I Love Typography

Type faces

Neil has published over 40 typeface families (over 420 fonts). In 1992 he opened his own foundry, Positype. He has also lectured on type design in Japan and the U.S., and his fonts have been used by the likes of XXL Magazine, MTV, VH1 and Sony/Tristar.

How did you get started in type design?

That’s a curious question….It happened a few years after I graduated from the Graphic Design Department at The University of Georgia. While I was in college, I studied under Ron Arnholm, a masterful type designer who most notably created the Legacy typeface family. Having already fell in love with fonts and the creation of letterforms and all of the minutia surrounding it, the injection of Arnolm into my education laid the foundation for me developing into a type designer. That said, years later I was invited to sit through a lecture by a visiting designer, a big name to say the least, so I was intrigued and went.

scan of Neil Summerour's type sketch

I’m not naming names solely because I do not want to insult anyone, but after the lecture I was so annoyed and aggravated at the lack of talent and amazing luck this designer had, I literally said to myself as I walked out of the auditorium “if this guy can do it, I sure as hell can!” So, I immediately went home and started sketching my first two type families that would later be picked up by T-26 in Chicago.

Why type design?

I love it. I love contributing to the evolving historical threads of communication. As a type designer, I provide visual tools that allow creatives to communicate, express and engage the masses. It’s exciting, awe inspiring and humbling to think someone chooses a font you have poured a part of your life into for months or years for something they are designing…and you get paid for it…it’s a win-win. Besides, nothing is sexier than a smooth bezier curve :)

What do you like most about type design? Which part of the process do you enjoy the most?

The concept. I like finding that ‘little something’ that lights the creative fire and gives me the energy to push through a design. My style varies depending on the type of font I am developing. The stylistic diversity keeps me from getting bored with it and each time, each new design, each completed glyph allows me to refine my skill. What I enjoy most is seeing all of the ‘parts’, be it the diacritics or opentype features, come together and ‘work’ on the screen on paper.

What kind of approach do you take when designing typefaces?

I get an idea and it sits in my head for a long time before I sketch it out. I have to like it in my imagination a long time before I put it on paper. I usually keep 5-7 new designs in the works at all times. Some of the sketches never get completed because I see something too similar to another design or I just end up not liking it.

What do you like least about type design?

The wait. Once a design or type family gets to a certain point, I can never seem to work fast enough to finish it.

What are some of your favourite typefaces, and why?

That’s not easy. There are so many. My answer will be a reflex to the question because if I think too long, I will either never finish the question or write way to much:
1. Scala Sans by Martin Majoor. That is a beautiful family. I’m attracted to this type of organic, mechanical, technically clean type of sans serif. This is not his only masterpiece, but it is a favorite.

Scala Sans by Martin Majoor

2. Legacy Serif by Ron Arnholm. No one has done a better Jenson than Ron Arnholm. This is one of the best digital typefaces that doesn’t look digital. I expect to see type fairies flying away with magical lead type after seeing a piece expertly set in this typeface family.

Legacy Serif

3. The expansive type family Leitura by Dino dos Santos. Dino’s work is consistently gorgeous. This is one of the most reliable families out there. Each style has a place somewhere within the context of the design and the diversity of offerings within the family make using it as workhorse type family possible.

leitura italic

4. Affair by Alejandro Paul. I know Alejandro has some newer work but this a major favorite of mine. Why? It’s lush and fun. You can’t use it everywhere, but its OpenType diversity allows you decide how much fun you want to have at any one time.


5. Avenir by Adrian Frutiger. When I need a font, I look to this one first to see if it will work.


What advice would you give to aspiring type designers (to beginners)?

Don’t go to the computer too soon. Spend time sketching the font out on paper and in your head. ‘See’ it and understand the eccentricities it must have to really achieve the goals you have set for it. Read, observe and experiment…understand that your first few designs may never ‘sell’ or even be completed but the process of designing type and failing i just as important as succeeding. And, be original…don’t do what everyone else is doing. It’s boring.

What kind of approach do you take when teaching your students about typographic design?

When I have the opportunity to teach at The University of Georgia it’s always in electronic graphic design which encompasses both advanced Photoshop® and web design but type and how and when to use it are always one of the first considerations I press to the students. Good type use or type manipulation can make or break a piece. Many times I borrow a quote from Yusaku Kamekura (a prolific and influential Japanese designer) that “good is good”, As a designer, with the knowledge you have and have been taught, you know when something is just “good”….it’s a feeling that your design, your creation invokes when you and others look at it. In many ways, type and typographic design is just that…you know when it is good. In my opinion, the great designer knows how to make it even better.

What is your proudest achievement?

As ridiculous and as cheesy as it sounds, I really have to say I haven’t been completely satisfied with any one project….yet. As a designer and businessman, so much of my time has been spent building up my core businesses: Sliced Bread, my advertising agency in Athens, Georgia and the TypeTrust in Chicago that I often do not have the time I would like to spend on my ‘work’. As a designer, as with any designer, you go through a maturation process where you begin to ‘see’ good work and can repeatedly produce it…as well as guide others to do the same. I’ve hit that stride and am excited with what I am doing now, but have not produced that great ‘piece’ yet. I think I’m proudest trying to be a good husband and dad.

What plans do you have for the future?

Continued work and development with my business partner, Silas Dilworth, to make TypeTrust a great distribution portal for really excellent typefaces. For personal typeface work, I’m finishing up a nice techno display sans, called Ginza, that will be released in January 2008. I will continue work on a heavily involved, versatile script, called Eros, and a recut of my first font families, Iru1 and Iru2.

Eros sample

[You can see more of Neil’s types at TypeTrust.]

In this weekend’s regular Sunday Type, I’ll be writing about some of the exciting things iLT has planned for 2008. You can subscribe to I Love Typography and never miss an issue.

