Starflyer Serif

by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson)

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My first serious attempt to make a serif using Fontstruct. This is for a university project, where I am attempting to make a serif that could be used in sci-fi moives/tv shows etc. So I’m trying to figure out what makes a typeface 'sci-fi' without a) being a sans and b)resorting to clichés that impede readability. Any comments/feedback would be much appreciated! ** Much thanks to everyone who has/is giving feedback. Also a big thanks to William for giving me such detailed suggestions and pointers. **


So I'm happy with some of the direction this is taking... but it's not really sci-fi yet :-/
Comment by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson) 28th september 2009
Good start. You might consider dropping the sci-fi focus and just see where the typeface takes you.

Begs the question, will there be serifs in the year 3010?
Comment by afrojet 28th september 2009
nice beginning. i would agree with afrojet about letting the font define itself. but regarding sci-fi attributes, if we look at the fonts used for stars wars and star trek as 2 examples, they seem to generally be bold, modular-looking, angular, san serif - giving a sleek, clean, futuristic feel - i think these features could be used as visual clues for your work, perhaps. however, if you look at vintage sci-fi, they used serif fonts. so i think quite possibly fs could give you ability to create a nice retro looking contemporary font. good luck :)
Comment by funk_king 28th september 2009
I agree with afrojet and fk.

I think you should make the P look like the R without its leg. It looks a little squished to me.
Comment by aphoria 28th september 2009
Thanks guys! For my uni project I had to define the intentions before designing, so I'm attempting to make a sci-fi serif, that does not look overly retro or cliche.

I love sci-fi, in all it's forms and have been doing lots of 'research' for this project, from my observations, Microgramma and Bank Gothic are the 2 most used fonts. Other fonts like Soho or FF Signa Serif are inspiring, but I don't want to copy. :-)
Comment by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson) 28th september 2009
I'm glad you're exploring this. It's quite fascinating. A sci-fi serif typeface...To be honest, I couldn't even think of a precedent for such a thing. Perhaps the ubiquity of Bank Gothic and Microgamma/Eurostile have something to do with the genre being so rigid.

Indento has a bit of a sci-fi feel and it's a slab serif.
Comment by afrojet 29th september 2009
Nice update to the P.

I know it's coincidence, but I just noticed that so far, you have just the right letters for me...
Comment by aphoria 29th september 2009
@afrojet - wow indento is crazy! and yes, this is proving to be a challenge, mostly as i;m trying to avoid just amking a slab bank gothic/eurostile, but instead something different.

@aphoria - hehee yeah that is funny :-)

thanks again for the kind words guys - keep the suggestions coming!
Comment by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson) 29th september 2009
Don't be shy — give us some 'Handgloves', or the good old 'Hamburgefons'... :-)
Comment by gferreira_admin 29th september 2009
Another sci-fi looking reference — Feisar, by Paul van der Laan.
Comment by gferreira_admin 29th september 2009
Oooh...Indento and Feisar are both sweet!
Comment by aphoria 30th september 2009
thanks again guys! feisar looks great, but again, follows some usual conventions for sci-fi faces. another one that's great is Alphaville by Nick Shinn.

I'll get some more letter done soon - i promise :-)
Comment by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson) 30th september 2009
ps, how do i create a link in the comments?
Comment by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson) 30th september 2009
thanks will - now hidden :-)
Comment by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson) 30th september 2009
The detail on the terminals of E and F is beautiful. Narrower B P R would take this closer to classic roman proportions.
Comment by gferreira_admin 1st october 2009
Thanks for the compliment :-)
Comment by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson) 2nd october 2009
Tightened the BPROQ. fixed the K and B. what do you think?
Comment by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson) 2nd october 2009
nice letter forms, but i don't know if it think sci-fi when i see this. since this is a work in progress, maybe experiment a little more with your glyphs - see how your serifs look if they were angled, try less symmetry and more angles like in your B - you may see some surprises. also, don't discard any changes, save them in another version - just looking at your O and o indicates you may have 2 versions you can develop from this starter :)
Comment by funk_king 2nd october 2009
another thought - create the glyphs needed to view the words: sci-fi, space, mission, or any other sci-fi related word or phrase. this may help you better see how the font will look when actually used for...well, sci-fi projects. it may help :) also what about half serifs? maybe only the top or bottom one on any given glyph, and/or maybe inside or outside ones? or alternating them - kinda like the randomness of space? i can almost see a variation where using D as an example, the top serif is removde and that top left corner is angled in. oh well, just some friendly thoughts and suggestions. this really has lots of potential :)
Comment by funk_king 2nd october 2009
Thanks Funk_King - lots of food for thought... on a practical level, when you say keep the alternatives, do you mean in other spots in this fonstruction, or in another fontstruction? can you copy between fontstructions?
Comment by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson) 3rd october 2009
Yes, you can copy-and-paste between fontstructions, thanks to a recent improvement by Mr. Meek.

