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Brick by brick: News about FontStruct


Inline Competition Results

Another fantastic competition is over, and the FontStructing community has once more surpassed itself in energy and invention.

Congratulations to everyone who took part. I hope it was as much fun to participate as it was to watch.

Judging was a pleasure, but also a painful process since we can only have three winners. Here they are.

The Prizewinners

1) fs lost by EthProductions

This was a clear winner for all judges, and also the “people’s favourite” as chosen by the community.

fs-lost

“[this was] my favorite … on all levels: creativity, execution, usability, and that x-factor: pure delight.” wrote Stephen Coles, while Paul Bokslag went into more detail:

There have been other maze-based fontstructions, such as zlabyrinths eYe/FS by elmoyenique and Mazey by lldaddy, but in fs lost ETHproductions has not only made a set of beautiful and interesting glyphs, reminiscent of seventies multiline fonts, he has also managed to create a very useable font for puzzle sections of magazines, newspapers and themed publications. Each glyph connects to the next, making it possible for editors to instantly generate unique customised mazes, every word being a new challenge.

2) Fraline by Upixel

fraline

Exquisite and coherent attention to detail attracted the judges to this gothic gem. Stephen Coles wrote:

I’ve seen a lot of Blackletter on FontStruct because the angled bricks are so well-suited for Fraktur construction, but Fraline is one of the few beauties that takes the suitability of the tool to another level.

3) NCD Deconium SC Black Serif Inlines by djnippa

ncd-deconium-sc

djnippa strikes a perfect jazz-age chord in this glimpse of a larger family. Stephen Coles wrote:

This is an excellent example of a historical typographic style (the Art Deco shaded inline) that is ideal for the FontStruct environment. Nothing is too forced here, and I like that.

Congratulations to all three prizewinners! They will be contacted about their prizes shortly.

Honorable Mentions

All the judges had very long shortlists and well over 20 other FontStructions were pushing hard for a place in the top 3. There will be many inline top picks in the coming weeks.

All the judges praised db TwoLines by beate. Paul Bokslag wrote:

The inline in this font is certainly not an afterthought that simply follows the shape of the glyph. Letterform and inline are two separate voices, each singing their own individual melody, but in perfect harmony with each other. This synthesis and the script-like character of the inline that connects certain glyphs, give this font a playful dynamic unlike any other and the samples illustrate that really well.

G1 Explo by geneus1ztainless eye/FS by elmoyenique, RM Celtic Inline by p2pnut and  AT Steglo by architaraz also all featured prominently in the judges’ feedback. Here is a collective showing of some of the judges’ favorites:

fontstuct-inline-competition-results

You can also download a printable version here.

The Judges

Stephen Coles is an honorary FontStruct staff member, writer, typographer. Editor of Fonts In UseTypographica, and The Mid-Century Modernist. He lives in Oakland & Berlin.

Paul Bokslag is a Dutch-born artist living and working in Ireland.  He specializes in papercuts and you can learn more about his fascinating work, including his use of FontStructions, on his website: paulbokslag.com. Paul is also known as the fontstructor four.

Rob Meek designs, develops and runs FontStruct. He is also the lead developer for Fonts In Use.

What Now?

I’m looking forward to the next competition already. As always, theme suggestions in the comments are welcome.

 

 

 


Competition: Inline

Time for our first competition of 2014, with the theme “inline”.

An inline font is one which is characterized by one or more white lines or spaces running inside its strokes. These white interior spaces provide decoration and depth, and they’re often associated with engraved or otherwise hand-tooled letters. Multilinear or polyline fonts can also be described as “inline”.

For this competition we’d like you to design an inline FontStruction.

If you’re unsure what an inline font is there’s a great page linking to categorized examples of inline fonts over at FontShop. And here are a few examples of existing inline FontStructions to help you get the idea:

Inline FontStruction Examples

Credits: From top, wavelength by four, blinker by four, Snowcat by four, “in the queue” (five years later I finally got the pun) by CommandZed , “Field Day” by four, signo by kix, AT Liniya by architaraz, “White Knight” by four, chozen by ishoppejon, Spacerock Biline by LexKominek and “Toothpaste OF” by funk_king)

Remember to tag your entry with “Inlinecomp” before the 7th of February and don’t forget to upload a sample image.

