Brick by Brick, the FontStruct Blog

The FontStruct Blog

Posts from Rob Meek (meek)

Gridfolk: Interview with Zephram

Dear FontStructors,

For our latest interview we ventured to the outer fringes of ’Structia – a zone where the bricks are strewn sparsely, the grid is overgrown, and the woods begin to thicken. Here we encountered a man in a broad-brimmed hat answering to the name of Zephram.

Zephram Portrait – Interview with an Outsider

Text set in Vampire Nation by Zephram

While quiet of late, between 2018 and 2019 Zephram was an extremely prodigious and influential contributor to FontStruct, publishing a total of over 700 FontStructions to date.

His ouevre is extremely diverse – from pixel designs, through all kinds of geometric experiments, to the occasional, seemingly-reserved, sans-serif – but in each FontStruction you will recognise the distinctive, confident signature of the well-practised artist. While there is plenty of quirky detail to discover in each design, when you take a step back you will see the coherence and balance of the whole.

We waylaid this mysterious character from the fringes. We plied him with unfamiliar and exotic bricks from distant regions, and eventually he agreed to satisfy our curiosity and answer some of our questions about his FontStructive life.

How did you get interested in typography?

I was often bored in school and doodled a lot. This began with classics like the bubble letters and the cool S which just about everyone has seen before. Later, in my early teenage years, I got a calligraphy set from a mail-order catalogue. Since I’m left-handed, many of the strokes were impractical to perform, so I had to invent my own system. I don’t remember how it worked or looked though, because the ink cartridges ran out quickly, and that was over 20 years ago.

In early adulthood, I began doing digital art using Photoshop 7. This led to me following–and then making–a number of styled text techniques. These involved things like making letters look as if they were made of gold and encrusted with jewels (an idea that had a bit of a resurgence with Disco Bling), making glyphs look like gems or engravings, and so on. I spent a lot of time on this, so I guess my background is really in typesetting and graphic design more so than typography.

After that, I hardly did anything with text for a while, until I began doing pixel art, which eventually led me to FontStruct.

How have you used the fonts which you have created?

They’ve been used in album covers, book covers, games, chat clients, browsers, terminals, and a bunch of other things that I’m not even aware of.

My first uses of them were in pixel comics, IRC, Multi-User Dungeons/MUDs, and the like. Most of these have fairly intricate text protocols. Text can be colorized, stylized, and so on. Think of it like a version of HTML, except code tags are replaced with invisible control characters that you usually enter by typing Ctrl+[Key] in your IRC or MUD client. I developed some MUDs of my own, including DSRPG, which used the block characters ▀, ▄, and █ to create an ASCII version of pixel art. This was later combined with traditional ASCII art to create a hybrid art style. I’ve also used tools such as PLAYSCII to generate textmode art which is a combination of raster color backgrounds and glyphs from a user-defined character set. This is very similar to the IRC/MUD art.

DS RPG Characters

ASCII pixel art creatures from DSRPG. Text set in Cartoon Riot

Since most networks and clients only allowed you about 16 colors, you really had to make the most of them. Font choice, and color choice, played heavily into the aesthetic theming of something. One nice thing was that you could define both a foreground and background color. This allowed for the building-up of rather complex art.

Zephram’s avatar

Zephram’s avatar converted into textmode art via PLAYSCII

When and how did you discover

I found Fontstruct while looking for a way to turn my bitmap fonts into usable TTF files. It was probably a search for “online font creator” or similar.

What attracted you to the FS platform initially? And what has made you stay?

I was initially attracted to the FS platform by its ease-of-use and its ability to export TTFs. Getting to see my own fonts being used in IRC clients, Notepad apps, browsers, etc. was great. I didn’t have to settle for the stock look or go around hunting for someone else’s design to put on there. I could just make it how I wanted it, down to the pixel. After this novelty wore off, I found more. I realized I could make fonts that were really small, and thereby make pixel comics which were accompanied by proper text. I decided to see just how small a design could be while retaining its legibility and a decent character set, and that led to the main body of experiments which got me addicted to FS. As the designs got bigger, they were able to get more interesting as well.

Font sample for “Spacekapitan” by Zephram

Text set in Spacekapitan

What are your thoughts on the tool that is FontStruct and the creativity of its community?

