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Briem’s notes on type design: Imitation

How to use your eyes

Print out large samples of a few typefaces. Look at them all day. After a while, you may start noticing things you hadn’t before.

How many curves make a comma? These four are from Bodoni, Times, Helvetica, and BriemAkademi. The concept is simple. Each shows a different approach.

When you struggle with an stubborn problem, ask yourself this. Hasn’t somebody found a solution already?

Learn from the masters

Do you want examples of proper digitation? Bigleow and Holmes’s Lucida demonstrates that all typefaces aren’t created equal. Craftsmanship still lives. (But for a good laugh, look at the digitation of early Helvetica releases.) Select designs you trust. How thick should you make the hyphen? What is a good height for parentheses? Don’t reinvent the wheel. Go and look.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting you trawl through type catalogues, purloining from your betters. Let me show you what I do have in mind.

A close shave

The letter d in the design Franklin Gothic doesn’t at first glance seem an exercise in subtlety. Look again. The white wedge-shape, where the lower part of the bowl joins the stem, has been cleverly augmented.

This enlargement shows the curve meeting the stem. Simple logic would place the left side of the stem at the thin vertical line. The small retreat to the right is no accident. It is quality work.

See also: How to imitate spacing.

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