is rather jolly, you may know that
the fount would have been better had neither been made.”

I think it will pop to much when you set it

Gary Lonergan's picture

Remember what Stanley Morison said “But if my friends
think the tail of my lower-case r or the lip of
my lower-case e is rather jolly, you may know that
the fount would have been better had neither been made.”

I think it will pop to much when you set it

hrant's picture

There is certainly truth in that. On the other hand, Erik
Spiekermann has pointed out that people's love/hate for
the "g" in Meta has helped that font's popularity!

hhp

Silkjaer's picture

I think I am gonna take a break from the g for a while ;) I think I have stared myself blind on it, and need to take a fresh look at a later time.

I know it is quite soon to ask, but is this by any chance foundry material, or would the chances for people actually using it be better if I released it for free? My intentions has never been to make a font for sale, but I am just quite curious if it would have a shot.

hrant's picture

Personally I don't think settling for a non-polished result is a good reason to give a font away; because people will form an impression of your work which will affect whether they will eventually pay real money for any font you make in the future! The only reason I can think of to stop a font early is: it was just an exercise anyway and you've learned what you could from it; or you think it was (or has become) a bad idea in terms of potential sales.

So I think this can be "foundry material" (hopefully that doesn't mean fit for a hellbox :-) as long you stick to it and polish it to a really nice lustre.

BTW, about taking a break: it seems to work for many people (including myself), even when you don't see anything to improve! But know that the hibernation period might need to be in weeks, not days.

hhp

Silkjaer's picture

Hrant: I am not talking about stopping early or publishing anything unpolished, I really want this to work out.

If I at some point give up, don't have time to work more on it, I won't just throw it out for download if I am not satisfied with it.

It is more in the thought that this is my very first effort, does it contain enough potential qualities.

I am slowly sketching some ampersands, numbers etc, so I guess these will get my break-time attention.

Thanks for the encouraging words :)

Thomas

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