In the fall of 2017, I practiced and learned the principles of type design at Type@Cooper West, instructed by Graham Bradley. Over the course of 10 weeks, I worked on bringing my super bold, reverse-contrast display typeface to life using RoboFont.
The working character set
Within 10 weeks, each student was responsible for designing upper and lowercase characters, figures and a few punctuation marks.
Characters I drew over and over again
I imagine any type designer would say that redrawing and refining over and over again is part of the job. In trying to create a super bold face that is also reverse contrast, there were a lot of questions about where weight should be added or removed, or how reverse contrast would play out in certain characters that did not stress or horizontality. Here are a few letterforms that I spent a lot of time reworking:
S — The first three versions were much too heavy when standing in line with the rest of the characters, and also felt like a wobbly rocking chair you could sit in and teeter back and forth. The huge progress made from the 3rd to 4th S happened when Graham told me to imagine as if the S had a rod that was being held in its stomach, which helped me visualize where to carve out a lot of the extra weight.
g — In addition to reverse contrast, there were many moments of alternating between strokes that were very thick and very thin. The first two versions did not reflect that alternation and also looked very flat in the bowls. The third was a little bit closer, with the middle carrying the most weight and the bottom of the bowl thinning out, but it still didn’t look quite right. The fourth version is the closest I got to satisfaction (for now), with contrast in weight, some air to breathe in the center, as well as a roundness and compactness to the springy form.
Q — Talk about a lot of weight and not knowing where to put any of it. I am cringing as I type this because I still don’t think any of these are the solution for the ‘Q’. The first version looks over the top with too much hairspray, the second feels limp and deflated, and the third is getting close and much more modest, but looks like it still has several weight issues to be hashed out towards the bottom where the leg meets the bowl. :~/
Characters I really like
S and g — I’ve come a long way with these characters, so maybe that’s part of the reason why I like them a lot. I enjoy the weight of the ‘S’ and how it kind of looks like it’s squinting.
1 and 5 — I enjoy the swoopy bangs on the ‘1’ that give it a bit of weight and movement. There’s a similar behavior echoed in the ‘5’, which also took some cues from ‘S’ with its counter. Standing next to each other, I feel like they are individually quite different, but still look like part of the same family — like cousins.
“”‘’:;,!? — I like how chunky these punctuation marks are. The comma, (semi-)colon, quote marks firmly announcing their presence within text without being distracting, while the question and exclamation marks pack a punch at the end of a sentence.
Final Proof and Specimen
Given only 10 weeks, there is still a lot more work to do — more characters to draw, more spacing to fix, more proofs to print, and more techniques to learn in regards to programming. This introductory foundation helped me think about how letterforms are drawn, designed and exist within relation to each other in a system. I also learned how incredibly valuable and critical spacing is in a typeface — it’s something that goes unnoticed by many users, but it is truly a dealbreaker. As for next steps, I’d like to continue working on this typeface, and see what it looks like in a regular weight and in italics.