The creativity of the user base is incalculable, as is the range of possibilities that can be achieved within FS. Each design is like a crystal. Two of them may be of the same mineral species, but the fine details and inclusions almost always show a great degree of variation. FS includes enough brick types and a big enough grid for an astronomically large range of variations to exist even within highly standard forms of type. This makes evident the great design principles of the FS engine. It keeps all the doors open and leaves it to the user to decide when and how to close them. Eventually, enough decisions are made, and enough material placed onto the canvas, that a design emerges. Because this medium is digital, whatever you publish looks like it was always that way. It lends a sense of conviction to the work. It’s not like a drawing where you see the sketch and the errors which were erased. Digital creation leaves no trace of one’s errors or iterations except when one allows it.

The mantra of “The right tool for the right job” focuses on the importance of the tool but underplays the creativity of the craftsperson using it. Do you agree?

Using the right tool is usually a matter of saving effort. There are very few jobs which can only be done with one kind of tool, and I don’t think many such jobs exist within the realm of digital typography. Digital is wide-open by nature.

There’s also a balance to be struck between achieving the original vision and allowing the thing to become the best it can. Forcing everything into the mold of a vision is a great way to ensure you’ll worry far too much about things others will never see/hear while also accelerating your own burnout. Some do manage to both enforce their vision and avoid burnout, though I don’t know whether this is due to talent or neurosis.

Sometimes in the process of creating, you discover more possibilities, and they strike your fancy far more than your original idea does. And sometimes, you see possibilities which can be more ideally rendered with the tools you have at your disposal. A creative sees those latter cases and takes advantage. It plays to its strengths more than it endeavors to reinforce its weaknesses. These strengths are developed largely in the absence of the perfect tools or ideas, which leads rather nicely into my main point: The essential skill of the creative is to persist. Whether afforded the perfect tool for the job or not, a creative makes the best of things, and never throws its work away it can help it. There’s knowledge to be gained even from the most frivolous and abortive of attempts. Keep working on something long enough and it will eventually become good – even when you have no idea why!

With digital creations, do you see the lack of evidence of past “mistakes” or experimentation as a positive?

I find it to be helpful, but this really depends on the software environment and workflow. When making digital art, I will often find a combination of layers and layer blending modes which looks cool but requires every layer in the document to have a particular order and blending mode. In these cases, I’ll just save a copy of the project . This preserves the modularity of each design variant.

Thanks to copies/clones, everything can be customized or replaced without disturbing the other bodies of work. So, for people who are content to see their experiments branch out into multiple forms, the neatness of digital can be very encouraging.

There’s also the option of using a method that is not the neatest (for instance, making a digital painting using only one layer, or not allowing yourself to use Undo). One can choose a degree of neatness that lies anywhere between traditional art and digital art. So even digital art styles can tell their own history, and reveal mistakes and corrections made, if that’s desired.

You have created tutorials on FS about FS that are very helpful for beginners. What made you decide to do them? How do you select what topics to tackle in them?

It’s a rare case where things can be reduced to principles of operation. Art is open-ended, but on FS, certain methods simply have to be followed to do certain things. FS exists in a sort of transitional space between what I’ll call “freehand art” and pixel art. This allows some aspects of the process to be approached methodically or intellectually rather than artistically. I think this is part of why FS appeals to so many programmers, neurodivergent people, and the like.

Zephram's FontStruct Tutorial Sample

Image from Zephram’s FontStruct Tutorials


The barrier of entry on FS also seemed quite high. A lot of the knowledge is worked out through trial and error. It also seems that a lot of new users are reluctant to post comments or ask questions. They need knowledge they can get right when they have the idea to try FS. So, the tutorial knowledge needed to be seized from the mists and brought out into the open. Hopefully, this saves people time in discovering what FS is capable of, at least on a technical level. You’d need to look to more proficient users to find out what kinds of art FS can make. I would recommend the likes of jirinvk, four, elmoyenique, geneus1, Frodo7 and so on.

What inspires you to create your fonts?

I made most of them just to have something to do on a given day and to train some skill or another. When I started on FS, I didn’t know many fellow creative people, so when I wanted inspiration, I had to make it myself. Making fonts was one of my ways of acting on ideas rather than keeping them captive in my head.