I usually open two different fontstructions in different Firefox tabs and then copy-and-paste between them.
Comment by aphoria 3rd october 2009
To create a link in the comments you need to use some HTML code :
Replace YOUR URL by the URL you want to link to, and TEXT OF THE LINK by the word(s) that will appear as a link. Take care : every character and space is important.

Comment by igorrossi 3rd october 2009
OK, let's do it again. The code is :
Comment by igorrossi 3rd october 2009
Thanks again guys. I've added an M and N, I've also started a second fontstruct with the 'leftovers' in it. I hope to finish the uppercase and make a start on the lower case by the end of this week. My assignment is due in just over a week, so i don't have much time to do this!
Comment by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson) 5th october 2009
ok, more characters done and a test with some 'sci-fi' words.
Comment by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson) 7th october 2009
Pretty Good. It's real promising..

Also.. I know I've been advertising a lot, I'm desperate, can you join the FontStruct Forum (
Comment by Gazek 7th october 2009
Massive changes. I decided that to get a more 'sci-fi' look i'd try it as an extended face. I think it works a lot more. I've completly changed the round letters. I'll be working on lower case tomorrow. What do you guys think?
Comment by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson) 10th october 2009

I’m glad you went in the extended direction. I was going to suggest as much – both for the “Epic” look, and because fontstruct practically demands it by enforcing such a limited set of diagonals. This looks a ton better, as I see you begin to finesse some of the blockiness that was sapping the life from that whole sleek, Sci-fi pastiche.

What a fine line between a futuristic angular sophistication and an antiquated chisel-hewn imitation!

I have made a clone of your work. In it, I’ve made a whole slew of suggestions about where to go from here with the capitals. I even push the font further in the “display” direction – without sacrificing significant legibility.

I find that despite all the polygonal similarities, the caps are actually lacking a uniform personality. So here’s what I tried:

• I made a bunch of adjustments to character widths for consistency. This helps, I think.
• I tried to bring more consistency to the serifs, especially in the C,G, and S terminals.
• That J needs some serious help; I don’t know if mine is quite the one, but it’s an idea to play with.
• The B always bugged me (well, really how A, B, C, D seemed to each belong to a different font). I worked it quite a bit and came to a decent solution that fits better with the distinctive D.
• The K, P, and R inherited the new B’s notched middle bar which also created a template for the A, J, N, Q, W, and Z to sport small, sharp details. You may dispute this approach, but my point (no pun intended) is to bring in more refined details to both gel and polish the set.
• Please take out the asymmetrical bracketing of the serifs. Those sharp intersections are actually working for you!
• If any of this seems helpful, check out the new characters closely. Just about every one of them has some minor or major changes that may help you come closer to a final set.

To me, Sci-fi is all about coherency of style and/or refinement of personality. Bring on the shapely space serifs, then! We just happen to be drifting through the doldrums of soulless sans at this moment in Sci-fi’s pop culture evolution...and a pandemic of design clichés in cinematic type treatments as a whole!
Comment by William Leverette (will.i.ૐ) 10th october 2009
btw, can’t wait for the small caps version :-)
Comment by William Leverette (will.i.ૐ) 10th october 2009
will, wow. simply wow.

i am going to take a close look now, but your sugestions are very much appreaciated!!!

I agree about the streamlining of everything, i think i was trying to fight that too much in an effort to be different, but it was getting in the way.

ok, i'm going to jump into your and see what you are talking about.