Sunday type: Evan’s Type

A Merry Typemas

Am I really writing this on the eve of Christmas Eve! Goodness—all in the name of type. Anyway, I didn’t want you missing your weekly Sunday Type. If there’s anyone sober out there, here goes. Let’s start with an Epic, or rather the Epic typeface from Neil Summerour.

Epic from Neil Summerour

I won’t say too much more about Neil’s types, as I recently interviewed him for iLT and will publish it in the New Year. In the meantime, you might like to take a look at some of his types here.

Here’s an absolutely gorgeous poster from David Bennewith. One of those things that I instantly knew I just had to have. Thanks to Kris Sowersby for the link.


For fans of Wim Crouwel and those seeking inspiration, take a look at the Crouwel Flickr Group.


This is a great idea (though firmly rooted outside the realms of my financial means). These beautiful illustrations by Edward Lear have been reproduced at gargantuan sizes—a collaboration between Surface View and the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum).


It’s one of those pretty but hopelessly stupid Flash web sites, so I’ll need to give you a map and a compass to navigate your way to the page (Isn’t that insane! What are URIs for—goodness me!). You’ll need to visit Surface View, then click Collections, then click the V&A sub-menu, then click Edward Lear - Alphabet (thoroughly stupid navigation, but the illustrations are worth it).

Metro Script

And here’s a pretty script from Umbrella Type that’s worth taking a look at,


New Kid on the Block

Please give a warm welcome to a new blogger on the scene. He’s small and he loves books. However, his being small no doubt has something to do with his age—he’s just 10 years old. When I was 10 years old (and it’s a stretch to remember that far back), the Internet didn’t exist—hard to comprehend now.


I know this particular news item is not type-related, but it’s Christmas and I was so thoroughly impressed with this young chap, that I couldn’t help but mention it. The blog is called Evan’s Book Site. Be sure to take a look, leave a comment, and tell your own children about it. Perhaps I should get him involved in my Type for Kids book—now there’s a thought: co-authoring a book with a ten-year old (guess I’ll have to ask his dad (Andy Rutledge) first.

And finally…

This news item via Mark Simonson: Arial Exam. Well, it made me smile.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Type Faces

An Interview With Kris Sowersby

Many of you will have heard of Kris Sowersby, and something tells me that we’re going to be hearing a lot more about him. He’s the guy behind the sans serif typeface National and the serif typeface Feijoa; he was also on the team of three that created (perhaps type of the year?) FF Meta Serif.

How did you get started designing type?

There was a point at design school when I realised that I loved drawing letterforms, so much so that I would prefer to make typefaces than become a graphic designer. I think it was when I was drawing/copying Bembo letter by letter, trying to understand how it was put together. I noticed that the arch of the ‘n’ subtly curves into into the right-hand stem—all the way down into the serif.


Continue reading this article

Sunday Type: x-rated type!

Madame Loves Typography Too

Welcome to 2007’s penultimate Sunday Type. Can you believe that 2008 is almost upon us? I remember, as a child, dreaming about the magical year 2000. Well, that’s quite enough reminiscing; don’t want to short out my keyboard with sentimental tears. I had so much material for today’s Sunday Type that I was going to save some of it for next week’s; but that might smack of mean-spiritedness, and it’s Christmas (almost), so you get it all.

Do you like Madame? No, not that Madame! Linotype’s Madame. She’s had a facelift of sorts: she is now available in the OpenType font format, which will be a relief for many—it should making using her much easier.


Thanks to Dan at TypeOff for the link, the byline and for creating the header. Sadly I don’t have Madame (yet). Be sure to subscribe to Dan’s blog—it’s really shaping into a good resource and a great read. After the success of Dan’s Counterpunch review, you’ll probably be seeing some more of him here.

Thinking about next year: I’m always looking at ways to improve iLT. One of the things I was intent on doing was having contributors; I’ve already had some great ones, and there are many more to come; if you’re interested in writing for iLT, then let me know.

The FontWall is not much more than an idea right now. The lists of monthly ‘fonts’ is growing, so I wanted a place to ‘archive them’, so the FontWall was born; I have a few ideas for it; perhaps you have some ideas of your own? I promise to at least tidy it up!


Perhaps another title to add to your Christmas shopping list is Foyle’s Philavery—a treasury of unusual words; it’s not a type title, but it is rather pretty; and word lovers and wordsmiths will love it. I like the cover. The paper quality is a little poor but, for the price (and content), it’s worth it. The only thing that bugs me about the cover is that rather ‘isolated’ apostrophe. Anyway, the flowers are pretty ;)


I promised myself that I wouldn’t buy any fonts this month. I failed again and bought Feijoa Display; I’ll add the other weights later; that’s always something to keep in mind: that one can buy these great typefaces piecemeal. So, for me, I just wanted to set the header of the interview with Kris Sowersby in Feijoa, and that’s why I opted for the display weight only; later I can buy the other weights and use it for setting texts or whatever.


Isn’t she gorgeous.

If you remember back as far as 15 Excellent Examples of Web Typography, you may also remember that FontShop’s site was in the list. Well, I guess their web designer had some spare time on his hands and thought, how can I make it better?

Sporting more than just a shiny new exterior, the new FontShop.com boasts some solid improvements under the hood, too. Our Font Detail pages have always been the place to get the nitty-gritty on every font in the shop, but the new advanced Character Set viewer lets you see every glyph of every font so you can get even more nitty and gritty.

And the result is great. I wonder if he’ll redesign iLT? That reminds me: if there’s anything that really bugs you about this site (I’m thinking about the design, not me), then let me know.