Most of the fonts are doodles. I open FS, pick a letter, draw a basic form of that, and then try out bricks and ideas until I see something I haven’t made before. Sometimes I get a design which I can use to template all the other glyphs, but usually I have to adapt a lot of them. The adaptations made tend to have a strong bearing on how a design looks. So I’d say the inspiration comes half from messing around, half from reacting to it. A lot of my creative output exists only because I created something ridiculous, it made me laugh, and that amusement made me continue working on it.

How would you compare creating fonts with other creative processes. Is the ability to, say, paint or create music a help or hindrance in making fonts?

I had experience in making pixel art before I started making fonts. That one’s sort of easy mode for purposes of answering your question since it is just like using FS with only the square brick. Having that previous experience did help, not only with pixel fonts but high-res ones as well. Practicing pixel art causes one to develop a number of principles, such as how big to make something in order to have the desired amount of detail in it. All of this translates rather nicely into making fonts.

As for the musical side of things (my main hobby), I can say that I have entered many situations where I was making a cover image for a song, needed a distinctive font, and then set out to make that font. This is also helpful because much of the esthetic sense is already established. By the time I’m making the font, I already know the mood of the piece and how I want to portray it through text and imagery. So, there are far less questions to answer when it comes to actually making the font and deciding whether it fits.

Different strains of creativity can build upon one another and even force each other into being. I almost always find this to be helpful. Even when the extra information yielded from this process is of no use, it’s still interesting, and thinking about interesting things is certainly among the best ways to cultivate a creative mindset.

You mentioned music creation and production is your main hobby. Can you tell us something about that? Is there some place where we can go and hear some of your music?

I have a SoundCloud: Sonic Kitchen

Most of the material on there was made between Summer 2021 and now. The picture you’ll get from SC is vast, but still incomplete. I have a small wall made of lunch boxes full of hard drives and archival CD-ROMs of all my own music, video games (it’s mostly Klik&Play, Multimedia Fusion, Flash, RPG Maker, Game Maker Studio, and similar), and other projects, because it’s just too laborious and expensive to host ALL the stuff online. There’s a lot of variety on the SC, but of course that means some of it is weird. No sense downplaying that part.

No FontStructor is an island: Besides music and pixel art, are you involved in things beyond FontStruct, music and pixel art? – e.g. other hobbies or passions?

I’m retired from the Navy, so my schedule is wide open. I occasionally start art or musician groups, but always become disenchanted with them and leave them before long. I have been an island and seen many other islands. They aren’t as impossible or as astronomically rare as people think. People are predisposed to create associations where none exist, and this causes them to assume influence where in fact there was independent original thought. This mindset estranges those who actually come up with things themselves. The global interconnectedness many enjoy is still an opt-in sort of thing and many of us choose not to opt in because we hate to see the homogenization of culture. Islands are becoming proportionally more common than ever.

Where do you FontStruct?

I do all my PC stuff at a giant desk I built. The studio is a cabin out in the woods.

Favourite Book(s)?

I don’t read many books because cults of personality tend to form around authors. I would rather create my own culture from scratch than siphon off someone else’s. But I can say that I once liked authors such as Spider Robinson, Cixin Liu, Elisabeth Vonarburg, and so on. Most of the media I do consume now is on YouTube. It’s much more interactive than traditional books or TV, and people there are very good at teaching skills in a concise way

Many would-be creatives find themselves struggling in internal psychological mires. They suffer self-doubt, transient motivation, or other anxieties. They find that they cannot sustain or even begin their creative practice.

It is a big problem, for a multitude of reasons beyond the scope of the interview, but so few people are talking about these issues, they must have become desensitized to them.

First, we have the I don’t have time argument. Modern people busy themselves a great deal. They try to go everywhere, do everything, and make use of every opportunity, but end up understanding and appreciating very little of it. It’s an oversaturated, busybodied, neurotic way of living, more fit for ants than for human beings. A creative makes time, ensures time can be made, and tries not to blame tools or circumstances.

Second, we have the What is the point of doing this? question. Why keep drawing, why keep designing? Someone who needs to ask this question just doesn’t get it, and only that someone can ever resolve that problem…

Third, we have the I’ll never be as good as X argument, where people shoot the metaphorical ship down before it can ever get off the ground, because they have forgotten the joys of flying. You can’t let thinking like this stop you from doing anything. Your mind is your domain and your place of sovereign power. The work of X, who you admire, does not exist there. You are the captain, not a passenger!

