I would really love to design a typeface someday. I’d even be ok designing a really ugly typeface, but at this point I can’t even draw a single letter without cheating and looking at an existing font. When I look at classic typefaces, I have so many questions that I get overwhelmed. Let’s take stem weight in a serif font, for example:
Why are some stems drawn with a bold stroke and others with a light stroke?
Why does the letter H have two bold stems, but the letter M only has one bold stem?
Why do some letters have a bold stroke on the right side and others have a bold stroke only on the left?
Are these choices made to add balance to the letterform? Do they add momentum or draw the eye in a particular direction?
Are these line weights just vestiges from the days of calligraphy pens?
That’s just one of a million issues that trip me up. Anyway, I have no idea where to start, so I’d appreciate any suggestions. I can think of dozens of drawing exercises that artists use to improve their skills. What do type designers do? Tell me what they teach you in those fancy universities!
This week I decided that even copying a font would be better than nothing. I tried to embroider the word “Type” on a piece of paper (really original, I know). Unfortunately I ran out of thread toward the end. My wife suggested that I change the word to “Typo” and I just started criss-crossing to fill out the shape of the last two letters. I now know how to draw 4 letters in an obscure House Industries font. Baby steps, I guess.