I just had to include this little story: Kelly Patrick Robinson, an iLT reader from San Diego left this message on my FaceBook profile,

Last night, I found myself in a coffee bar, and my mate asked me to explain a bit about typography. Luckily, there was a newspaper handy, and with the help of an iPhone, the conversation eventually visited iLoveTypography. The site itself became a visual aid.

Made my day.


A few gorgeous new desktop wallpapers (these two designed by Zachary):



She won 700 Penguins!

I said I’d give a copy of 700 Penguins to someone whose question is used for the interview with Kris Sowersby. In fact, I’ve chosen several readers’ questions, so several names went into the hat, and out came Lauren Marie’s. Congratulations, Lauren.

Hoefler & Frere-Jones

If you haven’t heard of H&FJ, then…well, you should have. Not only do they produce some of the most beautiful types on the planet, but they’ve also been running a great Typographic Gifts for Designers Series; I’ve mentioned some of them here before. If you forget how to spell their names, never fear, because they have the best domain name on the Web—typography.com. You’ll find links to all the featured gifts in the left-hand column of the H&FJ web site.


And here’s a taste of some H&FJ love,


I think I need to take a cold shower now! Positively x-rated.

The Sarabande Press

For twenty-odd years, the Sarabande Press has been producing beautiful letterpress limited editions. In that time they’ve designed and typeset over a thousand different books, from novels to scholarly books for major museums, and just about everything in between. I like that they have some short videos showcasing some of their work (perhaps I could do something similar when reviewing books here on iLT). I only wish that those videos were a little larger. Be sure to watch the Beinecke Peep Show video too.


Thanks to Ilisha for the link.

Coming Up

I’d like to thank those who have contributed financially to iLT. We’ve hit the $30 mark. Once the six-part Type Terms is finished, I will rewrite all the articles and publish the entire series in a single PDF file to download (should be around 30 or 40 pages). When writing those articles, I only publish a fraction of what I write in my notebooks (or you’d be scrolling down to Hades), so the PDF will be a much extended version. To support iLT overheads, I might charge for the PDF (a couple of dollars, perhaps).

Face to Face, a new feature on iLT where I interview type-people I like. First on Face to Face is the wonderfully talented, Kris Sowersby—I’ll publish the interview on Wednesday; I think you’re going to like it—a lot! I’ve almost finished writing the third part in the Type Terms series, Transitional. These take quite a while to research, so I’ll most likely publish it around Christmas. Can anyone think of something more original than Face to Face?

And finally…

Since starting iLT, I’ve received hundreds and hundreds of messages from readers—everything from “can you name this typeface for me?” to “can you give me some fonts?” to “are you single?” (that one went into the sympathy pile); but this one has to be the strangest:

Hi there.

I’m thinking of getting a tattoo. I realise making a permanent mark on one’s body is a big decision, and one that I’ll have to live with for many years. I want the word ‘truth’ tattooed on the inside of my wrist and I need to choose a font for it. Being the type guy, I thought that you or your readers might have some wise input. I’ve explored various options, and so far I’m leaning towards using Baskerville for its classic look (the mark still has to look good 30 years into the future…)
Sorry to bug you directly, but I’m not sure how else to go about contacting ILT.
Many thanks in advance!

Anonymous Roger Gordon.


Have a great Sunday, folks.


Several Reading University classmates of mine from the typeface design programme share a small house. On the dining room wall is a poster that reads:

To be blunt, and it is good advice to serious newcomers: do not make the mistake of being afraid to be labelled ‘conventional’, ‘traditional’, or any other such dusty term.

If someone is compiling recommendations for aspiring type designers, include this one. It comes from Fred Smeijers’ 2004 book, Type Now: A Manifesto. Eight years earlier, Hyphen Press — Type Now’s publisher — released Smeijers’, Counterpunch. A book about typeface design, Counterpunch is also about possible lessons that sixteenth-century punchcutters from France and the low countries have for all of us today.



Fred Smeijers, Counterpunch: making type in the sixteenth century, designing typefaces now. London: Hyphen Press, 1996. 220 × 145mm, 192 pages. At the moment, only for sale at Typotheque.com. Typeset in Renard, which may be licensed from the Enschedé Font Foundry. Printed on really nice paper.

Why now?

Writing a review about Counterpunch is a daunting task. It feels a bit like travelling back in time to review Laurence Olivier on stage. Moreover, Smeijers is alive and well, teaching, designing, and moving our consciousness forward; since his book was published, it has been widely discussed, at least in typographic circles. My review comes 12 years late.

There has been much discussion about “recommended reading” on iLT as of late. After the recent review of the Logo, Font, and Lettering Bible, John asked me if I would write an article of my own. No single book can act as a complete introduction to typeface design, but everyone may have their own favourites — so sharing the titles can be a good idea. Counterpunch is one of these for me.

A bit like The Elements of Typographic Style, Letters of Credit, or The Stroke, Counterpunch can have a sort of messianic effect. When I was in college, I saw one student inspired to start cutting his own punches. It took me longer to move toward typeface design, but once I did, I was lucky to come across Counterpunch again. The note on my halftitle page reminds me that I bought it in March 2004. My copy has been well-worn ever since.



Most common typographic literature seems to be written in English these days, even by writers with other first languages. Whereas aspiring designers in continental Europe or other parts of the world may have problems parsing the lyrical texts of say, Robert Bringhurst, Smeijers writes with a direct, beautiful clarity. Is this a trait of his native Dutch? In many regards, if you aren’t a native English-speaker, Counterpunch might be a good first typography book; or at least your English-language one.


Smeijers’ commentary on written strokes, how these relate to letters or words, and the different kinds of letter-making are worth the price of admission alone. This book, and much of his work itself, seems to have arisen out of a need to describe typography to engineers — but they are both more than just simple explanations. Each chapter could stand alone as a single lesson on a given topic. They work together, but separately form a collection of references that may be revisited individually at any time. I will spare you a repetition of Counterpunch’s contents and highlights — that would be like giving away the ending of a film. This is a review, not a summary.

