Designing my own typeface

toddy's picture

i'm a student who's very new to the world of typography.i need help in how do i go about designing my own typeface. i've a keen interest in this area. so i would like to find out the process of creating my own and only font. is there a somekind of source of inspiration you have to look through? to really go about doing it. i really need urgent help. i appreciate if any of you kind soul would help me with these. thanks! i need your guidance.

hrant's picture

What kinds of fonts would you like to make?


mk2's picture

Excuse me, Siti. I'm just like you too, after few months of learning about typography (or may be a year, starting when i was studying the typographic elements of poems in my indonesian lecture class).I'm very new to typography.

And I think I'm going to ask Mr. Hrant too, just like you Siti.

So how do I have to start, Mr. Hrant ?
There are few simple 'stencil lookalike' A to Zs I had in mind (i called it 'stencil lookalike' because i don't know what typeface classification are they in)and they're pretty easy to be drawn on paper using pen and ruler. But I'm just not that patient when drawing them using curves on computer. I'm very new to Fontographer (4.1) and need help to make my typefaces look pretty similar to each other, with the same basic identities or something like that.

Thank you very much. I'm really hoping of any of your reply.

hrant's picture

> So how do I have to start, Mr. Hrant ?

1) How should I know?! :-)
2) Just call me hhp.

There is no one way to learn type design, or anything else for that matter. But it's generally safe to say that you should: think about what you're trying to achieve; dissect the work of others, with a critical eye, and never imitating; learn through doing; trust your instincts, but also be analytical enough so that you're not just making pretty paintings.

Read, discuss, do, iteratively, until you get bored. Keep doubt and faith in balance.


I hope some others will help out here! :-/


toddy's picture

[well i'm suppose to do this project in school. all abt designing my own typeface. i'm expected to create a body text font. so could you please give some guidance in designing my own body text font?

hrant's picture

> i'm expected to create a body text font.

Tell your teacher that's way too challenging. Unless you're a genius. Even if you arrive at a "new" text font by mimicking an existing one, just the technical requirements are too great for somebody just starting.


karen's picture

Wow. Fellow Asians. Hi Siti. Hi Jimmy.

Siti, out of curiosity, which school do you go to?

keith_tam's picture

I'm curious to know how much time do you have for your project? Designing a typeface can never be an 'urgent' matter, especially a text face! Take your time, look at a lot of examples, read up on the history, try your hands at drawing, learn the software.... there's no shortcut.

It's nice to see more Asians here... Welcome, Siti and Jimmy.

rs_donsata's picture

Well, i

hrant's picture

If you're sharp and dedicated, you might be able to produce something usable in 8 months. But that's using my definition of "text face", which happens to be pretty tight.

In terms of reading/perception, there really isn't any single book out there that directly addresses the things a type designer would need. In fact Herman Bouma himself never wrote a book at all - just a large number of interesting and relevant (but also very technical) research papers. So in order to extract useful conclusions about readability you have to spend many man-months reading and absorbing a large number of studies from the past 100 years and try to reconcile and assimilate all the different insights... Too much.

Since this is just a start for you, instead of pushing the functionality boundaries you might try to stay within the conventional limits for now. You can easily do this by following the general design attributes of a really good font, depending on your application, like you could look at Unger's Swift if you want your font to be tuned for newspaper setting. But by "general design attributes" I don't mean details, I mean things like vertical proportions, color, width (overall and letterwise divergence), letterspacing, etc.

One other thing: look at the work and developmental path of Aaron Sittig:
There might be things you can fruitfully emulate there.

Good luck, and keep us in the loop, we'll try to help!


hawk's picture

Adrian Wilson "The design of books" - 1967

David Hamuel

goldur's picture

Hello I'm 16 years old pupil from South Korea and I am new to this forum as well.

My interests in typeface design kept growing since I graduated from primary school.

Since I started enjoying generating visual images by computing my eager towards creation of typefaces has grown and when Sydney 2000 took place I was so sure that learning to design typefaces is obviously important factor to realise my dream as a Visual Artist in the future.

