Michelle

Type Design, Variable Font

For my first attempt at type design, I aimed to create a contemporary typeface with oldstyle flavour. The purpose of this project was to create a variable typeface for long reading on the web. After doing some research in the field—the York University Library—and looking at some of the old books from the early twentieth century, I felt that an oldstyle typeface would be the best direction to go.

The front and back cover of the Access Design event schedule. The front cover is red with a white heart on it and says Access Design in English, French, and Braille. The back cover has the schedule information and sponsor logos.
Page 2 and 3 of the booklet. There is an image of Ellen Lupton with information on a design talk in English and French on page 2. There is an image of soap bubbles with the info from page 2 overlayed in braille.

Since I was designing an oldstyle typeface, I looked towards calligraphy for inspiration. When I first started designing the font I found that my letterforms were too rigid and chunky. Since I wanted it to have a juicy calligraphic feel to it, I opted to swap out the chunkiest parts out with looser forms. For the variability of the typeface, I decided to go with optical size because it was common for oldstyle fonts in metal type to have different forms at different sizes.

An image of the Access Design website's home page.
An image of the Access Design website's navigation menu.

For the specimen website I wanted to play off of the historical nature of oldstyle fonts in a contemporary manner. So I decided to create my own contemporary twist on nineteenth century victorian magazines, trade journals, and print galleys. In order to get the feeling of an old letterpress, I created heavily structured grid layout for the content to live in.

An image of the Access Design website's Ellen Lupton spread; a companion to page 2 and 3 of the booklet.

I also opted to use several different sizes of type with several different snippets of literary work which I thought would work well to show off the qualities of my typeface. Then, after digging through issues of the Inland Printer as well as several Victorian fashion magazines, I got my hands on a couple of wood block illustrations that were in the public domain. I took each of these into Photoshop, cleaned up the lines, and added a vibrant punch of colour.