« Box o' Crack | Main | Archives | Passport Control »

Settling on Proportions

We had an informal group crit a couple of weeks ago, and it was good to get feedback from more people after so much time alone with my typeface. It was no surprise that there are still a bunch of glyphs I need to finesse, but overall the comments made it clear that I needed to take a good, hard look at the overall proportions before I got locked in any further. I had played with the ratio of the x-height to the ascenders and descenders a bit in the earlier stages of development, but it was hard to evaluate the differences when I was just making manual changes to a limited character set.

Since I’m mostly happy with the overall design of the alphabet — and since other people seem to agree that the proportions aren't quite right yet — I decided it was time to conquer my fear of multiple masters and run some tests. Luckily, setting up the masters was as easy as I’d hoped (although there's probably a more efficient way to do it than I did). I took the most recent version of the font for Master 1, and then made a copy with a few adjustments for Master 2:

  1. I increased the overall size by 110%

  2. I dropped the ascenders, descenders, and caps back down to their original heights.

  3. I decreased the overall size by 90.91% to restore the original x-height and horizontal metrics, but with short ascenders, descenders, and caps.

I combined the two versions into a multiple master with an optical scaling axis and started generating some instances for comparison, extrapolating a bit past the original masters just for good measure. Here are a few sample glyphs to show the range (highlighting the ones I’m leaning toward at the moment):

Overall comparison

Text was still easy enough to read at the far end of the scale, with the very short descenders and caps, but I think it would be too challenging for lengthy book text. Also, assuming that mathematical and technical texts will mix a lot of material in with typical text, a little bit more detail above the x-height ought to make it easier to pick out the symbols and formulas mixed in with the words. Also, I’d still like to leave a little room for the ascenders and descenders to contract for small optical sizes.

I noticed looking at the tests there seems to be a point at which individual letters start to become tricky to recognize on their own. They might still combine into recognizable word shapes, but as stand-alone symbols, they could be a little tricky to identify readily. At a certain point the extenders become so out of scale with the x-height counters that they look more like awkward stems than anything else. I think the sweet spot falls between the original and my test:


Around this point the extenders hold their own and the caps stop looking quite so condensed at they did in the original. I think an instance with slightly taller ascenders will be the best point from which to move forward. Once I pick the right one, I'll need to fix the curves and details and scale the whole set up to fit the em square better. I want to get these vertical proportions settled before I move onto the figures and italics, though, since those will be harder to scale.

Comments (0)

Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Remember me?

« Box o' Crack | Main | Archives | Passport Control »
Powered by Movable Type 5.04Creative Commons License