Any type design needs to have research behind it. If I have goals and objectives (see the type design brief), then I need to find out how best to reach those goals and objectives.
For a revival type design, research would look like getting samples of the original printed type for sure, perhaps getting ahold of the slugs or punches, or maybe even getting access to original sketches and drawings.
For original type designs such as the one I’m doing, research would mean looking at comparable type or lettering, considering associated materials, and translating concepts into visual attributes.
Research for Protest Type
This typeface is based on protest posters, and meant for similar applications. So source material, inspiration, tools and materials all come from or relate to protest signs. So I Googled images of protests and protest signs. Lots of them.
My design brief states that the type is meant to be:
- large display type
- condensed to fit larger letters in a smaller space
- legible at a distance
- heavier weight for legibility and voice
- hand drawn and imperfect
- meant to look like it came from a protest sign
This gets a bit checken-or-egg. Is the brief defining protest signs, or did the protest signs define the brief? It’s a little of both. I can find darn near any protest sign I want to fit whatever preconceived notion I have. But my brief was informed somewhat on notions of what most protest signs look like, and a bit on the idea of what they should do.
The kind of protest signs this type should emulate are signs that are legible at a distance and a bit bigger and bolder. So that’s the sample pool I’m pulling from. Beyond that, I try to stay open minded and let the trends in that sample inform my letterforms.
Common Threads in Protest Sign Letterforms
Thicker A tends to have flat apex, not pointed.
G tends not to have a spur.
I often has no serifs, and tends to have serifs most consistently when it appears on its own (which I could make an OpenType feature).
J has serifs.
Leg of K and R joins with the stem, and is sometimes slightly curved.
The vertex of the M is far above the baseline.
The apex of the W is well below cap height (similar to M).
O is ovoid, not round.
Q has simple ball and stick construction, and the tail crosses the bowl.
Diacritics are smaller than the proportions for text type.
Lowercase a is a tossup between single and double story. (I’ll have to make that call)
Lowercase g tends to be single story.
Descenders are shorter, or are drawn up to line up with capitals.
Ascenders are usually drawn at cap height.
Now that I’ve got some visuals and basic letterform questions answered, I can get making the font. I’ll be starting off next week by drawing out the letterforms at the desired size, with the desired tools. (So I’m drawing them really big with Sharpie® on posterboard or butcher paper.)
Once I’ve got a good idea of the letters drawn out, I’ll begin digitizing.