Designing a typeface

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Designing type is one of the most challenging areas of design – especially in this day and age, when there are so many typefaces to choose from. For some time I have taken a keen interest in typography, particularly in the art of designing type. I don’t aim to become a type designer by trade – it is such a specialist field, that to become productive enough to earn a living at it could take several years.

The Baskerville effect

However, one John Baskerville was born not three miles from where I live and work, and for some bizarre reason I one day went to try and find the exact place of his birth (a friend wondered if I believed I would somehow gain some of Baskerville’s talents through osmosis). Well, the journey inspired me to have a go, so I set about studying some of the conventions of type design. One of the most useful books I have on the topic is Designing Type by Karen Cheng.

I like the look of Zapf Elliptical, but wanted to create something without the diagonal stress, and with slightly heavier slab serifs. Following the conventions I started out with the lowercase h, and took things from there. To date, I have found time to create the lowercase glyphs for the standard “handgloves” test.

Typeface under development

The task ahead

It has become very apparent through feedback from other type designer that incredibly subtle changes are required in order to produce type that “works” – that is to say, it is easy on the eye, and doesn’t cause any undue fatigue to the reader. I don’t intend this typeface to be used as a book face, but hopefully it will work for extended runs of body type.

My next job is to complete the rest of the lowercase characters, and punctuation marks. Then I have the job of creating the uppercase glyphs, and if I’m feeling ambitious – a heavier weight version. Truly I am learning a renewed respect for the unsung and largely unrecognised men and women behind the type we use every day.

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