Please read the competition rules below carefully.

Competition Time Period

Tuesday, January 14th 2014 – February 7th, 2014

Competition Rules

  1. You must be a registered FontStruct user.
  2. Your submission must be an “inline” FontStruction i.e. be characterized by one or more lines interior to the strokes of most of the letters.
  3. Your submission(s) must be posted and made “public” between January 14th – February 7th 2014. Although you are encouraged to share your submission(s) at any time between these dates, your FontStruction submission(s) must be public (marked “share with everyone”) no later then February 7th at 11pm PST. Additionally, your submission(s) must remain public until February 16th 2014 in order to give the judges enough time to review all qualifying entries.
  4. Your submission(s) must be tagged with a “Inlinecomp” tag. (For fairness, during the competition time period, no FontStruction with the “Inlinecomp” tag will be awarded a Top Pick or be available for a Featured FontStruction pick.)
  5. Your submission(s) must be downloadable. If your FontStruction cannot be downloaded, the submission will be disqualified.
  6. Your submission must be a newly published FontStruction. Simply adding the “Inlinecomp” tag to an already published font is not allowed.
  7. For each submission, you must post at least one sample image in the comments of the FontStruction.
  8. No letters in each submission can be MORE THAN 48 bricks high.
  9. FontStruct cloning is permitted but the judges will be looking for original work.
  10. You may enter up to three FontStructions to the competition.
  11. This is a friendly competition. Cheering, favoriting and fun banter is encouraged but cruel and uncivil behavior will not be tolerated.
  12. No rules regarding licensing. You may choose any license you like for your FontStruction.

Judging and announcing the winners

All qualifying FontStructions will by judged by the FontStruct staff and guest judges, February 8–16th. Three prizewinners will be chosen. One of these will be the FontStructors’ Favorite. Winners will be announced in a FontStruct Blog post on February 18th.

UPDATE 17.01.2014 The judging panel will be: Stephen Coles from TypographicaFonts in Use and countless other exciting places; Papercut artist and inline Fontstructor extraordinary Paul Bokslag AKA “four”; and FontStruct creator Rob Meek.

Prizes

Each winner will receive

In addition, all winners will have their winning FontStructions posted as Featured FontStructions for two weeks after the winners are announced.

FontStructors’ Favorite

The valid entry with the greatest number of legitimate favorites at 11pm PST on February 7th, 2014 will be one of the three prizewinners.

Spread the Word

Tell your friends. The button floating above every FontStruction is a really quick and easy way to point your friends and followers to your work. Maybe you can drum up some more  favorite s for your entry in that way, or entice some novice FontStructors into the game.

Questions?

If you have questions just add them as comments to this post.

Let’s get FontStructing!

 

 

 


Happy Holidays 2013

Dear FontStructors,

It’s been another wonderfully FontStructive year. FontStruct celebrated it’s fifth birthday and it’s one millionth registration! Over 750,000 FontStructions have now been created and over 30,000 shared in our gallery. Together we’re creating a unique library of geometric type, and I’m confident we’re far from finished yet.

happy-holidays-2013

In 2013 we added a number of new features – a scaleable grid, an export to Glyphs function, and some new licensing options – and we held another hugely-successful competition with “Connected Script”.

Thanks again FontShop!

I’m delighted to announce continuing support for FontStruct in 2014 from our principal and founding sponsor FontShop. Without discussing specifics I can assure you all that, thanks to FontShop, more new features, improvements and competitions are planned for the new year.

Happy Holidays!

FontStructors, wherever you are, best wishes for the holiday season!

FontStruction image credits: “Lush Capitals” by “laynecom”, “C is for Cookie” by “four” and “HCSnow” by “macossin”.


New Feature: Export to Glyphs

FontStruct is a wonderful free tool for creating usable, modular typefaces. Sometimes however you may find yourself reaching its limits. If you want control over kerning, vertical metrics, OpenType features or cubic béziers you need to reach for an additional tool. Until now there was just one way to do this: You download your FontStruction as a TrueType font and then edit that font in the desktop font editor of your choice.