Just as one cannot become a photographer by reading a book about Photoshop, typeface design is not about learning how to use FontLab, or even about learning how to control vector outlines. Many aspirants become seduced by flashy help guides, and think that simple software knowledge will take them to their goal. Smeijers explains how the masters of the past made type in actual size, at a “resolution” of c. 2540 dpi. Only a few names are mentioned in this book; that might be because these characters have each shaped the way that writing in the West would appear for centuries. The ways by which sixteenth century punchcutters thought is what must be comprehended, not the newest key combinations in the latest software programmes.

Software itself will offer no help — it is just a means to an end. This book hardly mentions font creation applications at all. Counterpunch could have been written today, or at any time since the mid-1980s. It doesn’t matter, because it gets to the root of typeface design rather quickly. Typeface design is about the interplay between black and white shapes. I know that this idea might sound cliché because you can read about it in every type designer interview. If you’ve seen the Helvetica movie, then you have heard it there, too. Isn’t there a clip on the Internet somewhere where Erik Spiekermann mentions it? This repetition is the truth. So take that clip of Erik’s voice and turn it up to 11. Then play it on auto-repeat.

Toward the end of Counterpunch, Smeijers’ tone takes on the timbre of a Jeremiah in the wilderness, a message that extends into Type Now. The methods we use in our work may not include the best possibilities, and it this reminder that can only be of benefit to us. Smeijers’ work illustrates tendencies that may be followed in word and deed. How many of us today are better, quicker, and more deliberate because of this book?



Counterpunch is more than a book. It is also a love letter to Hendrik van den Keere and a type specimen for the Renard family. The reader will find much to discover, such as sound definitions for a few old terms, a narrative of a father–son relationship, commentary on a Harry Carter translation of a Pierre Simon Fournier tract; or information about the French punchcutter Pierre Haultin, who is more obscure than he deserves! Over 12 years, Counterpunch has meant many things to its readers. What it means to me today is an unsettling feeling, deep inside my gut. The feeling asks me, “Is Smeijers serious? Should I really turn a working method on it’s head? Is it a better to draw the counters first?”

I think so. Draw your letters from the inside out – they will be better.

[Dan Reynolds is a postgraduate student in typeface design as well as a foundry
copywriter. You can see his personal blog at www.typeoff.de

Sunday Type: Present Type

The Gift of Christmas Type

Christmas is fast approaching, and I’ve resisted the temptation to add snow and tinsel to my header. There will be no snow on this blog. I’m sure that most of you—being incredibly well-organised—will have completed your Christmas shopping by now. For those who haven’t, here are some gift ideas for those who love type. Depending on your budget (and how much you like the intended recipient), there’s something for just about everyone.

For typenuts with a sweet tooth, how about this:


I don’t recommend typesetting an entire book with these. Thanks to Mark for sending me this link.

Start your day with a coffee in one of these. Type and Latte combined; could it get any better?


Via the wonderful Hoefler & Frere-Jones (always a great place for beautiful type-related things). Or, how about these absolutely stunning Wood Type Notecards:


Have a secret crush on Zuzana Licko? (me too. Guess it’s no longer a secret; but then how could anyone fail to fall for the woman behind Mrs Eaves and Emigre magazine?) Then buy an Emigre t-shirt, and relive the good old days of the best Design magazine ever to grace the news-stands.


Still on the t-shirt theme, why not a Typophile t-shirt. You’ll have to wait until the New Year for the I Love Typography T-shirts, I’m afraid.

Typophile t-shirts

Buy a great T-shirt and at the same time support our favourite source of quality free fonts, Exljbris:


Fallen in love with a typenut? Win her heart, by putting the FontBook in her stocking—you’ll need a big stocking, preferably with steel reinforcement as this one weighs in at a pretty hefty 3kg (6.6 lb)!


YouTube Preview Image

How about a type sample book? Why not make your own. Have a friend who loves Template Gothic or who’s crazy for Meta Serif, Feijoa or Kinescope? Make a sample book and get it printed at BookSmart.


For Type Sample inspiration and tips, see Ellen Lupton’s web site, or ask one of the friendly type designers here.

Don’t forget to buy yourselves something for Christmas. And what better gift than a typeface. Here are a few to get you started:







There are many more in the black sidebar on the right, or you can peruse the vast FontFont library of fonts. Or, how about a type book? Choose from the recommended books above and to your right (unless you’re reading this standing on your head); or take a look at one of these:


I have all but Letters of Credit (recommended by Dan of TypeOff [happy birthday]); I’ve read all the others and can recommend them.

Other News

For those of you who like your type without counters, you’ll like this:


Lost Type

My flight was cancelled after a scary aborted take-off, so I had to fly via Amsterdam and South Korea; and in all that chaos, I lost my type design notebooks! No great loss to the world, but annoying nonetheless.

Budget Type

And if you’re really broke, then why not send your friends a life-time subscription to I Love Typography. It’s completely free, and always will be. That way you’ll be giving me the gift of a new visitor too :)

Coming Soon

The third part in the type terminology series—Transitional Type. Also an article on Serifs—really a long-overdue follow-up to the Who Shot the Serif? article; and much more.

Have a great Sunday everyone, and a typographically lovely Christmas.

Logo, Font, and Lettering Bible

Book Review By Cody Curley

Welcome to my review of the Logo, Font and Lettering Bible by Leslie Cabarga. There was some talk of this book in the comments of a past article on this beautiful blog. Someone mentioned something of the cover; I think it was me. Anyway, I think it is an absolute atrocity. Considering that this a book about logos and lettering, should there not be an entirely sexy typographic cover? The answer my fellow typophiles is, yes! Yes, there should be.