Comment by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson) 11th october 2009
Haha, you’re welcome Simon. I just hope some of it helps!

You know, I think you have plenty of uniqueness going on here, just a matter of decided what the keep/emphasize and where to borrow from the more tried and true. I think you’re on the right path and doing well.

BTW, since you may be looking at the other version right now (and I don’t know how these message chains work in realtime...) I have made a couple more tweaks over at Starfokker that may interest you. I don’t want to be redundant, here, but I also don’t want you to miss out since these changes at this point are awfully subtle!
Comment by William Leverette (will.i.ૐ) 11th october 2009
with advice/suggestions from will i have tweaked more, although i havn't made it as pointy as he would like :-)

lowercase getting there, i hope to finish it tonight! (well i *need* to to get it submitted on time!!!)
Comment by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson) 12th october 2009
Hey there,

As I lay here still recovering from the traumatic events of just over a week ago, I’ve had a chance to mull over your in-progress lowercase set. Testament to the time on my hands.

Sorry, I just couldn’t wait :) So I cloned Starflyer again and filled in the lc blanks while making suggestions for the glyphs you’ve already completed. I really like the idea of your original e, so I gave that another shot. For such a commonly occurring character, I think it can travel light years imbuing that techy, Sci-fi quality you’re after. Plus, it mimics the unique uppercase glyphs with their slanting crossbars! Of course, you will need make your own considerations before reaching the final conclusion.

Well, I hope you have fun speedily finishing up the last phase of this university project!
Comment by William Leverette (will.i.ૐ) 12th october 2009
hi will, what happened a week ago?

thanks for doing the rest of lc - but now you've out me in a slightly awkward position! :-)
Comment by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson) 13th october 2009
Hey Sye ~

Sorry about imposing! I should have waited, to be sure – this is your project, after all. I just got all excited to see samples set in U&lc and once I started in that direction it was hard to stop. : )

Here’s what I’ll do. Until you‘ve had a chance to finish the lc according to your own inspiration I will hide my suggestions. Then, when you are ready for some feedback, I will share it again. That’s the right time for a dialog anyway!

Just over a week ago, Saturday, I got in a wicked car crash in which my vehicle rolled. I lost consciousness for maybe and hour and half, got about half-scalped and concussed in the process, but somehow walked away from it without any significant neurological damage. Boy am I thankful to have my life!

But I haven’t been able to work my job since the crash and today will actually be my first attempt at putting in some hours. Wish me luck! I still have this wicked pain at the base of my spine whenever I stand up from sitting or kneeling – and I work a somewhat public job – so hopefully I don’t make too many scenes grimacing, and grunting, and grabbing whatever’s close for support until the pain passes. :-/
Comment by William Leverette (will.i.ૐ) 13th october 2009
thanks will - good idea :-)

re accident - that's totally crazy! i'm glad you're ok (well, considering). all the best with work and your continued healing!
Comment by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson) 13th october 2009
ok, it's 2am my time. this thing is due in a few hours, so i'm stopping here for now. i welcome more feedback, only after thursday evening please. thanks everyone!
Comment by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson) 14th october 2009
You should be proud of what you have made so far.

I think the lowercase is killer.
Comment by aphoria 14th october 2009
I passed my subject! thanks for all the feedback and suggestions. Now that this is not longer a uni thing, I can start to work with whoever is interested to make this font great.
Comment by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson) 15th october 2009
Congratulations, Simon!

You deserve high marks, as far as I am concerned. Ultimately this represents a pretty successful, and well-considered – or gutsy – or both – leap of faith.

I have certainly had the experience with complicated, large-grid fontstructions going well enough until reaching those certain troublesome glyphs that just won’t fly as I desire no matter how hard I twist the bricks. I mean, dang, that’s what lead me to isolating and refining the whole brickstacking bug into a usable form. Sheer determination to make it work.

In these cases, maybe I got pretty good at hiding this behind some conceit or other. One can celebrate these challenges as limitations of the medium which lead to “creative” solutions, but they always hallmark the result as distinctly fonstructian and give irrefutable credence (as if this was needed!) to Erik Spiekermann’s quote used as the first sample in the “Meet Fontstruct” newsletter entry from way back when.