This week we’re introducing a great new option for Mac users in partnership with the guys from Glyphs.app.

With the new “Export to Glyphs” feature you can download or export your designs in the .glyphs format used by the Glyphs desktop font editor. One significant advantage over editing a TrueType is that the individual bricks are included in the file and can be edited with complete freedom. You also get cubic béziers (rounder circles!) and access to all the advanced editing features that Glyphs has to offer.

You can choose to download your font files as .glyphs files from the download page, or use the new Export -> “Glyphs” file option from the menu in the FontStructor.

If you’re a Mac user and would like to give Glyphs.app a try,  you can download a free 30-day trial from glyphsapp.com. To get an idea on how to work with Glyphs, see their “Getting Started” page, and take a look at the short tutorial videos. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the “Glyphs forum”.

fontstruct-in-glyphs

The above image shows a clone of “zapphire eYe/FS” by “elmoyenique” being edited in Glyphs.

Below you can see the individual bricks waiting, all ready to be tweaked, swapped out and generally transmogrified.

fontstruct-in-glyphs2


FontStructions from HBK Braunschweig at the Bauhaus

FontStruct continues to be used to introduce students to the process of typographic creation in schools, colleges and universities all over the world.

This summer, the Bauhaus Archive in Berlin is hosting the exhibition ‘ON-TYPE: Texts on Typography’. For the supporting programme, Bernard Stein and Florian Hardwig organized a special event about teaching type design. They invited three type designers to present their respective approach to teaching. On July 24th, Martina Flor, Martin Wenzel and Dan Reynolds talked about their preferred methods and tools.

Bauhaus-Crowd

As an interlude, Florian Hardwig showed student work created at HBK Braunschweig. Florian has been offering FontStruct workshops for several years now, as part of his introductory typography course. “What I like most about FontStruct is that beginners can quickly go through all relevant steps of font creation, without getting lost in details. On one hand, trying their own hands at it teaches the students more respect for typefaces and their designers. On the other, it lowers the barriers to entry into type design, when they realize that it’s not some magic, and that they can make their own font within hours.”

Jakob Grommas designed a large-sized poster, showcasing selected FontStructions from the Braunschweig workshops.

Best-of-Braunschweig

Thanks to Florian and his students for sharing their work with us.

P.S.: ON–TYPE is on display until August 11th. If you happen to be in Berlin, grab your last chance to see it this weekend!


New Licensing Options

We added three new licensing options to FontStruct today:

  1. The FontStruct License
  2. The FontStruct Non-Commercial License
  3. An All Rights Reserved “No Download” Option

The FontStruct Licenses: Control over distribution

We’re introducing two brand new licenses produced especially for FontStruct. Like the existing Creative Commons licenses these allow FontStructors to share their fonts as free downloads. Downloaders are free to use these fonts either commercially or non-commercially depending on which of the two is used. What’s new and different is that both FontStruct licenses prohibit redistribution of the downloads by anyone apart from the designing FontStructor. If you share your work using these licenses, people may not, for example, put your FontStruction on a CD of free fonts without your permission, or offer your FontStruction for download from their website without your permission.

Over the past five years, countless FontStructions have spread virally, appearing as downloads all over the web, especially as part of large font repositories such as dafont.com or fonts101.com. I know some users enjoy this viral spread and if you do, you should continue to use the appropriate Creative Commons licenses.

If however you want to exercise some control over how your designs are distributed, and if you want to ensure that people always come to your FontStruction page at FontStruct.com to get the latest version of your design, then you should try the new FontStruct licenses. There are at least three strong arguments for asking people to come to the original source here at FontStruct.com to download your designs:

  1. At FontStruct, they will always get the latest version rather than something outdated that somebody down- and uploaded 3 years ago.
  2. At FontStruct, they will have the opportunity to enter into dialog with you, the designer. They might tell you what they are using your font for, they might request some customization, or maybe just give you some feedback.
  3. It is always good for the FontStruct project to have more visitors coming to our site.