The key to motivation is to relinquish all need for motivation. Do the cool stuff just because, do it out of second nature, do it just because that’s the sort of creature you want to be. Do it the same way you get out of the bed, take the breaths, eat the food, and drink the water. Do anything other than falling into this goal-oriented, reward-center-stimulating, addict-like rigmarole that successful people insist on. They only know how to hoard things and then sit atop their hoards like dragons. If I relied on motivation, I would never get to make anything.

A creative runs at any speed and never thinks about time or money or motivation. That is why creatives keep living, and keep creating, while others are condemned to sit on the sidelines. It doesn’t matter if this makes money or fame. It will always make us happy, and we can keep doing it forever.

Do your creative work in a mindset which is immune to ruination. Avoid direct comparisons when possible; they make everyone’s work feel belittled and reduced. If you see a style that reminds you of a great Impressionist painter’s work, talk about Impressionism, or the use of color/technique, not the other painter. And, do your best to appreciate things for what they are, not what you want them to be.

If your design looks good, it IS good!

Thank you Zephram!

Heavy Competition Results

Dear FontStructors,

The “Heavy” competition has ended and, once again, the staff at FontStruct Towers were overwhelmed by your creativity. Sixty amazing entries! I hope that everyone had fun taking part, and took pleasure in designing and sharing your work. I’m only sorry that we will feature only a few FontStructions in this post.

With judging a more daunting prospect than ever, we sought and found the assistance of a genuine typographical heavyweight. As well as being the managing editor at Fonts in Use and founding partner of design agency Kaune & Hardwig, Florian Hardwig has been a FontStruct supporter since its earliest days. (Of our 2.1 million+ registrations, he is number 99!) He’s also used FontStruct as a tool in his teaching practice in the past, even smuggling FontStruct right into the Bauhaus Archive itself!

Without further ado, Florian’s favourites:

Winner #1 db HeavyLight by beate

db heavy light

Florian wrote:

I’m fond of FontStructions that embrace the limitations of the grid and explore an idea without dialing up the resolution endlessly. db HeavyLight is a great example. The square glyphs with their monospaced width and unconventional weight distribution seem to channel the lettering made by Chris Lebeau in the 1920s. In their playfulness, they also remind me of Ben Shahn’s work. The ingenious thing about db HeavyLight is that the lowercase holds alternate caps, shown white against black. By mixing positive and negative glyphs, one can unleash a fascinating play of figure and ground, of light and dark.

Winner #2 tm about a square by thalamic

tm about a square

Florian wrote:

Blocky typefaces of very heavy height tend to look clunky and boring. It helps to add a dash of white, to open up the black surface a little, and also to hint at counters and stem boundaries. One clever and minimalist way of doing so is to overlay the glyphs with fine lines. In True Cross Fire and Watzlcross, two film faces from the 1970s, this resembles cross hairs. In tm About a Square  I see a more peaceful and pleasant analogy: each glyph looks like a gift, wrapped in paper and tied with a ribbon!

Winner #3 Metaal by four


Florian wrote:

I had a hard time deciding between Metaal and Zwaar, another compelling entry by the same contestant. In the end, Metaal’s fun and (seemingly) simple concept won me over. Basic letterforms defined by monolinear strokes for contours and counters, abutted against each other – just like we used to draw them on graph paper during lesson, while dreaming of the next festival weekend. What makes Metaal so cool is its steep angle. Together with the diagonal terminals that oscillate around the baseline and x-height, it yields a wicked look. This font is a machine for making instant band logos.

Colour Winner: KD Kalyn by architaraz

KD Kalyn

As it turned out, Florian’s choices were all monochromatic although he did admire the colour entries, picking out this one in particular. KD Kalyn by architaraz was also my favourite from among the polychromatics. It’s wonderful that it works, both as a plain single colour design, and as this chunky array of escheresque facets.

The People’s Choice

The People’s choice was Zwaar. So double well-done four!