When sydney 2000 was going on, I could see all the free and aboriginal, hopeful and traditional australian visual themes achieved by australian olympic visual makers but what fascinated me, most of all, was the type that were written in 'Share the Spirit' with other official signatures during this olympic.

I kept looking them got impressed by the slicker, elegant lines of the Semi-serif atmosphere, all the integrations with picturesqueness of the visual theme and extremely modern Semi-serif typeface - it was an idealistic coordination of conventional, craftsmen's ways and experimentalism.

I was inspired a lot even though I was a naive novice kid in a sense of being a well-disciplined artist. (there is no difference in presence as I couldn't improve myself under extremely irrational and dehumanised education system of south korea)

It took a year for me to find the name of that font which is 'Binary' as I was looking around similar typefaces and I could also find out that it was originated from 'Rotis Semi Serif' style by Otl Aicher. I suppose, in my opinion, Semi-serif aspect in typeface design is an ideal module to combine both traditional and experimental new modern trials. It looks like symmetrised yet each serif is irregular, whenever I look at them I get some hopeful, sense between static mood activeness.

The time I spent at school under the restrictive pressure of the irrational education policy of south korean government kept me even further from collecting and researching things that had to do with my dream - typographic references, intepreted book, imported copies of books like 'The elements of typographic design' etc.

As even the environment for pupils to be educated in a peaceful mood at school are not provided, it is virtually impossible to get some good, specific written reference in a special, acrobatic field like typeface design, typography in south korea.

Notwithstanding the suffocation, I didn't at least give up my interests in typeface design for example, even when I was having an apple pie in McDonalds, I was happy having discovered a special ratio of numbers, figures. (I really liked this sensitive aspect of figure designs, I still have no clue of the origin of these, yet, I can at least make like these ratio. 1,2,4,0 - normal 3,5,7,9 - down 6,8 - up. If you have any specific reference of this ratio in numbers please let me know)

Well I should give an end to this ideal talk (I will disscuss about favourite fonts I liked each season later)

I am recently preoccupied by the visual designs and types designed by M/M PARIS group of which the artists achieved Bjork's current album artworks. It is the first time I get this mad and visually influenced by certain artworks of a group.

Here are some examples of M/M Paris typefaces in Bjork Album artworks.

Like other new comers up here, I have a struggling anxiety to learn to get used to converting the typographical blueprints on my head into real ones. I am improvising and practising a little in spite of lacking in references, but I think it is a time for me to take one step further to start theorically and conventionally train myself with type making.

I will uploads few questions from now on. I would be very grateful if you could help and offer me some references I couldn't get offline in south korea.

I am having hard time figuring how to set each side's angle THE SAME and accurately design on fontographer without tracing bitmap files and also wish to know the how traditional, conventional, normal process of developing typefaces is etc. These are my main curiousity.

Oh and here are some of my improvisationsI know it is effortless and looks terrible compared to hard workers here. I just wish you to taste and let me know what is an ideal way corresponded to my typographical preference. Having only remoteness conception of the theory, improvising makes me worried.

P.S. My english is terrible. Notice me when there are expressions that can hardly be understood.

Examples of my improvisations

hrant's picture

Is nobody taking this?


lars's picture

speaking about mmparis ... i was wondering if their fonts are distributed somewhere, are they?

mk2's picture

Hello everyone,

First, I wanted to thank hhp, Jim Rimmer and david hamuel for the kind replies. And to Kim, welcome to this forum. I really think that you have a great possibility to become a fine typographer, not dumb like me. The font used for The Best Of Bjork album is a beautiful piece of type-art, I'm agree with you for that. And about the lack of typographic books to read, I have the same problems too here in Indonesia. I guess this happens in every country in Asia (except Japan and Singapore) because of the local governments' low concerns about the development of formal design education(or stuffs like that) compared to the other major educations. I hope you can reach what you're up to, good luck Kim, and wish me luck too.

Now can ask all of you where can i find a complete(am I asking too much?) tutorial about using Fontographer, any version is fine, I'm just starting to learn anyway.