Note that the new FontStruct licenses do not prohibit other websites from offering FontStructions as downloads by linking back to the relevant FontStruct download page.

The new FontStruct licenses have been reviewed by a legal professional.

Have a look at examples of the non-commercial and the standard versions.

The All Rights Reserved “No Download” option

We know for some of you the two new FontStruct licenses don’t go far enough. You may enjoy showing your work and sharing it with the FontStruct community but you may not wish to share your FontStruction as a download. Maybe you sell a version of your work elsewhere, or plan to do so in the future, or perhaps you have made a FontStruction for a client who does not wish it to be shared as a download.

For this reason, we are also introducing a new “All Rights Reserved” licensing option which basically means others can look but can’t download.

I hope the majority of FontStructors will continue to share their work as downloads using the other licenses, but I also hope this new option will encourage some FontStructors to reveal some of their precious, hidden masterpieces by sharing them on the site. With almost 700,000 FontStructions in our database, only about 27,000 are shared. We’d like to see more of the iceberg.

I just want my font to be free for others to use

If you want to open-source your design, and make it free for all kinds of uses, you should choose one of the existing Creative Commons (CC) license options.

Choose one of the non-commercial licenses if you don’t want people using your designs for money-making projects without your permission. Choose one of the no-derivatives licenses to prevent other designers from cloning your work. Cloning is a wonderful way to share, teach and develop collaborative font designs, but occasionally people publish unaltered or minimally tweaked clones under new names. It’s difficult to stop this unethical practice, so think carefully before choosing a license which allows cloning.

zzz…

Most FontStructors come here to have fun and create and share their designs, not to plough through pages of legalese. But when you reach a point where you see your designs maturing, your character sets growing, and you find your FontStructions being used in earnest by others, you may want to spend some time thinking about your choice of license.

I strongly encourage everyone to read the updated FAQ article on licensing.

Happy licensing FontStructing!

Edit  August 5th 2013: We’ve also since added support for the CC0 Public Domain Dedication “No Rights Reserved”.

 


Connected Script Competition Results

Last month, when we challenged you to emulate handwritten scripts using only the grid and bricks of FontStruct, it could be argued that we contradicted the very nature of modular type. But we’ve learned through experience — and four other competitions — that this tool is limited only by the imagination of our FontStructors. As we expected, many of you rose to this difficult challenge. It was tricky for the judges, Rob Meek and myself, to pick winners from the 56 entries, many of which were quite innovative, original, and appealing. But after comparing notes (and a bit of cheerleading here and there) we agreed on three clear champions in the Connected Script Competition.

And the winners are…

Each of our three selections answered the “Connected Script” call in their own unique way, and they demonstrated skill and creativity above and beyond the other entries. Without further ado, let’s look at each of these FontStructed scripts in more detail.

Stiff Script by Upixel

Michel Troy (Upixel) strikes a self-deprecating note when he describes his entry as a “very rough script” with glyphs that are “very unsightly”. But he acknowledges that, when its letters are combined to form words, Stiff Script has an undeniable charm. The judges recognized that on very first glance. Its pieces are linked with a very simple 45-degree stroke, yet Stiff Script manages a very even, handwritten flow despite the inherent rigidity of its forms. The sprightly, angular effect is reminiscent of the lively lettering found in mid-century advertising, logos, and signage. Still, the overall feeling of this design isn’t necessarily retro, as observed by four, a fellow Scriptcomp champion. The character set is essentially lowercase only, which freed up the uppercase slots for alternate “initial” forms that can be used to start words in a cleaner, more natural way.