Honorable Mentions

I seriously recommend that everyone takes a close look at each and every entry – ideally download them and try them out. But here are a few more which I particularily enjoyed:
G1 Defkhan by geneus1, cicmankaputAB4028ii by jirinvk, Moon Machine A by V. Sarela (Yautja), Tennessine Slab by Frodo7, corpus opulentia by tortoiseshell, Ailurophilia FS by Haley Wakamatsu.

Thank you!

Thanks again to everyone who took part.

Thanks to our generous sponsors Glyphs App, the world’s leading desktop font editor for OSX. Glyphs continues to quietly and kindly support FontStruct in 2022.

Last but not least, thanks to our guest judge Florian Hardwig, for gifting us his time and expertise.

Have an idea for our next competition theme? Please add it in the comments.

Happy FontStructing!

Heavy Competition

Heavy Competition

Dear FontStructors,
Finally! It’s time once more, to snatch up your finest bricklayer’s gauntlets. Prepare to grapple on the grid, and pit brick against brick, in friendly modular strife with your fellow FontStructors.
It’s time for the latest FontStruct Competition!


We would like you to build one or more FontStructions which are somehow connected to our competition theme: “Heavy

This theme has been suggested several times in the past, and FontStruct has always seemed to work well for all kinds of “heavy” fonts – whether in terms of simple weight, or metal.

Please do interpret the theme as loosely as you wish – it’s there only to inspire, not to confine. The image at the top of this post is there only for decoration. It does not indicate any expectations, or necessary direction.

If you’re struggling for ideas, you could have a browse through our curated set “Heavy”.

Competition Time Period

Thursday, 9th June 2022 – Friday 8th July, 2022

Competition Rules

  1. You must be a registered FontStruct user.
  2. Your submission(s) must be posted and made “public” between 9th June 2022 and 8th July, 2022. 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 than 8th July, 2022 at 11pm PST. Additionally, your submission(s) must remain public at least until 22nd July 2022 in order to give the judges enough time to review all qualifying entries.
  3. Your submission(s) must be tagged with a “HeavyComp” tag. (For fairness, during the competition time period, no FontStruction with the “HeavyComp” tag will be awarded a Top Pick.)
  4. Your submission(s) must be downloadable. If your FontStruction cannot be downloaded, the submission will not be including in the judging.
  5. Your submission must be a newly published FontStruction. Simply adding the “HeavyComp” tag to an already published font is not allowed.
  6. For each submission, you must post at least one sample image in the comments of the FontStruction.
  7. No letters in each submission can be MORE THAN 48 grid squares high.
  8. FontStruct cloning is permitted but the judges will be looking for original work.
  9. You may enter up to three FontStructions to the competition.
  10. This is a friendly competition. Cheering, favoriting and fun banter is encouraged but cruel and uncivil behavior will not be tolerated.
  11. No rules regarding licensing. You may choose any license you like for your FontStruction. (but it needs to be downloadable!)

Judging and announcing the winners

All qualifying FontStructions will by judged by the FontStruct staff  between July 8th and July 18th. Three prizewinners will be chosen. One of these will be the FontStructors’ Favourite. Winners will be announced in a FontStruct Blog post on Monday July 18th 2022.


Each winner can choose a t-shirt printed with a FontStruction glyph of their choice.

FontStructors’ Favourite

The valid entry with the highest number of legitimate favourites (yes we check) at 11pm PST on 10th July 2022 will be one of the three prizewinners.


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

May the best FontStruction win.

FontStructions in the image at the top, from left to right: Horse Power Nick by Wataru (Wataru Aiso)Vampire Nation by zephram, db cache-cache by beate, zinople eye/FS by elmoyenique and Znipped by graphicfever.

FontStruct would like to heartily thank our principal sponsor: Glyphs and our many FS Patrons for supporting FontStruct.

Gridfolk: Interview with Jiri Novak

Jirinvk Avatar

Jiri after a shot of pure homegrown blackcurrant juice, alongside bulbambulAN3630 and floriitutaBN50

Dear FontStructors,

Picking up the baton from Ata, who is taking a well-earned rest after an epic and insightful series of interviews, I thought I would try and find out more about one of FontStruct’s most enigmatic characters: Jiri Novak AKA jirinvk – the creator of multiple extensive series of highly idiosyncratic FontStructions.

