The Art of Typeface Design: A Behind-the-Scenes Look

November 30, 2023
5 min read

I thrive on the excitement of creating something new. The art of typeface design coupled with the transformation of my sketches into a fully functional typeface is a truly exhilarating experience. The journey from idea to launch is filled with both obstacles and gratification. From the initial burst of inspiration to the meticulous adjustments of kerning, designing a typeface tests one's patience and ignites a deep passion for typography.

I'm B, a passionate type designer and the driving force behind Double Story Type. Spending time in the field of type design, I am eager to provide insights into the behind-the-scenes process of creating a typeface.

Sketching: Developing the Initial Concept for a New Typeface

As a type designer, my primary focus lies in the concept stage of my work. I derive immense inspiration from the real world, which serves as a guiding force for my creative direction. Uncovering captivating lettering in unexpected places is an unparalleled experience!

Selecting the perfect name is a pivotal step in typeface design. When the name strikes me, a clear vision of its visual and emotional essence instantly forms. To materialize this idea, I transfer it onto a canvas.

Once a concept for a new typeface takes shape, I eagerly reach for my sketchbook or iPad and begin creating. These initial sketches may be untidy, imperfect, and unpolished, but deliberately so. At this stage, aesthetics take a backseat; my aim is to capture and explore all ideas, experimenting with diverse stylistic options, and building upon the most promising ones.

Ideas manifest in various ways—some in a flash of inspiration, striking instantly; others evolve gradually through trial and error, continuously refining them in the digital realm. Whether working with tangible mediums or utilizing software like Adobe Illustrator, this stage thrives on exploration and playful experimentation with concepts. Once a collection of ideas is amassed, I proceed to the digital refinement process, employing specialized font editing software such as Glyphs App 3.

Digitizing: Bringing Ideas Into Font Design Software

Now we're getting into my favorite part! The true magic happens when I digitize my ideas. After finalizing my sketches, I launch Glyphs, my font design software. Compared to other programs, Glyphs' pen tool is incredibly intuitive. I bring each letterform to life on the screen, witnessing the satisfying fusion of shapes and curves with each plotted point. As I progress through the alphabet, the typeface's personality begins to shine, taking on either a playful or sophisticated vibe. Minor adjustments strengthen the overall look and feel of the letterforms, with even the tiniest details playing a significant role. Once the basic letterforms are complete, I focus on designing additional glyphs like numbers, punctuation, diacritics, and ligatures while maintaining stylistic consistency. The meticulous process of kerning each letter pair follows, ensuring balanced spacing.

Kerning and Proofing: Fine-Tuning Letter Spacing and Fixing Errors

Kerning and proofing—an arduous task. This is where I get to see my typeface space itself into perfection. I pore over each letter, adjusting the side bearings (the space on either side of the letter) until they're perfectly balanced.

I print dozens of samples of my typeface to review by hand. There's nothing like seeing the physical letters to spot errors or inconsistencies. I check that each letter is structurally sound, with consistent stroke weights and a uniform style. I review how the letters interact to ensure an even color and texture across paragraphs of text. Any issues are noted and fixed in the digital files, then printed again.

Playing the Kerning Game

It takes a while to kern—adjusting the spacing between letter pairs for ideal readability and an aesthetically pleasing result. Some letters don't get along out of the box and need more elbow love! I start with problematic pairs like 'AV' and 'WA'. Kerning is an art form that requires a keen eye to achieve harmonious letter spacing. I must consider many possible letter combinations to ensure my typeface is perfectly spaced.

Final Testing: Ensuring Compatibility

As an independent type foundry, testing our fonts across mediums is crucial. Once the design is complete, the real work begins.

I test each glyph in every weight and style. It's tedious but rewarding to actualize something you've put months of work into. When I spot spacing issues or poorly rendered glyphs, I go back to editing and make adjustments. Sometimes, a single change can impact the entire font, so I must double-check that everything looks balanced and cohesive.

Creating a typeface is challenging yet rewarding work. But by testing, crafting a thoughtful purpose, and committing to continuous improvement, I can release a high-quality typeface that brings me joy to include in my library. My fonts may start as a spark of inspiration, but with diligence and care, they develop into versatile tools for visual communication.

Releasing a New Typeface: Marketing and Promotion

Releasing a new typeface is nerve-racking! After months of sketching, designing, and fine-tuning each glyph, your typeface is ready to enter the world. Marketing, and promotion are vital to attracting designers to your fonts.

Spread the News!

I like to announce new releases on social media first. Post eye-catching images of your typeface on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Explain the personality and vision behind your design to give viewers insight into what makes it unique. Tag other type designers and influencers and ask them to share the news.

Keep Promoting

Continue posting about your new typeface on social media after the initial release. Share examples of it used in print or digital designs, typography studies, and more. Run additional sales and promotions to keep interest and buzz going. The more people see and use your creation, the more popular it will become.

Releasing a new font is a thrilling milestone, but the work is ongoing. With marketing and promotion, designers will discover your latest typeface and be inspired to use it in their projects. And that is the most rewarding part of all.

We're Done... For Now!

Creating a typeface from scratch has to be the most incredible journey that challenges me each time in new ways and reignites my passion for design. Though the process is far from easy, seeing my font used in the wild will make all the long hours and revisions worthwhile. I hope this behind-the-scenes look at designing a typeface can inspire you. Get out there, review some material, and start ideating—you have a typeface waiting to be born! The typographic world is ready for your creative vision. I can't wait to see what you design.

Here's a blog more about the differences that fonts can make for a brand. Stay updated by signing up for the Double Story Type Newsletter below, I'll see you around!

To learn more about how you can use typography to level-up your brand, head over to the info page.


Read These Next!


Got any questions or just want to say hi? Send me an email or use the contact form on the Info page. I look forward to hearing from you!


Sign up for a monthly newsletter on behind-the-scenes tidbits, upcoming releases, new fonts and more!