Font Forge

Planning your project

Now that you have a sense of the variables that a font can have, you may want decide whether your project will have only one font, if it will be a collection of more than one related fonts, if it will be a (now traditional) four-style type family, or if it will be something even larger.

Common styles of type families include:

  • regular and a bold
  • regular, bold, italic, and a bold italic
  • thin, light, book, regular, semi bold, bold, extra bold, heavy, black 
  • regular, condensed, bold and bold condensed
  • narrow regular, condensed, wide and extra wide
  • regular, semi flourished, flourished flourished very flourished, extreme flourished

While there are reasons that typical pattens in families exist, you may find you want a very different kind of grouping.

The scope of the project can be determined exclusively by your ambition and your amount of free time. But project scopes are often determined by the use you have for the collection or family of fonts, or, still further, by the needs of your client. Certainly for professional type designers, the latter two questions are usually the determining factors.

Glyph coverage

A font is still a font even if it has only one glyph in it. But a font can also have a few hundred or even thousands of glyphs. If your project is self-initiated, then this choice is ultimately arbitrary. You may decide you only want capitals, or that you want to include the glyphs found in the other fonts you use. If you are doing work for a client, you may want to clarify which language or languages the font is is meant to support. Your goal could also be to extend an existing font, adding a few glyphs to make it work in one or more additional languages.

Certainly it is a good idea to make this choice deliberately, and to err on the side of including less rather than more. Often as a typeface is being made, it can be tempting to include more and more glyphs. But it is frequently more valuable to continue to improve the core set of glyphs than to add new ones.

Multi-style family workflow

If you know from the start that you will have more than one font, you will save yourself time if you plan and build the font family systematically, and work on the styles somewhat in parallel, rather than completing one style at a time.

It is of course impossible to create every style in a completely parallel manner. But it is possible to complete a given design step for each style in order to check and be sure about the relationships between the styles, early in the process. You may find that it is useful to complete one full set of test letters (such as "adhesion") for a regular version, and then to make "adhesion"s for the other styles next. However, you can also make the process even more granular and make decisions about specific parts of the base letters (such as the 'n' and 'o') for all styles together.

Depending on the size and composition of the family you are planning, you may find that it saves time to make interpolatable instances of glyphs, not only so you can interpolate intermediate styles, but to aid making design choices about those typographic variables that shift across the members of a family. For a refresher on the variables you should be considering, see the chapter "What is a font?"