Avowedly modular, graphically powerful, decorative and always playing at the fringes of the legible, Jiri’s designs are worked and re-worked through systematic variations determined by some elusive, cryptic logic. Is it possible to divine the nature of this logic? Can we discover its origins? Who is this Jiri Novak? We sent letters East, to Bohemia, in an effort to find out …

The following interview was conducted via email.

Where do you come from?

I was born in 1973 in Litomysl (Eastern Bohemia). Litomysl is a UNESCO heritage site due to the presence of a renaissance castle. The castle is extensively decorated with sgraffito — mostly in the form of envelope-like “letters” consisting of a uniform frame and unique central areas. There are approximately 8000 such sgraffito-letters covering the façade. Perhaps being exposed to this at an early age contributed to my mania for iterations with slight variations.


Litomysl Castle Sgraffitos

Sgraffitos from Litomyšl Castle façade

Where are you now?
I live in Prague now, but I inherited a small house where my grandparents used to live, in a village near my hometown, and so I regularly go there in my spare time.
In the countryside I have no internet. I can enjoy being disconnected and doing some gardening. I expect to spend my retirement there one day. So, basically I am split between (online, busy) Prague and (offline, lazy) East Bohemian countryside (I like contradictions).
jirinvk hazelnuts

Samples from Jiri’s hazelnut harvest, with mocholataAJ55

Your designs have architectural qualities. Where do they come from?
I studied architecture at the Technical University in Prague. I left after 3 years, without graduating.
There I was tutored by Alena Šrámková who died on the 10th March 2022 (link to forum discussion and documentaries). She was the person who had the greatest impact on me in those years).
I am still very interested in architecture but I have zero interest in making a living as an architect (and thus I don’t regret not graduating). Finding FontStruct and designing alphabets was a kind of substitute for abandoning designing houses.
What do you do for a living?
After I terminated the phase of my education I had no permanent job for nearly a decade.
I embraced the life of an aimless drifter and was preoccupied with useless activities (e.g. making ornaments, which I am recreating on FontStruct at the moment).
After this irresponsible phase I settled in a menial job in the polygraphic industry (I was operating a folding machine — A machine that folds sheets of paper).
I did this for quite a long time.
At the moment I make my living by selling paints (Selling “colors” — i am quite a chromophiliac, so in a way i enjoy this dull commercial activity).
Chromophilia? You work with colour perhaps more than any other FS Patron

If exposed to a complex combination of colors (be it a piece of colorist art, a colorful ornament, or colorful natural phenomena), it (usually) has a strong impact on me. For example, when I attended an exhibition of Raquib Shaw and saw his big format paintings, abundant with colors (nearly kitschy excess of color) I was completely out of my mind, was probably never closer to Stendhal Syndrom then, was almost mildly “tripping”.
Most of the people respond positively to colors (nothing unusual) — I can be (at times) jinxed/mesmerized.

Btw, while doing colorful ornaments on FontStruct I don’t really strive for a mesmerizing combination of colors.
In those ornaments, i use colors rather arbitrarily (color No.1, color No. 2., color No. 3, color No.4) — i.e. an ornament consisting of 4 colors, or of 3 colors, or of 5 colors, etc, etc.
I am doing just a template and expect that everyone will re-colorize those ornaments according to his/her likings.

Do you enjoy your work?
I try to strictly separate my passions and my occupation. I prefer to do as an occupation something that is not mentally engaging (Something I can do on autopilot — with not much mental endeavor) and spare my mental/creative powers for hobbies (I have plenty of hobbies).
I have zero interest in designing something for a client. I have zero interest in aiming at a larger target group and thus making the fruits of my creative efforts sellable — Thus I am absolutely avoiding “creative jobs” within the framework of capitalism.
Please tell us about your hobbies and interests, how they feed into your font design and FontStruct.
Besides making fonts on FontStruct, I am a passionate cinephile. I edit a film database “Kinometer” (conceived and started by my cinephile friend) and I’m a regular on the SCFZ cinephile forum. Occasionally I do English subtitles for Czech films. I guess watching a lot of experimental films has an impact on the way I create fonts (multiple-exposure techniques, the insertion of blank frames in structuralist films, etc.)
I am also a fervent visitor of art exhibitions (I am fond of art brut) and the collages of Jiří Kolář have had a substantial influence on some of my fonts (and the way I am cutting them into stripes, tearing them up, reassembling them, etc.) Kolář invented or helped to develop multiple new collage techniques – of confrontage, froissage, rollage, chiasmage etc.
jiri kolar

