A faithful sans version of Garamond?

Catharsis's picture

I've recently developed the urge to doodle a monolinear sans-serif rendition of Garamond that tries to stay as faithful to the character of the serif source as possible. Now, that seems like a pretty obvious thing to do, and I expected to find a number of fonts online that had pursued exactly that design concept. However, with my very limited overview of the font world, I didn't find any. I suppose Gill Sans Light comes close to that to first order, but upon closer inspection it has a lot of quirks.

Are there any obvious candidates for that kind of font that I'm not aware of, or is it a concept worth pursuing with a new font project?

For a test drive, I made a few letters in stroked path mode in FontForge. I quite like the looks of it. I've added a shot of EB Garamond below it for direct comparison:


What do you think? Is it worth pursuing?

If so, I suppose it's unhealthy to stick with the stroked-path mode, and I should switch over to outline mode as soon as possible. However, I'm having trouble with the "Expand Path" functionality of FontForge; it invariably causes the application to crash. That would considerably increase the amount of work it would cost me to achieve a nice consistent stroke strength. Do you know of any easy solutions to that problem?

Cheers

Catharsis's picture

Not quite sure what you mean... can you elaborate? Are you talking about the spurs to the left of the stems in |f t|, or the curved terminals?

piccic's picture

Hmm… no, I was talking of the terminations: the upper right one in the [f] and the lower right one on the [t], and then any other ending which looks too much “cut by default" by the software and not by design choice.

Catharsis's picture

I still don't know what you mean. Those terminals do look pretty natural to me. Garamond does not have any angled serifs in either of these places, so why shouldn't the stroke just end there? Do you think I should try vertical cuts instead?

By the way, I've just tried out SpeedPunk, and I find it quite insightful. Here's the |e| before and after tuning with SpeedPunk. I can't really tell the difference side-by-side (can you?), but when I toggle between the old and new version in Glyphs, I find the new one notably nicer. I'll do the same to the rest of the hamburgefonstiv.

I also checked Gill Sans Light with SpeedPunk, and find it has some surprising discontinuities of curvature here and there. Is it considered a badly drawn typeface, or is there a certain leeway in discontinuity that's considered acceptable?

hrant's picture

The one on the right is definitely smoother, but it's too thin at 7 o'clock and 11 o'clock.

hhp

Catharsis's picture

I see what you mean at 11; not so much at 7 (but I suppose it could use a hint of diagonal stress there?). Hmm, I'll have to take care not to use SpeedPunk blindly — I basically have three free parameters available for each discontinuity.

What's the least invasive way of mending a bump? Shifting the curve point without moving the anchors?

So what's the standard level of smoothness among popular commercial fonts? Is Gill Sans typical, or a bad example?

hrant's picture

At the top end, unless bumpiness is intentional (which would be very carefully controlled however) everything tends to be super smooth. But you can still sell a font to many people even if some people will complain. :-)

Gill Sans is a bad example because -like pretty much any originally metal font- it's gone through a lot of... convulsions before reaching us.

hhp

Catharsis's picture

I've tried a few other examples with SpeedPunk — Arial, Calibri, Ubuntu, Anivers — and found non-continuous curvatures everywhere. What's a good (and if possible, free or pre-installed on a Mac) example of a super-smooth font?

Meanwhile, here's my lowercase after SpeedPunk-based tuning:

hrant's picture

If SpeedPunk doesn't like Calibri, then SpeedPunk has a problem.

hhp

Catharsis's picture

This is what SpeedPunk thinks about Calibri's |e|:

For instance, there's a bit of a curvature jump at the apex of the eye. I take it from your comment that this sort of thing is no problem...?

For the record, I love Calibri.

So, any "hideous" strokes left in my lowercase?

piccic's picture

@Catharsis: No, you understood, that’s what I meant: maybe not vertical cuts (rather unnatural, in this case, but a midway solution). I believe the more you work on detail, the more it will look natural. Looks already pretty good, although the eye of the [g] still looks strange. Maybe would not be bad to make it more regular, although it may follow less the original form?

I tried to check Glyphs (can’t find a link to download a demo of SpeedPunk) but the interface hinders me.

Catharsis's picture

Why would the cuts be anything but either orthogonal or vertical? Those strokes in Garamond end in drop-shaped or tapering terminals; that doesn't suggest any particular cut angle. An orthogonal cut, as I have it now, feels the most natural to me. And Myriad seems to be doing just fine with its orthogonal cuts...

I like the "special" shape of the |g|'s eye. It looks like that in Garamond too. Could it be seen as a feature rather than a bug? I'm not aiming at "yet another conformist sans" after all. :)

SpeedPunk does not have a demo. I got the commercial version, which works with the demo of Glyphs (which I'm also going to buy soon; it rocks).

However, I still can't open my Glamour & Glory fonts with Glyphs; no idea why. :(

William Berkson's picture

The problems I have had with the strokes didn't relate primarily to curves of outlines, though these need improving. You can have smooth or bent curves if they make sense with the overall stroke. Lucas de Groot likes to draw his letters by hand first to get an organic feeling. Then to preserve that in the digital font he has those intermediate nodes (between extremes).

