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Briem’s notes on type design: How to polish

Improved version

The grid was useful to get us started. Now it’s time to work on a few details. That’s the second stage.

At this point it’s useful to print out text samples in various sizes for scrutiny. Here are a few details that obviously need help.

On the left, the diagonals of the letter A are too thick. They get thinner, step by step, toward the right. I like best the fourth from the left. The same thickness can be used in the letters V and v. And the diagonal of the letter N is worth testing, too.

The letter a on the left looks top-heavy. That’s how it came off the grid.

In the letter on the right, the top left curve of has been shifted slightly to the right, which greatly improves the balance.

The ascenders and descenders are longer than they need be.

Here the ascenders and descenders have been shortened. This has made the letters more compact. Let’s take a look at four details.

The ascender of the letter f on the right is shorter. The upper side of the crossbar has also been moved down to keep more white counterspace between the two horizontals.

The ascender of the letter d on the left fits the grid. The ascender of the letter b next to it is about 12% shorter.

The descender of the letter g on the left fits the grid. The descender of the letter g on the right is shorter, and the horizontal part of it thinner. If we had very little room for a descender, we could also have shortened the bowl itself.

The diagonal of the letter K on the left is the same thickness from top to bottom. This creates a large area of black where it meets the horizontal. In the letter on the right, the diagonal tapers slightly.

This is how you polish a design. You use your eyes. You make small changes. Few will be noticed on their own. Together they make a difference. There’s more to do, of course. We won’t go into further details at this stage. But this is how it’s done.

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