The 30-Day Type Design Challenge

This month, I’m going to try to design a complete typeface in 30 days. Yes, yes, I know… typefaces take about 600 hours. Well, I’ll have you know that there are 720 hours in a 30-day period! That leaves four hours per night for sleep.

Okay, you caught me; I don’t expect to spend every single waking moment working on this. Nor do I plan to lose sleep for it. At least, not that much sleep. Here is what I plan to do:

  • Primary goal: Create a usable, decent typeface in 30 days.
  • Secondary goal: Learn the type design software, ins-and-outs, and some finer points for future designs.

Those two goals shouldn’t take 600 hours, but then again, it’s not called a “challenge” for nothing.

Background

I’ve never designed a full, truly usable typeface. In 2014, I created Torch, a garbage font in two styles (regular and stencil) consisting of only letters and numbers. It was… bad. Then in 2015, I fiddled around in Adobe Illustrator, working on a humanist sans serif face, the seeds of which I might revisit during this challenge.

In other words, I’m a complete newbie when it comes to type design.

Software

Now onto the how. I won’t use Illustrator this time. I’ll use a real type-design program: FontLab Studio VI. It just came out at the end of 2017 and promises to include everything an aspiring type design could need.

I installed FontLab Studio VI back when the program was in Beta, but to be honest, I still have no clue how to use it (outside of the pen tool). Much of this challenge will revolve around the tools and methods themselves.

Rules

Every good challenge needs a solid set of rules. Here my restrictions for the month:

  1. All original—no copy/pasting from my previous letter-form designs.
  2. Can’t be a revival—I have access to scans of more than 300 old cases of lead type… I won’t touch those.
  3. Asking for help is allowed—maybe this isn’t a restriction, but I should clarify that asking for advice is good.

That’s all I can think of. If you think of some other juicy restrictions, leave them in the comments below and I’ll see about adding them!

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Update 1: January 2nd

Okay… 30 days is ambitious. I was fairly familiar with FontLab Studio 5, but I am having serious trouble here with VI.

They say to start with H, O, and P, so you have one rectangular letter, one curved letter, and one that’s a mix of both. H went well enough, but O is kicking my ass.

It’s not the drawing part that’s difficult (yet), it’s the fact that I can’t figure out how to cut the middle oval out of the larger oval. S.O.S.


Update 2: January 2nd (again)

Okay, I figured out how to cut the counter out of the O. Since figuring it out, I’ve forgotten again, but I’m sure it won’t be too difficult to retrace my steps.

Yes, I know these look bad, but the start of the month is just about figuring out the software. I even sent an S.O.S. via Twitter earlier tonight. Hopefully someone will hear my prayers, as there doesn’t seem to be much information on how to use this program. Then again, it’s brand new and I suppose that’s part of why I’m doing this challenge.


Update 3: January 9th

One week in… Caps are coming along. I’ve spent days battling an issue with FontLab where Copy/Paste crashes it without notice, making related groups of characters (O, C, Q, D, etc. for example) quite challenging.

Here are the characters I’ve whipped up so far:

And some examples up close:


Update 4: January 14th

Capitals are done! FontLab has crashed multiple times, and I’ve had to redesign several characters again and again… I trudge forward nonetheless.

Of particular note are characters K, J, B, R, and S, which will be fun to design in an ULTRA weight down the line.

Oh, and I just noticed that the bottom right leg of my X needs to be thickened.


Update 5: January 20th

Lower case slowly coming together. They’re definitely rough, though. Lots of bumps and a few undecided features. Also, one week in and I can’t get used to my own capital K… Is it ugly, or just different?

Here’s some letters put to good use. Also testing the relationship of capitals to lower case; enlarged, as pictured, they look good together—we’ll have to see when I set some body text though.

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