The lowercase i sets the stage for the rest of the font. It establishes the stroke weight, displays the stress, provides the x-height, and serves as the basis for several other glyphs.
- Letters are combinations of form and negative space. However, digital fonts are composed from Bezier outlines. The difference is similar to making a hand print versus tracing a hand. It's easy to lose fidelity and detail in an outline. Edges get rounded off. Details get lost. Drawing letters by hand used to be the norm. But, just as often today, designers do little or no hand drawing before working digitally. The choice is yours. I find pencil drawings very helpful, but you may not.
Drawing with Beziers is done in Illustrator, a program most designers are accustomed to. If you're not familiar with drawing using Bezier outlines, I recommend watching Illustrator CC Essential Training. You could also draw on a font production software like Glyphs App, if you're willing to learn a new program. If you're working digitally, make prints. Critique your work in physical form, so you can study without distraction, and make notes and edits. Begin with a baseline. It's the one guideline that will remain constant throughout the design process.
Draw the lowercase i, sitting on the baseline, and add a guideline for the x height. If you're drawing a serif font, the wedge serif at the top of the i will overshoot the x height slightly. Look at the proportions. There's not much to go on, but try to judge whether it's too tall, too short, too fat, or too skinny. Adjust the stroke accordingly, and add a jot. Now draw the l based on the shape of the i. Extend the stem upward, and create a guideline for the ascender height.
The overshoot of the l should match the wedge serif on the i. Again, look at the proportions, and adjust accordingly. Since you have two glyphs, arrange them in a progression with a consistent spacing between. Look at the side bearings. Are they too close? Too tight? Are they consistent? Again, adjust accordingly. Next, draw the capital i. The stroke weight should be slightly heavier than the lowercase. And the full serifs at the top and the bottom should be slightly more pronounced.
Don't overdo it. The top of the i should be slightly below the ascender height and will provide your third guideline for the cap height. Combine the i with the other two letters in a sequence, judge, and adjust. Combine two cap i's to form the basis of the h. Add a crossbar at the vertical visual center. The weight of the crossbar will establish the thin stroke for capitals, and the width of the h will guide the width of all the other capitals. Test it in sequence, judge it, and adjust.
- Why study typography?
- What makes a typeface great?
- Stroke angle, weight, and contrast
- Shape variations
- Finding good models
- Typeface vs. lettering
- Drawing the basic glyphs
- Producing a functioning font
- Printing, critiquing, and revising