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A Type Design Niche, By the Letter

By Anna Richard | October 23, 2017


While it’s still early in my career, I’ve been fortunate to have developed a type design niche. I have a knack for letters.

All About All the Letters

My expertise, and my passion, is in type design — making new fonts and expanding old ones. It can be tedious. Kerning, for example, is a step that requires you to look at every letter next to every other letter to make sure they don’t run into each other. Not super fun. But I enjoy the analytical challenge of making characters feel harmonious, and the finished product is something I can use in other projects.

Type design and lettering (which is more unique and situational) play important roles in branding. All brands use type, sometimes exclusively, to define their personality. Here’s an example:

Instagram logo type design

Instagram logo before and after

Instagram’s iconic script was in the app from the beginning, and recently reworked by Mackey Saturday, a type designer. The new one is much easier to read. That’s because the script was made more regular and open.

Top of Type Comprehension

Regularity refers to the rhythm of shapes. In English, people read by recognizing the top half of letters first. If you follow the tops of the letters in the original logotype, your eye has a very wiggly path to follow – down for the ‘n’, back up for ‘s’ and ‘t’, and so on. However, in the redesign, you can follow the tops almost straight across. Take a closer look at the font you’re reading right now; it has been designed for maximum readability, so the letters are all regular heights. This makes it subconsciously easier for us to read.

We can even break it down letter by letter. While the original ‘m’ at the end has more bounciness, the redesigned ‘m’ is easier to recognize. The long swoopy tail has been shortened too, so it’s less distracting. Along those lines, the round shapes in the ‘a’ and ‘g’ have also been simplified. The sides have been smoothed, and the contrast of thick to thin parts is more predictable. Again, these changes are made for clarity, since the logo is rarely seen bigger than an inch.

In Type Design, Small Changes Make a Big Difference

Type design is all about these tiny changes and understanding what they mean for readers. Whether designing for display, like the logo, or for fonts meant for paragraphs of text, little things make a big difference in readability and personality, and can have a huge impact on a brand’s identity.

That’s my niche. Now you have a whole new outlook on letters.

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Anna Richard

Anna is a Graphic Designer, assisting with production and design on a variety of projects. Anna earned a degree in Visual Communication Design from Kent State University, where she specialized in typography, lettering, and type design. Before working at designRoom, Anna was part of a team of contractors at Google Fonts who improved and expanded the design of typefaces in the Google Fonts library. Her favorite font that she hasn't worked on is Greta Mono. She owns three different coffee makers, and is on a never-ending quest to find her favorite pen.

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