Assignment 4: Virtual Study day

The brief

Typographers and type foundries (the companies that commission and produce typefaces)
have always had to promote their latest designs to printers and designers to show off a
particular typeface, its different fonts in a variety of sizes and contexts, and the unique
features of it. Once Specimen Sheets were the main way of doing this. Nowadays most of
that marketing takes place online –- research type foundries on the internet.
Design the font for use on the cover of a magazine called type and write a short article for
the magazine using a range of typefaces, with typographic illustrations, drawing on all that
you have learned in this section. The article should include sections on:
• what makes a typeface interesting
• how a typeface is constructed
• question marks.
Do a mock up of the magazine cover to show where and how your title font will appear
along with other cover elements.
Produce a magazine article that is attractive and interesting enough for someone to want to
pick it up to read, and which shows off what that you have learnt so far about typography.
Add illustrations, photographs and colours as you want.



I am currently trying to improve my response to assignment 4 (see brief above). My initial response needs to consider additional ideas for fonts. During this virtual study day I will be drawing and creating in Adobe Illustrator new fonts. I will not be working on new layouts nor content (as per the brief).

In this entry I will show:

  • The underlying concepts that I am exploring
  • Design influences
  • My current attempt,
  • My rough attempts at new fonts

Full details can be seen in my initial entry and the underlying research here.

The underlying concepts

I brainstormed a number of ideas that I could use to influence my design, including:

  • Mathematics –  LaTex, Tex Knuth and Douglas Hofstadter

I was first introduced to typography by the use of the early typesetting programs LaTex and Tex, designed by Donald Knuth in the 1980’s. In addition, I am aware of Douglas Hofstadter (a famous cognitive scientist) who investigated typefaces and also challenged Knuth’s computing ideas. I felt that a font with a mathematical feel which also celebrated some of the early typesetting programs might be an idea.

  • Switzerland

I live in Basel and am deeply appreciative of Switzerland as a country and culture. Being also aware of the strong graphic design community I thought that there might be an idea here. This is the idea I initially pursued.

  • Technology

As a final idea I took technology, again influenced by my own work experiences which have centred around computing.

Design influences

Font Analysis

In this section I look at a number of fonts that I thought could influence my designs for the three ideas (Mathematics, Switzerland, Technology)  I had created. (Also refer to my Examples of design where I have collected and analysed a number of examples of design).



I was looking for fonts that invoke the feeling of mathematics rather then fonts that are used in representing mathematics (not the same thing) but I was not really that successful. There is a lot of discussion (see for example here and here)  on how best to display mathematical information but very little about feeling. I then tried another approach I considered fonts that echoed blackboard chalk and fonts that were geometric in nature.


(Click to enlarge)


Math 1 (source) – Shows a script developed by a mathematical and calligrapher in order to clearly write mathematics. He is aiming to introduce beauty into the script but keeping the clarity that is needed.

Math 2 (source) – Cambria a font developed by Microsoft for use in mathematical and scientific texts.

Math 3 (source) – Computer Modern a font created by was created by Donald Knuth a famous computer scientist for the first typesetting program and is still commonly used in mathematical and scientific publications. An important point in these designs is to ensure that mathematical symbols (often Greek) are clearly distinguished from e.g. latin letters, notable examples are a-alpha and v-nu.

Math 4 (source) – Examples of Chalkboard fonts. There are a large number of fonts that emulate chalk on blackboards.

Math 5 (source) – Details of Pigment (font) a chalkboard font.

Math 6 (source) – Futura a geometric sans font. There is a large use of geometrical shapes: circles, triangles and straight lines. There are a many other fonts that have this characteristics e.g. Century Gothic and ITC Avant Garde. The font type is not recommended for large quantities of text.

Looking at all these examples I think the geometric sans font is closest to the effect I am trying to create.



In my research I was influenced by the two ideas that I had for Switzerland: Mountains and Cheese. I looked for examples for both of these and found mountains a little more difficult to find and surprisingly where there were a relatively large number of Swiss Cheese fonts.


