Use your words

A free book about creating new typefaces (using FontForge)

Design With FontForge is a free web book (also available in ePub, Mobi and PDF formats) about creating new typefaces. While much of it is geared towards working in FontForge, there is still plenty of general information, like this chapter on Creating Your Type’s DNA:

So, for instance, you may want to use “a d h e s i o n” to start with. This set of letters is what’s used in the type design MA course at the University of Reading, UK. An alternative is “v i d e o s p a n” which is used by the foundry Type Together to start their projects, and in their own type design workshops. Either set has enough DNA to be meaningful, and both are small, so they are easy to make ‘global’ changes to.

While it may be easiest to simply use one of the above sets of letters, you can also build your own. Ask yourself what set of letters you should pick to add to ‘n’ and ‘o’. Consider the following options:

  • ‘a’ — the letter ‘a’ is also a very common starting choice. The ‘a’ may also be useful in ‘anticipating what the terminals of the ‘s’ will look like.
  • ‘d’ — the shape of ‘d’ can let you know quite a lot about the design of ‘b’, ‘p’ and ‘q’.
  • ‘e’ — in English and many other languages, the letter ‘e’ is especially common — which ‘makes it especially valuable. The shape of ‘e’ can also be used to begin the design of ‘c’.
  • ‘h’ — while ‘h’ can be built fairly rapidly from the ‘n’, it also provides variety to the texture you want to test by offering an ascender.
  • ‘i’ — like ‘e’, the letter ‘i’ is fairly common and has the benefit of letting you know a little bit about the face of the ‘j’. The shape of ‘i’ is also partly inferable from the shape of the ‘n’.
  • ‘s’ — the letter ‘s’ is a good one to draw early on because it adds visual variety to the texture of the letters you will be testing. The letter ‘s’ is also unusually hard to get right, so starting on it early makes it more likely that you will be able to spend enough time to get it right by the end of the project.
    The terminals of the ‘s’ may sometimes be useful for anticipating what the terminals of ‘a’, ‘c’, ‘f’, ‘j’ and ‘y’ could be like.
  • ‘v’ — the letter ‘v’ is useful for anticipating what the ‘y’ and ‘w’ may be like.


A chart and a video explaining typeface design →

Shouf Baba Shouf
Use your words

Unified Arabic: an effort to simplify Arabic letters for printing and to aid literacy

In 1932 Lebanese architect Nasri Khattar developed a simplified Arabic script for printing and to aid literacy:

Unified Arabic (UA) is basically a set of 30 letterforms, one for each letter of the Arabic alphabet, plus hamza and lam alef, eliminating the variant forms that make reading and writing Arabic difficult for beginners.

Shouf Baba Shouf

Sample pages from the children’s book ‘Shouf Baba Shouf’. The UA forms are placed next to the traditional ones for direct comparison and learning.

The large number of Arabic letter variants made typing Arabic immensely complicated. Khattar realised that matters could be greatly simplified by distilling the hundreds of variant shapes into their most characteristic forms. The letters are designed to be representative of the streamlined spirit of Western civilisation: quick, mechanised and labour saving, similar to Latin type forms and proportions, which Khattar acknowledged as one of his inspirations.

In 1986, Nasri Khattar was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his lifelong Unified Arabic project and its implications for the fields of linguistics, literacy, printing, computers, and telecommunications. He was probably the only designer / typographer considered for the prestigious award.

In one sense, new technologies made Unified Arabic obsolete before it could overcome the massive obstacles opposing its adoption. But from another point of view, the issues that led to its development still demand resolution.

Fighting Illiteracy With Typography by Yara Khoury Nammour (via).

See also


The Origins and Formatting of Modern Screenplays

Filmmaker IQ: Screenwriting isn’t easy. Great story telling requires craft and insight – but it all starts with getting the proper formatting. Trace the roots of how the screenplay evolved from the earliest moving pictures, through the golden age of Hollywood and into the post-studio era.

See Also

(via Boing Boing)

See also: ‘Forensic retrocomputing’ discovers previously unknown Andy Warhol Amiga art from 1985

Craft and creativity

The best Logos from the Commodore Amiga Scene

A collection by Christian Kirchesch: “Originally this was supposed to be an article about the Top 20 Logos from Commodore Amiga. It ended up with 165. The more I digged into it, the more precious gems I found.”