Jalgas by architaraz

Over his last couple of years on FontStruct, the Kazakhstan-born, Shanghai-based Zhalgas Kassymkulov (architaraz) has gained a reputation for creating inventive lettershapes and building fonts with an organic flow. So it’s no surprise that he excelled in the Script Competition. From a purely typographic perspective, Jalgas is the most imaginative design in the competition, with many glyphs that, while still legible, are entirely new. Despite a slightly irregular rhythm, words cascade gracefully across the screen. Zhalgas even noted that his design can survive (maybe even thrive?) with a faux italic skew. There is a lot to praise about Jalgas — more than we have space to detail here — so I’ll just finish off with the astute comments of will.i.ૐ:

Wickedly stylish. I love your use of propeller bricks in the connections and the implied dimensionality of the bridged loops. Script and stencil. Nice!

lupo by four

Among the handful of finalists under consideration by the judges, lupo generated the most discussion and controversy. If this font were to stand on its own, outside the context of the competition, no typographer would classify it as a “script” typeface. Still, we cannot deny the sheer ingenuity displayed by Paul Bokslag (four) in his response to the core requirement of the challenge: connections. Each glyph is wider than its sidebearings and features a gap, like an open circuit, that is closed only when another letter follows and overlaps its neighbor. Every word creates a continuous line that runs over the top and bottom of letters, looping at their connections. But lupo isn’t just a gimmick. The shapes of the letters themselves are interesting — bulbous and bold, the kind of friendly, engaging design that could be put to good use on product packaging or a children’s book.

In my brief for the Connected Script Competition I was painfully vague about the definition of script. So, as if in open defiance of that term, Bokslag focused on a connection scheme so brilliant it simply must be rewarded. Well done, sir.

lupo was incidentally also the “People’s choice” with the most number of favorites when the deadline passed.

Honorable mentions

There were so many strong and prizeworthy entries, we can’t mention them all, but FontStructions which were discussed in the latter stages of judging included:

db Lineo by beate – interesting, useful and attractive. A winner on another day.

Artificial Script by 1saac – part of an impressive, coherent and growing family.

The Ugly Script by cablecomputer – finely-crafted crudity. Not ugly at all.

Neonic by CMunk – “The letters connect to each other, even though they are unconnected to themselves”. Profoundly metaphysical FontStructing!

Djangogh Unpenned by will.i.ૐ – the FontStructing pioneer exhibits his wonderful, unique style and astonishing attention to detail.

Emblazoned by aphoria – A top-drawer “connected chrome” script. I can’t wait to see this one cast in metal.

and zelemin eYe/FS by elmoyenique – entering four competitions at once. It’s an outline, a stencil, an italic, and a script font. And it works!

Thanks!

Winners will be contacted by email to be faced with the choice of either a signed and numbered FontStruct poster, or a signed copy of the book The Geometry of Type. Thanks to all entrants and bantering bystanders for another great competition. FontStruct is in many ways a collaborative community and we were especially heartened by the way so many participants commented on the entries of others, lending technical support, design feedback, and sincere well wishes.


Competition: Connected Script

The FontStruct community has proven that its members can breathe life into the grid, make the organic from the static, and push modularity to its creative limits. That’s why we have no qualms in assigning you with a formidable challenge for the next FontStruct competition: scripts!

This, of course, raises the question: what is a script? It’s a fair query. Some define the classification much more broadly than others. Scripts are most commonly and fundamentally derived from writing, but that leaves a lot of room for variation and interpretation. A formal copperplate script is as worthy of the title as the freehand bounce of a sign painter’s brush.

Must the letters be connected? Not all handwriting is cursive, after all. Some folks lift their pen off the paper from time to time, or even between every letter, as in the case of “print” writing.

Professional script typefaces from FontShop

These professional typefaces from FontShop offer an idea of the variety of lettershapes and stroke connections that scripts can embody. From top to bottom: Tangier, FIG Script, Bickham Script, Cottingley, Handsome, Bery Script, BistroScript.

In the end, scripts always reach back to a common ancestory: handwriting. But must it look like it was made by hand? A typeface can be as geometric and constructed as FIG and rightfully be called a script. And we’ve already challenged you to explore the “handmade”. So, for this competition, the core requirement will be a connected script.

Design your FontStructions so letters connect in the most natural and/or innovative way. Keep in mind that connections don’t always need to be at the baseline, or share a common height, throughout the glyph set. And if a letter just doesn’t feel right with a connection, omit the link. (BistroScript, for example, flows naturally, even though it’s ‘s’ doesn’t meet neighbors to the right.) With this guideline in mind, you’re allowed up to 5 linkless lowercase glyphs. Your uppercase, numbers, and punctuation don’t need to connect — but they may catch the jury’s eye if they do!