Logo, Font, and Lettering Bible. Cover.I have separated this review into three sections: content, typography and layout, and usability. There isn’t really much I can say here without expressing my opinions subjectively, but I hope that some of the points I make help you decide whether or not this book is for you.


Leslie covers a lot of topics in this book. There is everything, from basic logo rules, general typography guidelines, how to start making your font (forms, kerning, hints, and directions), font creation software; and finally, even some professional advice.

Here is a look at an excerpt from the contents taken directly from the author’s website. Brace yourself.

PART 1: The Logo……………………14
Defining the Logo Type……………………………………………………………16
Logo Design in Deutschland 32;
Karl Schulpig, Logo Meister 34
How to Design a Logo in 3 Quasi-Easy Steps…………………………………….36
Step 1: Immersion 37;
Step 2: Creative Copying 38;

What a Logo Is, What a Logo Is Not 41;
Step 3: Thumbnail & Comp 42
144 Logo Layouts 52;
Typestyles Categorized 56;
A Date With Numerals 58
PART 2: Drawing Letters………60

I know what you are thinking: “Cody, are you mad?! Why have you gone and spaced the numbers using an abnormal amount of periods?” Well folks, I hate to break it to you, but I didn’t. The author of this logo, type, and lettering bible did. For the unabridged contents, visit the author’s site.

I’m going to give you the bad part of the content first, so here we go. The main thing that really got me with this book was the organization. This book jumps all over the place and half the time I was skipping through the pages to find the next step of turning the “S” I just drew into a font. Next, the actual logos and examples chosen to support the writing are horrible. The only things I stopped to look at were the historical resources used in the book. A number of the posters and illustrations presented in the book are from the early days of logo design and type setting. However, those are by far the nicest imagery in this book. I know, I am shooting down this book, so let’s move onto to some positive points. I think it’s about time or else you might stop reading here.

Now, once you get past the horrible examples, the book includes some solid and useful information. Leslie covers some really good points and things to think about when creating a logo or font. There are some clear steps on how to start your project. He looks at the thought process, sketching, and illustrating; also breaking down glyphs into groups and suggesting the order in which you should be designing your letters and characters. There are also many different type styles covered: calligraphic, hand written, serif, sans serif, tech’, etc. When breaking down the fonts he only does so for the two main styles (serif and sans serif), but he does it well.


After that it kind of jumps right into illustrator techniques and things to remember. Tutorials in the book are quite easy to follow but, toward the end of the book, those tutorials become less easy to follow. It’s almost as though he ran out of steam towards the end of the book and abbreviated everything. After illustrator techniques we jump back to importing your fonts into a font program. He touches on kerning pairs and general rules of thumb for typography and type setting, but not in any particular detail.

The last section of the book, the “Business Section” is sparsely illustrated with some hints on how to be a successful designer for a living (if only it were that easy). A lot of it is useful, but mostly things you learned in design school or at least in any rudimentary business class. Now, on to the most important part:

Typography and Layout

Grab the arm of your chair, tie off a rubber band, bite into a piece of wood, and get ready for this! It’s going to be a very bumpy ride. I really don’t know what to say. For a type and lettering book, the layout and typography is a crime. However, I would rather let you decide this for yourself, so I took some scans of the title spreads for a few sections as well as the contents spread; this is where that piece of wood I mentioned earlier comes into play. Bite that sucker now!



This book’s usability really ranges from beginners to professionals. The logo section and illustrator tutorials are obviously focused towards people who have no design training, or very little at least. The information and hints for font creation is geared toward a more intermediate or advanced crowd. There is no way someone who doesn’t know what kerning is will even think about creating a font.

The information on font creation software (although limited) is definitely for those who have looked at them or have opened them before thinking about creating a font. However, the author does do a pretty solid comparison of the three major font creation applications.


If you have a few extra dollars lying around the house and want to grab a book with some useful information for getting started on creating a font, then by all means, buy Logo, Font, and Lettering Bible. Hell, there are over 200 pages; perhaps 30 of those are worth keeping. You could just rip out the remaining pages and use them as newspaper for when you decide to ink your fonts with a fountain pen. Harsh, I know, but true.
[Cody is a Communication Designer. You can see his personal blog here.]

Coming Soon:

The biggest Sunday Type ever. Let’s call it a Christmas Special Sunday Type.

Sunday Type: Freudian Type

The Psychopathology of Fonts

Yet another week whizzes by. I’m in the UK now. I must say, that living in Japan, I don’t miss the British weather. First, apologies to everyone who tried to access iLT yesterday, and got a blank page. My host Media Temple has been dreadful of late. iLT was off-line for over seven hours. Their Grid-Service hosting is turning out to be a waste of time, so I’ll be looking for a decent host.

Anyway, back to Sunday Type. I’ve added some typefaces to the December Fonts in the sidebar. Be sure to check them out. I’m quite a fan of National and Rongel in particular. Tired of Helvetica? Then buy National.

I recently came across the blog davidthedesigner.com and am enjoying it. I really like the idea of his recent first post in an ambitious series of 52—52 fonts you could use instead of Helvetica; the idea is to choose two fonts for each of the letters of the alphabet, posting them weekly. Strictly speaking the types he chooses will not be drop-in replacements for Helvetica, but I like the idea, and it was enough to make me a subscriber. Richard from the wonderful Ace Jet 170 also wrote a guest post for David’s blog (never Dave), titled Psycho-fontology (only Richard could come up with a title like that). Anyway, the post is well worth a read, as he analyses what our font libraries reveal about our personalities.

If Freud was checking out your Font Book or Suitcase what would he think? We all know horizontal scaling suggests criminal tendencies but what would he make of the habitual setting of Bembo or Bliss?

Another David sent me this ad. I think I need to have another toilet tissue category for these.