(click to enlarge)

Cheese 1 (source) – Typical cheese font characterised by use of yellow, and holes. The set consists typically of capitals.  This varient has a 3D effect.

Cheese 2 (source) – Another typical example

Cheese 3 (source) – Another example. The fonts are nearly always sans serif.

Having looked at these examples I decided that they were all cheesy and the comical effect was not one I wanted to promote. This research lead me to dismiss the varient of the Switzerland idea.


(Click to enlarge)


MT1, MT5 (source) – A set of fonts on fontspace that are labelled as mountain. Looking at these there are some common elements that come out:

  • Use of white at the top to signify snow (or clouds?)
  • Irregular shapes perhaps signifying rockiness
  • Thickness of the letters signifying solidity

MT2 (source) – Mountain font. As a varient of mountain, rocks (and sometime volcano / lava) are often used as a theme. These are characterised by irregular and chunky shapes.

MT3 (source) – Montana Font. A font that has been influenced by the love of mountains. To be honest I have difficulty in seeing the influence, perhaps the rough version is reminiscent of rock? It is only available in upper case and this has a rather high x-height, again perhaps echoing mountains?

MT4 (source) – Often when mountains are depicted the text that is used with them are in the fom of casual script. Having both an image of mountains and a mountain/rock font feels to heavy.

Looking at the examples I feel that I want a font that echo’s mountains (and not rocks) and I’ll have to consider whether adding decorative elements (e.g. snow) adds or whether this is at variance to the feeling of Swissness.



I started looking for fonts that had a technology or sci-fi feel to them and noted that I had already performed some very basic research in this direction (see Research: Book cover design) but felt it was certainly worth more detailed review.


(Click to expand)


Tech 1,4,5 (source)  – A set of fonts that are tagged with sci-fi and tech. This is an important point technology is often associated with science fiction and not only in the context of fonts but more broader. Looking at these (and other fonts that are tagged) I can see the following: often geometric, often san serif, sometimes slab serif.

Tech 2 (source)  – Solaris font. This is an example of a popular font shown in context with a futuristic image. This works well with the font not dominating the image and harmonising.

Tech 3 (source)  – Technical Forest font. This font is interesting since it tries to mix a tech feel with nature trying to be something softer. This is achieved by a mix of soft and sharp forms. It’s intended use is for headlines or quotes.

Tech 6 (source)  – Controller Three font. This is a geometric rounded square sans serif which again tries to soften a pure tech font.

I seem to be attracted to technical fonts that have a slight organic feel to them. Perhaps because they are more subtle in their effect than a number of the other sci-fi / tech fonts.


My current attempt

This is the font I developed based on the Switzerland – Mountain idea:

Type Final

The basis for the decision was based on my wanting:

  • A mixture of upper and lowercase in order to emphasis height and echo mountains
  • A sans-serif since this is the font form associated with Switzerland (I experimented with triangular serif elements but rejected them as being too fussy and “unswiss”)
  • A clean, balanced geometrical feel


My rough attempts at new fonts

In attempting to develop fonts based on the ideas of Mathematics and Technology drew up the following ideas:




I want to progress these ideas during the study day.


Discussion and Results.

During the day I had a chance to have feedback from a number of students and the tutor leading the day. This can be summarised as:

  • The mountain idea is the strongest
  • Mountains often have light and shade could that not be incorporated?
  • The mathematic idea with symbols has potential
  • Could consider making a 3D version of the maths curve idea.


With this feedback I developed the ideas further during the session and created:

(Click to expand)


I found the overall very stimulating and the feedback helpful. I will take these ideas and develop further.

3 thoughts on “Assignment 4: Virtual Study day

  1. Pingback: Assignment 4: Show me – Final Submission | Open College of the Arts: A log by Peter Hungerford

  2. Pingback: Revisiting Exercises and Assignments | Open College of the Arts: A log by Peter Hungerford

  3. Pingback: Overview of site | Open College of the Arts: A log by Peter Hungerford

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