Other than that, the brief is fairly open. For this competition, as long as your lowercase glyphs are independently distinguishable and connect to each other, it’s a script! Of course, the judges will be looking for original and well-executed entries overall, but they will focus on the most graceful or inventive connections. It’s all about the flow.

Connected FontStructions

While it’s the most underrepresented category on FontStruct, there are several notable scripts in the Gallery. Here are some fine examples of what can be done. Top to bottom: High Voltage (shasta, featured in PCWorld), Bromance (em42), fs grayletter (thalamic), Dry Heat (CMunk, a set of three fonts for connection options).

Competition Time Period

May 23 – June 14, 2013

Competition Rules

  1. You must be a registered FontStruct user.
  2. Your submission must have a connecting lowercase, with up to 5 exempt (unlinked) glyphs.
  3. Your submission(s) must be posted and made “public” between May 23 – June 14 2013. Although you are encouraged to share your submission(s) at any time between these dates, your FontStruction submission(s) must be public (marked “share with everyone”) no later then June 14 at 11pm PST. Additionally, your submission(s) must remain public until June 30 in order to give the judges enough time to review all qualifying entries.
  4. Your submission(s) must be tagged with a “Scriptcomp” tag. (For fairness, during the competition time period, no FontStruction with the “Scriptcomp” tag will be awarded a Top Pick or be available for a Featured FontStruction pick.)
  5. Your submission(s) must be downloadable. If your FontStruction cannot be downloaded, the submission will be disqualified.
  6. Your submission must be a newly published FontStruction. Simply adding the “Scriptcomp” tag to an already published font is not allowed.
  7. For each submission, you must post at least one sample image in the comments of the FontStruction.
  8. No letters in each submission can be MORE THAN 48 bricks high.
  9. FontStruct cloning is permitted but the judges will be looking for original work.
  10. You may enter up to three FontStructions to the competition.
  11. This is a friendly competition. Cheering, favoriting and fun banter is encouraged but cruel and uncivil behavior will not be tolerated.
  12. No rules regarding licensing. You may choose any Creative Commons license you like for your FontStruction.

Tips

  • The new Kites, Shards, and Fins bricks may come in handy for this genre.
  • Connecting strokes can be part of each glyph, or they can be a separate character (such as the space) that elegantly binds letters together.
  • Connecting strokes can be on either side of the glyph — or both!

Judging and announcing the winners

All qualifying FontStructions will by judged by the FontStruct staff and guest judges, June 15–30. Three prizewinners will be chosen. One of these will be the FontStructors’ Favorite. Winners will be announced in a FontStruct Blog post on July 2.

Prizes

Each winner will receive their choice of

In addition, all winners will have their winning FontStructions posted as Featured FontStructions for two weeks after the winners are announced.

FontStructors’ Favorite

The valid entry with the greatest number of legitimate favorites at 11pm PST on June 14 will be one of the three prizewinners.

Spread the Word

Tell your friends. The button floating above every FontStruction is a really quick and easy way to point your friends and followers to your work. Maybe you can drum up some more  favorite s for your entry in that way, or entice some novice FontStructors into the game.

Questions?

If you have questions just add them as comments to this post.

Let’s get FontStructing!


Stretching the grid: FontStruct is Five

Five years ago on April 1st, 2008 FontShop launched FontStruct.

Since then we’ve had almost 800,000 confirmed registrations and more then 650,000 FontStructions have been created.

Every day, designers use FontStruct to create new work, or as a resource for finding grid-based, modular fonts. FontStructions are in widespread use in projects all over the world. We’re also especially happy to have seen FontStruct emerge as a widely-used tool in typographic education.

Over the past five years, cautiously but steadily, new features have been added to FontStruct and we intend to continue with this development in the five years to come.  To celebrate our birthday looking forward, we wanted to launch a new feature today.

Grid Scaling

For the first time you can now adjust the proportions of the FontStruct grid itself by scaling it horizontally and/or vertically. Make sure you are in “Expert Mode” then you will see the new controls in the “Filters” palette (Menu > View > Filters).