Doing the stuff by hand first is certainly not the only way to do it, but it's one way to make the strokes look logical and organic to start with.

My problem primary problem with your strokes was that they got thick and thin without any systematic visual logic. You can design stuff anyway you want but without a lot of consistency a design of an alphabet just doesn't hold together. As I wrote earlier in the thread, what the eye expects is pen rules, modified. Absolute consistency is not required, but when you depart from, say stems being the same width, you should have a good reason for it. For example the M strokes are often shrunk a little bit because it is so busy and compact compared to most upper case letters. And you can make the l fatter because it is all alone with space on both sides. If you like Calibri, study it, pasting characters over one another and see what I mean by consistency with exceptions.

Generally, as I said you are working against expectations of pen logic, with modifications. As far as curves, you need to get to were your stroke is thick to where it's thin in a graceful way. And where the stress is—thicks and thins— has to have some consistency. This is true even when you have a low contrast sans.

As far as cuts on the ends of strokes, I don't see a problem with that. I also like the asymmetry in your g, but it still needs some work to iron out some awkwardness. Same with the top of the loop in the a—even though I think your a is already better than those in the Garamond "sans" efforts referenced above.

You also have problems with widths. Your b looks too wide compared to your c, for example. You really need to put these into familiar words and play with them until they click as far as width and spacing, if they are going to end up being really good. Also usually the bottom left of the b and top right of the q are usually handled similarly, as the q is sort of a rotated b, so there being different here is a question. But there are a lot of problems of consistency, I think.

hrant's picture

what the eye expects is pen rules, modified

Cut the cord, my friend. That's not your mom anyway.

hhp

Catharsis's picture

@ William: In my above sample, I've regularized the widths of my vertical, horizontal, and tapering stems, and tried to add some subtle diagonal contrast to some letters, including the |n| class and the |o| class. Is that not enough contrast, or it it just not consistent enough? Can you give me a concrete example of what needs fixing, and how? I don't know where to start.

What kind of "work" is needed on |a| and |g|? Contrast, or guiding the curves differently?

I'll look into the character widths more. I've tried to model them on Garamond, but as you pointed out, I should probably compare counter area rather than overall glyph widths. I'll play around a bit.

As for |b| vs |q|: I thought they were quite differently handled in Garamond, but looking back at them that's not true. I guess I'll add a stem stump to the |q|, then.

@ Hrant: This is confusing enough for me without someone talking in code. ;o)

hrant's picture

I was referring to the persistent, cloying, warm & fuzzy illusion that chirography plays the -or even a- core role in type. Sadly typography is like a 40-something guy still living with his mom, calligraphy and his dad, lettering.

hhp

piccic's picture

Never figured calligraphy and lettering were married. And I do live with my parents. :)

@Catharsis: To me, the fact that the letters are modulated in a certain way (calligraphy had and has its influence, anyway) suggests a cut that is neither vertical nor at 45 degrees, but rather midway, but do as you are pleased with: I just thought the plain cut you have suggests too much a computer-generated inheritance, without interventions on detail, I mean not a deliberate drawing choice but rather something "automatic" if you see what I mean.

I find Glyphs' interface a little bit too schematic, but maybe you have used it extensively. So far, I just used Fontstudio and then FontLab. It took me forever to get into Fontlab, so I feel Glyphs' interface pretty "alien".
Where did you buy the SpeedPunk license? On the Yanone website there seems to be no indication that it is already released.

Catharsis's picture

Addendum @ William: "You also have problems with widths. Your b looks too wide compared to your c, for example. You really need to put these into familiar words and play with them until they click as far as width and spacing, if they are going to end up being really good."

I think I'll leave the commission the spacing from a pro when I'm done... as for the widths, I can't see the imbalance you mention between |b| and |c|. This looks fine to me, apart from the spacing issues:

Are those imbalances keeping Eau from being a good font in general, or just from being a replacement for Myriad (which is not my intent)?

William Berkson's picture

Well, in my opinion, and it's not only mine by any means, you can't separate spacing from design of the characters, particularly their widths. I think to get them right you have to put them into words and tune the width and spacing until they are as polished as yes, Myriad—or Frutiger. As Mario Feliciano said to me once: you want beautiful words, not beautiful letters. You can only do that by testing on words. The words need to knit into a unit, and then they need to be able to disappear when you read them in extended reading.

Am I sure about the b and c? No you have to test and adjust, test and adjust. A way many do is to start with the n and o, and get on, no, noon to work, and then build from there.

piccic's picture

I think it’s pretty good, in general.
You should not consider spacing a separate matter: it is part of the design, no matter the destination you have thought for the typeface (es. display sizes).
Personally, I do not feel my typeface is truly designed until I add good overall spacing. Little kerning is generally needed if you try to work out spacing.

Widths of the letters do not look bad, at the point you have reached I think it is mostly a matter of adjusting spacing to your best. The problem is that with an almost monotonal type like the one you have obtained, and with very light stroke witth, too, spacing defects tend to be magnified: you need to space it even better than if it was a Garamond! :-)

Catharsis's picture

Quick status update: I've found a pro interested in producing Eau. Stay tuned. :)

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