Well, I don’t see that you had to hide behind trickery much at all with Starflyer. In your chosen style, you succeeded in avoiding clichés while creating a distinct and consistently legible work.

I wonder: What kind of feedback did you get from your peers/instructors? Were they already familiar with FontStruct? Did you have to prepare some kind of specimen you would be willing to share?

And where do you go from here? New adventures that benefit from what you learned here, I hope. Of course I have that little bit more feedback concerning the lowercase. Now that it’s a good time to share it, I hope your enjoyment adds to the fun and challenge I had playing with it. There’s always numerals, the more common punctuation – and all the massive expanse of possible characters you could create to make this a truly multi-lingual tour de force.

To me, working with the extended character set is a lot of what makes fontstruct compelling. It offers a context to research foreign typography from languages I otherwise know very little about. What an interesting window into the way others see this world.

You surely worked hard on this one. And with a pressing deadline. If it turns out you need to take a break from it, put it to bed as it is, or otherwise bring your inspiration to new horizons, I totally understand and even encourage this eventuality!

Comment by William Leverette (will.i.ૐ) 16th october 2009
thanks will, here is some samples from what i presented to my teacher. the feedback from both peers and instructors was good, and no, they had not heard of fontstruct. i'll take a break for a week or so to get all my other assessments out of the way, then i'll dive back in and try to extend this thing!
Comment by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson) 16th october 2009
Comment by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson) 16th october 2009
Comment by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson) 16th october 2009
quite marvelous. you have achieved your goal and the samples are impressive. your entire project highlights many issues that have recently been discussed here. the collaboration with this has been exceptional. by allowing cloning others were able to make relevant suggestions for you to consider. i used to allow cloning, then changed when my font dls started to accumulate. initially i felt as others that allowing cloning as a beginner is the best way to learn and have others contribute to that effort. but perhaps it was just a feeling i had that it was time to change the license. i think the greater danger now regarding someone trying to take credit for someone else work is that with the copy and paste function, someone can clone a font and copy and paste from it into an entirely new file that has that person's attribution in the font file. i haven't checked, but i do believe that cloned fonts contain a reference to the author of the original font for the clone. now with copy and paste - watch out. good or bad, that is the potential reality and concerned FSers should either change their licenses or do nothing. as a semi-pro, i feel if i'm not getting paid for the use of my work, at least give me credit :) eventually i want to address the 'no one ever heard of fontstruct' item :)
Comment by funk_king 16th october 2009
you raise some good points, and with the advent of Google Wave (which i still don't have an invite for :-) the idea of collaborating (in real time no less) and being able to see who has done what, could be interesting.

I'd love to work as a team with someone (or a group) on a fontstruction, but cloning alone just does not cut it.
Comment by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson) 16th october 2009
Congratulations! FontStruct Staff have deemed your FontStruction worthy of special mention. “Starflyer Serif” is now a Top Pick.
Comment by gferreira_admin 16th october 2009
Congratulations on you course pass and the Top Pick. All that hard work has paid off :)
Comment by p2pnut 16th october 2009
thanks FS team for picking Starflyer!

thanks p2pnut for the kind words!

i still have plans to extend this font :-)
Comment by Sye Robertson (SimonRobertson) 16th october 2009
I wanted to write a comment earlier, but then others said already what I was about to say. Congratulations to this beautiful fontstruction. It's going to be a very fruitful university project. What else have you in you mind? More weight, a condensed or maybe a cursive version? 10/10

PS: It was a bit shocking to see my vote was the first 10. Well, you've got a severe jury, but it's not a bad thing.
Comment by Frodo7 16th october 2009
The font (family, someday? bold is not a bad idea...) keeps improving. If I voted five stars to begin with, how could my rating keep pace? I’d have to do something positively naughty, in that case! ;^)

Sye: Thanks for posting the samples. They look great! Is that row of names on the third one friends or family? Dijon mustard: haha, that just tickles me ^o^ and the magenta ZOIDBERG punchline is a knockout! I am thoroughly impressed by how well the B, R, and P go with the rest of the text. I get that you had a great feeling for the sense of humor possible with this design which totally caught me by surprise.
Comment by William Leverette (will.i.ૐ) 17th october 2009

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