And, no, I did not model for this video.

Feeling Hungry?

Well, get on down to the Font Diner and ‘fill your boots’. In looking for a typeface to describe my mood when iLT went off-line yesterday, I found the free font Xerker (which rhymes with berserker[well, kind of]), which I’ve used to set the header for this post.

Font Diner

Alec Julien, who is fast becoming a regular iLT contributor with his So You Want to Create a Font Series, and his recent Case Study, has just launched another sans serif called Loge.

Type For Kids

I’m still working on the Type For Kids article. The idea is to propose ways of introducing type and type design to young children. If you have ideas, or have any experience in this field, then do send me a mail. You might be surprised to know how often I receive emails asking for my opinion on this topic.

I’m not sure what to make of this next item brought to my attention by Dan Reynolds from TypeOff: The Ascender Hanukkah Card Kit Font.

This package contains five Certified TrueType fonts and five Hanukkah Card templates ready for customizing in Microsoft Word.

I wonder if anyone has ideas for a similar set of fonts for Christmas.

700 Penguins

I’ve just bought a copy of Seven Hundred Penguins—this is the sort of book you’d expect to find on Richard’s (of Ace Jet 170 fame) bedside table. It’s a book that will be of interest to book designers, graphic designers, those with an interest in type…well, just about anyone really. Would make a great Christmas present too. 700 hundred covers from Penguin-published books, spanning some 70-odd years. If you’re ever lacking inspiration, then a quick flick through this tome, will recharge your creative batteries.

seven hundred penguins book

Oddly enough, I couldn’t find this title on Amazon.com. However, it is available on Amazon.co.uk.

Meta + Meta Sans Candidate?

I bought a copy of New Scientist magazine the other day, and had a thought: presently it uses Fago (I think) for titles and Luc de Groot’s TheAntiqua for the body. I just thought that this magazine would be a good candidate for FF Meta and FF Meta Serif for titling and running text respectively. Just thinking aloud really. Any thoughts?

100 Best Fonts

I’m always being pressed to publish a list of good fonts, or a list of my favourite types. Perhaps I will at some stage. In the meantime there’s a wonderful list called Die 100 Besten Schriften (100 Best Fonts); this list has been around for a while, but it’s pretty good, and there’s also a good-looking PDF to download—containing samples of most of the faces in the list (does anyone know if this list is available in English translation?).


One of my favourite typefaces (I adore it), Martin Majoor’s Scala, is in 34th position; would have liked to see it higher up the list. How about you? Are there glaring omissions, or would your own list of 100 look similar?


Today Julian Schrader posted about a free, rather handsome-looking catalogue available from Typografie.com. I’ve requested a copy, though I’m not sure whether they will post for free outside of Germany. Anyway, if you take a look at Julian’s Very Nice Typography Inspiration post, you’ll find details on how to order your copy.

If you read German, then they have a wonderful selection of Typography titles.

Where Questions Mean Prizes

Coming soon is an interview with Kris Sowersby. I’d like to include a question from readers, so if you’d like to ask Kris a question (preferably type related), then leave it in the comments below, or mail me. If your question is chosen, then you’ll win a copy of 700 Penguins (the book, not 700 penguins. Only one copy available, so if several people have the same question, then I’ll choose a winner at random).

Have a great Sunday.

Font Creation Case Study: Joules

By Alec Julien

Always looking for typographic inspiration, I bought a cheap calligraphic pen set over the summer, convinced that my doodles with it would make some magical letterforms. A week and dozens of pages later, I was left without anything interesting or vaguely artistic. Then, one night, tired and despairing, and having run out of black ink, I plugged in a red cartridge, and sketched out the alphabet that would soon become the Joules family. I thought it might be interesting for some of you if I documented some of the font-creation process with this case-study.

Here’s one of the many pages I sketched that night:

Joules initial drawing

And a closeup:

Joules initial drawing, closeup

Here’s a super closeup of the capital A I wound up using.

Joules A closeup

From Sketch to Font

The process I used to create Joules from my sketches is the very same process I outlined in my previous articles on font creation. I scanned in the page, and here’s what it looks like in Photoshop after changing the scan into a black-and-white bitmap.

Joules A black-and-white

Notice how the rough spots in the original drawing come through in the bitmap image:

Joules A rough spots

Joules A black-and-white rough spots

I usually clean up the bitmap image before importing it into FontLab, but didn’t in this case. Here’s the first pass importing the bitmap into ScanFont:

Initial pass in ScanFont

And the ScanFont closeup:

A in ScanFont

I copied the new glyph and pasted it into the appropriate slot in FontLab. To give you a taste of what sort of tweaking goes on in FontLab, I’ve zoomed in here on the rough “A”. I selected a trouble spot:

Closeup in FontLab

And started the tweaking by deleting some offensive nodes:

Closeup in FontLab

One of the big things to balance when tweaking glyphs in FontLab is the temptation to smooth out all of the outlines versus the temptation to leave lots of rough spots to keep the font interesting. I’ve discovered the hard way that with handwriting fonts you don’t want to smooth out all the rough spots, as that begins to rob some of the handwritten feeling of the letters.

Composite Glyphs to the Rescue

One of the neat time-saving features of FontLab is automated character composition. In this case, I’ve created an “A”, and I’ve created a “grave”:

A plus Grave

And now I double-click on the cell for “A-Grave”…

A plus Grave double click

…and FontLab creates a composite glyph:

A plus Grave composite

At this point, if you edit the “A” or the “Grave”, the changes will be immediately reflected in the “A-Grave” composite.


