June 2012

newsletter #7 typeface design eraser ha! yes!

Typeface Designers: Men or Gods?

When it comes to a simple comic font, we’re solidly in the realm of men.
Allow me to wax archaic. A “font” is defined as all the characters (or “sorts”) of a particular size in a particular typeface.

It’s like those Archaics had a word for everything! But since the last of the physical letters on blocks of wood has long since been thrown at pigeons, the word has been freed up to be synonymous with “typeface.” I’ll try to accept that, but only because there are newer, space-age things to throw at pigeons.

Full-time type designers need not only have a good throwing arm, but also a unique sense of design and the ability to carry their vision over 52 letters and assorted punctuations, diacriticals and hoo-haws, while paying meticulous attention to the continuity of every stroke, serif and counter. So I started with a simple one. It seemed easier than learning what “counter” means.

HaHaHayes evolved over years of lettering my cartoons. As a comic, hand-lettered font, irregularity is tolerated, but it still needs to look like it all came from the same gene pool, even if that pool is slightly, shall we say, Appalachian.

I scanned samples of every glyph, and developed new ones I hadn’t previously used, such as the Euro sign. . . which may be obsolete by the time you get this. Even though it’s an all-capitals face, you can still exercise your shift key: there are two versions of every letter, the variety increasing the hand-drawn feel (note the two A’s in “anatomy,” above). Then they were imported into Illustrator, for redrawing as vector items.

From there, the cast of characters and I plunged into Fontographer, a free fontmaking software, and tweaked things like how much space a letter will take and where it sits on the baseline. It only operates in Unix, though, which makes me nervous. It sounds too much like, you know, another word. So I crossed my legs and got around that via my son-like 14-year old geek named Alex, who made it Mac-friendly. I highly recommend this tactic.

I’m reminded of the author who said, “I don’t know why anyone would write a book when it’s so easy to just buy one.” I’ve learned the same thing is true with typefaces. Whatever the foundry is charging, it’s worth it. While some are simple like mine, others have multiple weights and special letter combinations called “ligatures.” So that’s the big reason for  price differences: the amount of time it takes to develop a font (plus the star power of the designer).

So I think I’ll just buy my next font, even if I can’t name it after myself. But in the future? I’ll have to come up with a weighty, streamlined one with wicked, pointed serifs, ideally suited for hurling at angry birds.

Just do it now

Usually, if somebody will need new business cards, they wait until they have two left. But that’s okay, since rush charges make us feel good all over. If they need their look redesigned, though, they’ll jump right on it when they have three cards left. If the second scenario describes you—whether the need is cards or brochures or logo or new web presence or design for shaving onto your cat—you can call me now.

I won’t mind. Really. It’s the summer doldrums, and I have enough time that I can write a newsletter.

Wire-brush erasers

I recently had an excuse to use some of the cool newer erasers Photoshop offers. The timing is perfect, because I’ve been doing an outdoor painting project where I’ve been getting a refresher course on what old, painted wood looks like. You can see some of the  weathered effect above, where I used a textured eraser on the paint layer, exposing bits of the wooden frame. The whole poster is below. (In reality, it’s 26″ tall.)

Praise It or Raze It

Is there a visual component of your business you’re not sure about? your sign, your logo, your ads, writing, packaging, posters, stationery, avocado sculpture theme? Ask me for an opinion; I surely have one. For free. If everything looks fine, I’ll tell you. And if there are minor changes you can make to the art or copy, I’ll blurt those out. If the whole thing would be better off scrapped, I’ll put on a somber hat and deliver the sad news.