Grid Scaling

Grid scaling allows you to define your own brick proportions, opening up a myriad of new creative possibilities. The most obvious use for the feature would be as an aid in creating extended and condensed fonts, but I have no doubt the proven genius of the FontStruct hive-mind will come up with some wonderful and unforeseen applications.

Grid scaling is a feature which was discussed and planned before the initial FontStruct release but just never made it until today. I’m excited to see what FontStructors can do with it.

NOTE: Some people have already noted that the new feature also allows you to effectively increase the zoom level by a factor of 2. I hope that is useful to people with small and low-resolution screens, BUT the zoom was limited for a reason, so be careful with the scale of FontStructions. Working at high-resolution can get slow and frustrating, you are more likely to have technical problems – with saving for example – and you are likely to lose detail in your downloaded fonts.

Thanks

Thanks to all FontStructors past and present for filling the grid with your modular wonders over the last five years, and a special thanks as always to our generous sponsors FontShop.

Good night and happy FontStructing.

FontStruct is Five

 


What makes a complete font?

When you open the FontStructor you are presented with that familiar row of character slots sorted alphabetically. If you’re like many FontStruct users, you build your FontStruction by following these slots in order — starting with the caps, then plodding along, drawing one character after another, through the lowercase, numerals, and basic punctuation until you finally reach that lively little tilde (~) that seems to wave like a victory flag: “You’re done!”

But are you done? Not if you want folks in Sweden to use your font. Or Denmark. Even Germany, France, or Spain will take a look at the fruit of your tireless labor and find it woefully incomplete. The countries of Eastern Europe are out of the question. Not to mention the rest of the world.

Above: On the left is my WPA Gothic, a FontStruction I was pretty proud of … until I saw what an uneducated slob it is! The font has about 200 glyphs but it’s still missing the characters necessary just to set a simple sentence in languages commonly used throughout the Western world. By contrast, the multilingual Modular Blackout Bold Condensed is capable of all these languages except the oft-neglected Vietnamese. (Language labels set in Renovare S2. Missing character boxes set in IconoMono.)

A 26-glyph, 52-glyph, or even 200-glyph FontStruction can be a useful exercise for prototyping and experimentation, but it is rarely considered a working font. So let’s look at what else your font needs to advance beyond a fun little piece of art to a truly useful tool.

Basic Latin

In the interest of simplicity this initial row in the editor is limited to only the bare minimum of letters and punctuation. Thus the title of the character group: “Basic Latin”. And while 100 or so glyphs seem like a lot — especially when you’re limping through the set of a particularly challenging design — this group of characters is really not enough to say more than a few things in English.

What’s missing? Accented characters (or diacriticals), of course. The bits that English-centric folk might consider superfluous appendages or “extra” characters are actually standard and necessary in other languages. In Spanish, the n and ñ are individual and distinct letters of the alphabet, each with an identity and pronunciation of their own. In French, a mouthful of sablé (cookie) is more desirable than a mouthful of sable (sand). In German, you can get by without an ß (eszett) by typing ‘ss’ but in most cases it’s linguistically incorrect. And none of this even touches non-Latin languages like Russian (which uses the Cyrillic writing system) and Greek.

So what makes a complete font? The answer isn’t so simple. In fact, an absolutely complete font probably doesn’t exist. Fonts that are bundled with operating systems have a massive arsenal of characters, covering most of the Western world, but even most of those don’t speak languages like Arabic, Hindi, or Chinese.

More Latin

But lets take a step back and assume you want your FontStruction to be usable in at least the most common languages that use the Latin script. Head on over to the character set menu and move beyond Basic Latin to More Latin. This set covers much of the Western world, from North and South America to Western Europe. Even Turkish is supported. Not counting the extra punctuation, fractions, and currency symbols at the end of the row, it’s 65 more glyphs to build. Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t despair — many of these characters are variations on letters you’ve already made. With a few exceptions, you can get by with a copying, pasting, and adding a diacritical mark. The “Copy to Latin Accents” command in Expert Mode expedites this process. If legibility and cultural sensitivity is important to you — and it should be! — take some time to learn how these marks are designed and placed. Microsoft’s Character Design Standards and the Diacritics Project are very helpful guides. Once you complete these characters your work is on par with the entry-level of most commercially available fonts.