As mentioned in my previous article on font creation, setting good sidebearings is an important step. (For one thing, good sidebearings make for easier kerning!) For initially tweaking my glyphs, I generally set rough, small, positive sidebearings. My “y” sidebearings looked like this during my initial editing:

y sidebearings

The problem with these sidebearings can be illustrated by looking at the initial kerning setup for an “ay” pair:

a-y sidebearings with kerning

I could’ve just left the sidebearings as they were and kerned the “y” closer to the “a” (and, after that, kerned the “y” closer to every other character), but it’s much easier (and saner) to set a negative sidebearing for the left side of the “y”:

y negative sidebearings

Here’s what the initial kerning looks like with these better sidebearings:

a-y negative sidebearings with kerning


Oh, the hours of fun I had kerning this font! I’ll spare you the boring details. But here’s one example of kerning at work. Before kerning:

A V pre kerning

And after kerning:

A V post kerning


I created a bunch of ligatures in Joules that one could manually select and apply in a typesetting project:

Joules ligatures

And here’s how I went about creating one of them. First of all, here’s how the “z” and “a” would normally sit next to each other:

z and a

I could have kerned the pair so that they overlapped in an aesthetically pleasing fashion, but the responsible thing to do was to create a “z-a” ligature. Step 1, create a blank glyph, and copy the “z” and the “a” into it:

z and a, pre-ligature

Step 2, cut the outlines so that they can be joined in the appropriate place:

z and a, pre-ligature...

Step 3, remove the excess:

z and a, pre-ligature...

Step 4, move the glyphs closer together:

z and a, pre-ligature...

Step 5, connect the dots:

z and a ligature

Intelligent Ligatures

One thing that didn’t make it into my first release of Joules is intelligent ligatures: a technology that I just recently learned how to create. (It means the end of TrueType fonts as we know them, as making intelligent ligatures requires you to use OpenType font technology.) I’ll spare you the details here, but it involves opening up a special OpenType panel in FontLab, and basically doing some scripting to make the ligature glyphs you’ve created come alive in ligature-aware software. It looks a little something like this:

Ligature definitions


Here’s the result, after all the tweaking and kerning:


I went on to make an italic version (really more of an oblique version, for you purists out there), and then bold, bold italic, and black. If anyone’s interested, I could detail some of what went into that process.

[Alec Julien is a web developer and amateur typographer living in Vermont, US. He dreams of someday living somewhere warm, and typesetting a novel.]


Sunday Type: Crap Type

La Twist et le Prix

Ever since my dreadful toilet paper analogy, that innocuous little roll has been haunting me. Here it is again, from SwissMiss:


And on the same theme here is some more type. This one is called Twist:


It’s one of those typefaces that should come with a health warning rather than a license. And you’ll probably never guess who created this typeface. Well, if I tell you this is one of Christian Schwartz’s early efforts, would you believe me? It’s hard to believe that the same guy who was on the team that created FF Meta Serif created the above…what can say? What adjective is worthy of the above typeface? Well, let me quote Christian himself:

this is the worst of my worst. This typeface is god-awful. It was an experiment in building characters in a modular way that didn’t really work out, and I apologize to anyone who actually bought a copy.

I think it’s thoroughly refreshing—even inspiring—that such a distinguished type designer can show the world some of his own type disasters. So if your early efforts at type design look anything like the above, then don’t despair; you could go on to create something truly brilliant like FF Bau, FF Unit, or Neutraface. I wonder if there are any other type designers out there who’d like to share some of their duds?


Interestingly, Christian was something of a child type prodigy, releasing his first typeface, aged…wait for it…14! Also, I’m sure you’ll join with me in congratulating Christian on being awarded the eighth Prix Charles Peignot. A wonderful achievement. Jean François Porchez (former winner of the prize himself, and outgoing president of ATypI), had this to say,

His accomplished work displays incredible diversity and high quality. ATypI is honored to have him amongst its members.

The news item on the ATypI site says, “A booklet commemorating this year’s award has been published by the Association.” Does anyone know how to get hold of this? Can it be purchased?

Search and You Shall Find

Now that iLT is growing (in terms of the number of articles), it’s time to have a search option. That feature should be live next week.


Thousands of you have already downloaded the iLT wallpapers. Lots more new ones have recently been submitted; I’ll post them to the site upon my return home to Japan.


One reader (he shall remain anonymous—for his own safety) submitted an I Love Erik Spiekermann wallpaper set in Arial; the most ironic submission thus far. Anyway, although his wallpaper made me smile, it won’t be available for download.

Sizing Text in CSS

Richard Rutter has written an excellent article on How to Size text in CSS for A List Apart. And if you haven’t read Richard’s The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web, then do.

If you got excited about the release of Meta Serif, you will love The Making of FF Meta Serif on Unzipped. A fascinating insight into the work that goes into making a good typeface.


Alec Julien brought my attention to this book design review blog. Some great covers, and some nice type.


A Tale of Tortured Type

Lauren Marie kindly sent me this link. A wonderful example of what not to do with type. It will take you about 0.2 seconds to spot this little gem. This one is so bad it hurts. Perhaps we need a rogues gallery; perhaps it could be named in honour of this logo—something like Beyond Bad Type. And if you don’t know your points from your picas, then head on over to Lauren’s Using Points and Picas post.

And finally…

I won’t be posting as frequently during the next two weeks; I hope you can be patient. Upon my return home to Japan, we’ll have a type feast. I’m really excited about what’s to come on iLT. We have some big names lined up, and some real quality content to come, from typeface reviews, a series of articles on the language of type, some new faces, biographies, interviews, and lots, lots more. You’re going to be so filled with type goodness, that you’ll need to take a vacation between posts.

I’ve been thoroughly impressed by all your contributions, and even the attitude of the professional typographers and type designers who kindly educate and inspire through their words in the comments. I get as much pleasure from reading the comments as I do from writing for iLT. Thanks, everyone, and have a great week.

