Type designers have a sensitivity to graphic form, a love of typography, and—like architects—they have a penchant for detail and embrace the requirements of engineering and construction.
- [Voiceover] Making beautiful letters comes with practice. It comes with study. It comes with trial and error. Type designers embrace the idea of learning. They learn to look at their work critically, and to abandon or edit letters that don't work well with others. Beautiful letters are only beautiful if they work well in words. We type designers are an odd mixture of designer, artist, and engineer. We're chiefly concerned with making beautiful collections of letters, and these collections are, in fact, tools.
Some type designers are more artist than engineer, concerned more with beautiful shapes of letters. Others are more engineer than artist and focus on technical aspects of how fonts work, the problems they solve. But a type designer can't afford to be one or the other. Beautiful letters must become a tool for design, and well made tools are beautiful things unto themselves. All artists know about developing a critical eye. The critical eye isn't negative, it's constructive.
We learn to see and we learn to see better. We criticize to improve. A type designer accepts that learning is a lifelong pursuit and that every letter and every font can and should be better than the one before. Type design is technical. Nearly all fonts today are software. That means that most type designers are, on some level, software engineers. There are many, many programming choices that must be made and tracked to ensure that fonts work correctly and don't do harm to the user's system.
And there are dozens of other aspects, macro and micro, that must be tended to to make the font the best it can be. Measurements, fitting, kerning, and character sets to name a few. Type designers not only don't shy away from these aspects, but they embrace the effort. Creating a font is like climbing a mountain: first you decide you're going to climb, then you plan, then you head to the mountain, and as you drive towards it it always seems to be farther away until you're finally at the base.
Then the work really begins. That is to say, at many points along the way it will seem as if the goal will never be reached. It takes patience and organization to keep the goal in mind and to continue the journey to the peak. Each type designer finds his or her own balance of artist and engineer. The intersection is design. Designers must be able to accomplish both in some measure. So ask yourself, "Am I an artist? "Am I driven to make beautiful things? "Am I willing to put in time to learn, "and then to learn more? "Do I have a critical eye? "Am I able to embrace what I don't know "so I can be open to learning more? "Do I grasp the differences between "a beautiful letter and a beautiful collection of letters? "Do I have an engineering mind? "Do I embrace complex systems without breaking down? "Do I look at technical problems "and have faith that I can solve them? "And do I have the patience to embark "on a long term project? "Can I trust myself to keep my mind fresh and dedicated, "connected for the duration?"
- 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