That's all I'm asking for now, but don't worry, there's more to come :-)

PS : I got a bad english too, really sorry for that.

glutton's picture

Making typefaces is kind of like learning to swim. You just have to do it. Start with display, it's easier. Then just keep cranking out alphabets.

hrant's picture

Kim, what I would say is that you can use things like Typophile to counter the "isolation" you feel. I've learned a lot on-line in the past 5+ years, although I've probably learned more through books, so try to read a lot.

I would also advise you to strongly pursue your interest in semi-serifs: it's a very promising avenue, and there's very little good work in that style. Most semi-serifs are either too calligraphic (see Mayer's stuff), or too concerned with formal style. Besides Aicher, I would recommend following the work of another thinking type designer: Evert Bloemsma.

As for your technical/critique issues, go ahead and start new threads (in the correct sections), and hopefully we can help each other!


sunflower's picture

hi i am a student of graphic design getting ready to finish my first semester and my typography instructor has informed us that we have to create our own font. he has tld us we will have about 4 weks to do so. i am very unsure about how to start this. i go to school here in the usa and well i was not expecting to have to create my own font before my first semester of school was over. any help would be great thank you. i am also new to this forum.

William Berkson's picture

This is a bit off topic, but I find it odd when students of typography and even designers don't use capital letters at the beginning of sentences on these boards. In English, I think the beginning capitals are important markers that help the reader. Without them, the text is less legible.

Have others noticed this, or am I just cranky?

Ignacio's picture

In Spanish too William, it looks an international "problem" with the younger generations, I guess the origin is in the written mobile phone messages.

jfp's picture

This kind of way "to don't use caps" remind me young Bauhaus fanatics, who have been too much influenced by their graphic design teacher... The same guy who ask them to design a new typeface in 4 weeks without any explanation.

The combination of the two give me bad feelings about how typography is teached out there. :-(

hawk's picture

hey.... the lady asked for help - she's a student. she needs to design a typeface.


fun and simple way (well... relatively) - making a typeface out of your handwriting.

David Hamuel


mmmmm.... i didn't use capital letters. so?

William Berkson's picture

David, I didn't mean to pick on the students; I'm sorry if it appeared this way. As an amateur typofile, my concern is with what is being taught in design schools. I see from JFP that a first rate professional shares my concern.

I think you will find that readers of English, French, etc. are considerably slowed down by not having caps at the beginning of sentences.

For that reason, using 'no caps' in text is to my eyes a forced 'trendiness' that is in fact bad typography.

As to your own 'no caps', you may be influenced by your native Hebrew, which of course has no caps. Frankly, I do think it is a mistake in English text.

Incidentally, this doesn't apply to short display text or even poetry. I notice you (instinctively?) start each sentence on a new line, which overcomes the main problem of no caps.

hawk's picture

[....native Hebrew" - and German. and French.]

.....start each sentence on a new line" - on purpose. Air


David Hamuel

.00's picture


anonymous's picture

Jimmy and Siti:

I agree that it is a tough project to attempt a text face under a short deadline. Usually a person's first design is a display face, and that is also not easy to do under a tight timeline.

Are you required to submit a computer-ready typeface, or can you submit tight pencil drawings? If you need not do the digital work the task would be a little easier, but it is still a very difficult task.

I also agree that the best way to decide a direction is to study the types that have been done over the past few hundred years to today, and absorb and learn. There is no better school than your own observations and developed taste.

Whatever way you decide to tackle the project, I think there is no better way to get your head and hand into it, than that of drawing letters loosly with a flat graphite sketch pencil. Study a few old layout books of the sixties and seventies.

Adrian Wilson wrote a very good book on book design. The title escapes me at the moment, but there are some very good illustration of the terchniques of sketching type for layout. Anything by Alexander Lawson is also good.

Dover Books in the past ten years re-published Frederic Goudy's two treatises: The Alphabet, and Elements of Lettering under one binding. Goudy's Typologia is another good source.

Read Alan Haley's Hot Designers Make Cool Types.

Best of luck to you, and don't be discouraged.

Jim Rimmer

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