So you’ve already sketched out the idea for your typeface… very well. But how are you going to aproach the actual design? By now you’re saying (or at least thinking) “yeah… I’ll just start my software and start copy/pasting until I get carpal tunnelled!”
Before you waste your precious health you should consider on systemizing (I really like this word) your aproach. This will not only produce insightfull knowledge about future glyphs (character designs) but will also speed up the design process.
This brings us to our Character Shape Classification Scheme.
(Actually, this document was produced based on I Love TypeWorkshop’s Type Basics Page and Type Index.org Anatomy page).
First of all let me begin by quoting I Love Type Workshop first page:
Same size for all! To optically align all characters on a line, they cannot not have exactly the same mathematical height. For example the triangle on this drawing has to be higher than the rectangle. If this is not the case, the triangle will for sure look smaller than the rectangle. While creating a typeface, you want all the letters to have the same height.
Also round forms have to exceed the baseline to be optically the same. If the circle would have exactly the same mathematical height as the rectangle, it would look smaller than the square. This doesn’t only count for basic forms like triangles, circles and squares. It’s essential in type design, because they apply to every single character in a typeface. Then it even doesn’t matter if you’re designing a latin, cyrillic or greek font. It’s a basic principle for any kind of shape.
This will actually make you think about all the characters and classify them into basic character shapes. In your drawing process you will soon realize that there are many common elements tha can be (re)used and meny that seemed similar but are in fact, different. This will depend on the character classification and anatomy.
So first of all you can design three basic shapes:
1. The Square;
2. the Triangle;
3. and finally the Circle.
As you can see on this image, this will give you an “all character design aproach”. Or will it? I like to complicate things a bit more.
Thinking ahead on character spacing (we’ll see this later on) and different anatomy atributes, I like to classify the basic character shapes into 7 categories:
1. The Square (S);
2. the Triangle (T);
3. the Circle (C);
4. the Half-Square (S2);
5. the Half-Square+Half-Triangle (ST)
The picture has swithed categories (5 for 6 and vice-versa);
6. the Half-Square+Half-Circle (SC);
7. the Half-Square+Half-Triangle+Half-Circle (STC)… what a mess ;)
These classifications will allow us to categorize letter shapes. For example:
- An A is Triangular on it’s left half and right half;
- An H is square on it’s first and later halves;
- An R is square on it’s left half and square+triangule on it’s right half
- and so on…
This will allow us to quickly interface letters with each other according to their attributes. But I think I’m getting ahead of myself.
As for now, this will allow us to establish standard shape widths and fit the respective characters to it’s classification.
According to the drawing/sketch specifications:
- if an H takes 3 spaces, then also should the the E and the F.
- if an A takes 3,25 spaces then also should a V and an X.
This will also allow you to understand wich shapes you should draw first and wich can be reused by other characters like:
- the stems of the H;
- the bowl of the O and the C;
- the diagonal stroke of the A for the V and W, maybe the X
- and so on… depending on your character shapes.
And so on. First define these simple rules for your sketch, and then you’re ready to move on to the Basic Character Proportions Scheme.
(Originally published on 2006-04-21)