Extended Latin A

If you want your font to get play in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe you’ll need to graduate to Extended Latin A. This range covers languages like Croatian, Czech, Finnish, Hungarian, Latvian, Polish, Romanian, Serbian, and Slovak. Once you cap that last ‘z’ with a caron you will have completed a font with the same linguistic chops as the most premium commercial releases. Products with this extended language support are often stamped with a “Pro” label (see Adobe and FontFont’s definition) and are sought after by multinational corporations, publications, and any organization whose interests are global.

Punctuation

So you’ve got the letters necessary to speak all the languages you want to support. But you can’t string together meaningful sentences without punctuation. While there are myriad esoteric symbols for specialized fields like music, math, and science, let’s focus on the basic punctuation required for written texts in most Western languages. The obvious necessities are:

  • period (.) comma (,) semicolon (;) colon (:) and ellipsis (…)
  • question mark (?), and its inverted form, used in Spanish (¿)
  • exclamation marks (!¡)
  • straight quotes, single (') and double (") — though they really have no proper typographic function, computers have made them the default quote mark
  • proper “curly” quotes, single (‘’) and double (“”)
  • some languages, like French and Swiss German, quote with guillemets («» ‹›)
  • …which are not to be confused with the lesser- and greater-than symbols (< >)
  • dashes in their three most common lengths: hyphen (-), en (–), and em (—)
  • underscore (_)
  • currency symbols ($ ¢ € £)
  • and other numerical punctuation, the percentage sign (%) degree (°) and number sign/octothorp (#)
  • ordinal indicators are not commonly used in most languages, but (ªº) are expected in Latin-based languages like Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese
  • basic math symbols like plus (+) and equals (=) are necessary, while optional bits are the minus (−) division sign (÷) plus-minus (±) not equal to (≠) and multiplication sign (✕) — which is not the same as the letter ‘x’ as it should vertically align with numerals
  • asterisk (*) bullet (•) and middle dot (·) a smaller, less conspicuous bullet
  • at sign (@)
  • ampersand (&)
  • parentheses (()) brackets ([]) slashes (\/) and pipe (|)
  • registered (®) copyright (©) and trademark (™) signs

What punctuation could be considered optional?

  • curly brackets {} are not required for most uses, but they are indispensable for most programmers and can often come in handy when an alternative bracket is needed
  • the section sign (§) pilcrow (¶) and daggers (†‡) are rarely used in modern typography, but can serve as decorative paragraph separators or footnote indicators
  • single and double primes (ʹʺ) are used for units — like minutes and seconds, or feet and inches — and should have their own specific design, but most users end up employing the more accessible straight quotes
  • currencies like the Japanese yen (¥) and Indian rupee (₨ or ₹) are less common in the West where the dollar, euro, and British pound reign, but they are important in their respective regions
  • directional and decorative symbols like arrows (→) manicules (☞) checkmarks (✓) and stars (★) are not necessary for written text, but can certainly make a font more useful
  • most users don’t expect a full set of numerator and denominator figures for making arbitrary fractions but these thirds (⅓⅔) and fourths (¼½¾) are often included

Are we there yet?

So what is a complete font? If FontStructing is simply a relaxing hobby, then the answer to that question is entirely up to you, the designer. But if you intend your font to live a life outside of the FontStructor, it is ultimately up to the user. And their definition of “complete” is based on a combination of their particular needs and expectations derived from other professional fonts. No matter how inventive or appealing the design of your alphabet may be, if your font is missing what your user needs, they will likely move on to a more well-equipped option.

We hope this introduction familiarizes you with the characters and symbols that are commonly neglected, so your hard work won’t be.

Stephen is a writer and typographer living in Oakland and Berlin. After six years at FontShop San Francisco as a creative director, he now publishes Fonts In UseTypographica, andThe Mid-Century Modernist, and consults with various organizations on type selection.