I think every well-made design usually starts out with some sort of sketch. Sure, we live in the world of technology where it’s easy to smash out something in Photoshop over 5 minutes, but then pen and paper approach does nicely at forcing us to slow down and pulls us away from technology to really think things through.
It’s how Porter started!
What’s interesting with type though, is the transition I’ve experienced going from sketch book to computer screen.
Because Porter is intended to be a display font (only for headlines, logos, etc.), I drew the letters out at around 2″ tall. This helped me carefully see how stroke widths would vary and pay attention to smaller details that might have been lost had I drawn the initial concepts any smaller.
I’m not sure if it’s just me, but there’s something that feels really nice about a sketch. Maybe its the noise of the paper or the roughness of the pen or pencil marks. Moving the concepts to screen though, it started to feel like I was killing the soul of the letter forms. Eventually, through a lot of tweaking and stepping back to see the result, the warmth came back. I learned that while a computer is great at perfection, sometimes the imperfections of a medium like my sketchbook are what the letter form needed to spring back to life.
Another thing I really hadn’t thought of, was how to re-use elements. An E can lend itself to an F; a B, P, and R share characteristics. I, T, and L too. But then there’s the details: serifs on square-shaped letters should be drawn the same, for one example.
This is where my book shelf bailed me out.
I’ve had a copy of the Logo, Font & Lettering Bible for as long as I can remember. Lo and behold, it’s got a chapter on just that issue! Back at the computer, I was able to identify and trace out those shapes, and it’s been a huge time saver since. It’s also interesting how many elements like these a font has. At first glance, I hadn’t expected it to be so much, but another lesson learned.
The A-Z uppercase letters have since been digitized and set up in the font files. I’m off to start the process over now for numbers and punctuation. And I have to say, I’m really enjoying the process so far!