Skip to content

Briem’s notes on type design: Decisions

How to get from sketch to character set

The hardest part is making up your mind. Drawing a shape you are certain about takes little effort. Know what you want, and you’re halfway home. If you don’t, I recommend two methods of finding out.

One. Test and compare

Gradual variations is the best way I know for making design choices. And the computer does much of the work for you.

Inspiration also has its place, but it usually needs a good shove. Details bump into each other. Confusion looms. That’s when a method will save you.

Two. Look hard at masterpieces

Matthew Carter made Bell Centennial to withstand high-speed printing, rough paper and cheap ink. Compensation for rough handling is built right into the design. You want to learn about ink traps? Study the shape of the inside corners.

Great designers don’t lock away their secrets in a vault somewhere. They, too, run into technical problems. They find solutions, and put them into their work.

“How can I look for solutions?” a correspondent asks. “I don’t even know what the problems are.” Don’t worry. As a whole, type design may seem daunting. One detail at a time is much easier. Together, we’ll take a look at a few.

Notes on type design. Copyright © 1998, 2001, 2022 Gunnlaugur SE Briem. All rights reserved. Republished with permission in 2022 by Fontlab Ltd.