History of typography: Old Style

In the first part of this series, we looked at Humanist typefaces; we considered them in their historical context, and took a closer look at some of their distinguishing features and modern-day revivals. Today we’re moving along the time line and will spend a little time familiarising ourselves with some wonderful Old Style typefaces.

Humanist types, we discovered, have strong roots in calligraphy. Old style types, although they owe much to the same roots, show a marked departure from simply mimicking the handwriting of earlier Italian scholars and scribes. It’s from this period, that we can really see type getting into gear. It’s certainly one of the most exciting periods in type history.

old style characteristics

Old Style traits

The Old Style (or Garalde) types start to demonstrate a greater refinement—to a large extent augmented by the steadily improving skills of punchcutters. As a consequence the Old Style types are characterised by greater contrast between thick and thin strokes, and are generally speaking, sharper in appearance, more refined. You can see this, perhaps most notably in the serifs: in Old Style types the serifs on the ascenders are more wedge shaped (figure1.1).

Another major change can be seen in the stress of the letterforms (figure 1.2) to a more perpendicular (upright) position. You may remember our old friend, the lowercase e of the Humanist (Venetian) types, with its distinctive oblique (sloping) crossbar; with Old Style types we witness the quite sudden adoption of a horizontal crossbar (figure 1.3). I spent quite a time trying to discover why the lowercase e should change so dramatically. After searching high and low, and opening just about every type book I own, I decided to post the question on Typophile. Space doesn’t permit to recount the entire tale here, but for those interested in such details, then head on over to the Typophile e crossbar thread. (Thanks to Nick Shinn, David et. al. for their valuable input).

The First Italic Type

And, as we’re on the topic of dramatic changes, during this period we see the very first italic type in 1501. They were first created, not as an accompaniment to the roman, but as a standalone typeface designed for small format or pocket books, where space demanded a more condensed type. The first italic type, then, was conceived as a text face.

Griffo’s contribution to roman type include an improved balance between capitals and lowercase, achieved by cutting the capitals slightly shorter than ascending letters such as b and d, and by slightly reducing the stroke weight of the capitals.
A Short History of the Printed Word, Chappell and Bringhurst, page 92

The Old Style types can be further divided into four categories as in the figure below, and span the roman types from Francesco Griffo to William Caslon I. Unlike the relatively short-lived Humanist faces, the Old Style faces held sway for more than two centuries; a number of them are still popular text faces today.

old style chart

Typeface names in red; notable figures below.

Old Style faces

And here are some more Old Style faces: Berling, Calisto, Goudy Old Style, Granjon, Janson, Palatino, Perpetua, Plantin, Sabon and Weiss, to name but a few.


So have you enjoyed our brief introduction to the Old Style types? For those of you who would like to test your knowledge, which of these is generally classified as Old Style:

Times New Roman, Baskerville, Concorde, ITC Cheltenham

And, for the type-masochists among you (I fear you are in the majority), here is some Old Style homework:

1. Where does the term Garalde originate?
2. Who commissioned Claude Garamond to cut the grecs du roi?
3. Most modern-day italics are not based on the first Aldine italic (1501) cut by Griffo. What are they modelled on?
4. What is the meaning of the term “Humanist axis”?
5. Owing to a bit of a mix-up, the Janson typeface is named after Nicholas Janson. Who should it be named after?

If you know the answers, then comment away; if you don’t have a clue, then no need to worry. I thought that by posing these questions, everyone could get involved, and that way we can all learn something.

In part three, we’ll take a look at Transitional typefaces. I hope that you’re enjoying the series, thus far. If you have any comments or suggestions, then get typing in the comments section below.

I’ll be in the UK for the next couple of weeks, so won’t be posting so often. However, upon my return we’ll be back to normal. There’s a whole lot more type lovin’ to come, so stay tuned.
footnote divider
Read Part Three: Transitional Style

Sunday Type

National Feijoa

Is it really Sunday again? Well, for some of you it will be Saturday, so here’s your Saturday/Sunday—or better still— Weekend Type. Oh, but first a quick announcement: the great response to the announcement of FF Meta Serif took us beyond the half a million page views. Thanks to everyone for being a part of that; more importantly, thanks for your contributions, your enthusiasm and support.

OK, so on with the show. Those of you who read the FF Meta Serif piece will know the name Kris Sowersby; he’s one-third of the trinity that worked on the serif version of Spiekermann’s ubiquitous FF Meta. I’m not sure which one he is, but I guess that Erik Spiekermann is the Father, so he’s either the Son or the Holy Ghost.

For those of you who don’t know Kris, he’s a professional type designer from New Zealand, and the man behind the typographic design studio KLIM (not to be confused with KLM, the Dutch airline). He’s also the designer of the sans serif National,


National is a deceptively simple sans serif with subtle quirks in the details that give it a distinctive—but not distracting—personality.

and the gorgeous serif typeface, Feijoa:


For those who like to drool over type designers’ sketches, then head on over to Kris’ sketches page (go fetch a napkin first).


Kris has kindly agreed to review some typefaces here on iLT, so stay tuned. I’ll try to arrange an interview too.

Other news:

Upon reading the So You Want to Create a Font series, Dan Reynolds a student on Reading University’s MA in Typeface Design (also designed Morris Sans and is Linotype’s Editor of Font Content), sent me some great links to additional resources:

Student blogs:

Paul Hunt | Sébastien Sanfilipp | Alice Savoie

and a site showcasing the work from the MA Typeface Design class of 2007.


You can read Dan’s own TypeOff blog here.

Well, time for me to get back to writing Type Terminology: Old Style, the follow-up to the Humanist article.

Oh, just one more thing (almost forgot): I’ve created a few desktop wallpapers and a RSS Feed Desktop Widget. If you’d like to share the love, then why not make your own desktop wallpaper and upload it.

Have a great weekend, everyone.


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