Jiří Kolář, Lady in love (1967), rollage-cubomania (wikipedia) with jaubolAW42

I am interested in literature. I actually even compiled a book (it is in Czech but I translated the contents into English). In cinema terms, it is a “found footage” (I found the scribbles of a certain lady — viz the noteworthy handwriting — arranged everything into chapters, writing some fragments myself to make the whole story smooth). I also have a great interest in asemic writing. I would love to make more fonts on the margin between readable and asemic. I wish my fonts to be readable but not with ease.
Crucial books related to my aesthetic views (and thus even making fonts) are The Philosophical Foundations Of Early German Romanticism (by Manfred Frank) and Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godel (by Rebecca Goldstein) … or anything about Kurt Godel.
– I guess all of this is me in nutshell :))
Tell us about your gardening practice.
I try to approach gardening (and also my other activities) with a great deal of irony, I would even say “romantic irony” (which is a part of “romantic aesthetics” which appeal to me).
I have written about blackcurrant and hazelnut harvests in my garden on the cinephile forum I mentioned before – these accounts are allusions to “Ogawa Productions” such as the Red Persimmons documentary.
Black Currant Juice

Jiri’s frothing blackcurrant juice and duotwinAJ2416

Are you involved in broader creative discourse outwith FontStruct?
I am not really a social animal. I would even say I have certain misanthropic leanings.
However, despite my mild misanthropy, there are of course some people whom I do take pleasure to communicate with.
In such a cases, I tend to chat a lot about films (among my dear ones, cinephiles prevail.)
I am also not completely out of architectural discourse (my nephew is an architect).
But I don’t know any type-designer in real-life, and know only one person who is working as a graphic designer (he occasionally uses some of my fonts in his projects).
My attitude to graphic design is highly ambivalent (almost dismissive) because I perceive it as closely related to marketing (which I despise).
My fonts are thus not rooted in the discourse (or needs) of the graphic designers’ community.
I make font families as if making herbarium, or as if filling frames of a film strip (and I am unconcerned whether any graphic designer will find my fonts useful).
This relates to another outcome of my mild misanthropy: I am strongly self-motivated.
Of course it’s pleasing when somebody likes what i do, but I don’t need positive feedback as a stimulus for further work.

Generally speaking, is your mind at peace or hyperactive?

Whenever I am supposed to choose “either A, or B” I feel that both A and B are valid/relevant.
My mind is very often very busy, but I am also able to switch off (turn on, tune in, drop out) and be at peace.
I am a man of contradictions (I cherish contradictions).
I also have to say that due to my mind being very often very busy I am hardly ever bored.
Even when I am within a situation that could be easily described as boring, being busy in my mind, I don’t feel bored.
On the other hand, in an overly stimulating situation, I can easily get irritated — because those excessive external stimuli might interfere with my bursting inner thoughts.
Thus I tend to avoid situations that might be generally perceived as exciting, and I tend to delight in situations that might be generally perceived as boring (from an external point of view).
Thank you Jiri!

Many More Letters

Dear FontStructors,

Today we’re adding many more letters (the entire Unicode 13 standard) to FontStruct.

Searchable Unicode Blocks

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Unicode is a huge long list of all the letters and letter-like things which are used by all kinds of writing systems from all parts of the world. This comprehensive list is maintained by an international group of experts. Every letter (or letter-like thing) is assigned a code number, and these numbers are used to help identify letters inside computer fonts.

Before today, FontStruct supported only parts of Unicode, but now we’re finally providing access to all of the “code blocks” (i.e. all the letters) defined in the most recently released standard (Unicode 13). Now you could design a FontStruction containing as many as 143,859 letters*! I wouldn’t recommend that though. Once you get over about 10,000, you will find that the site and editor will start struggling.

The main reason for expanding the number of letters available on FontStruct is to allow designers to access and design a greater variety of scripts, in particular writing systems – such as Chinese scripts – which use a large number of characters, and also scripts, such as Sogdian or Old Sogdian for example, which we’ve simply overlooked until now. You can also now access the Emoji slots.

There’s still a long way to go in order to fully support the variety of scripts we’d like to see on FontStruct, but supporting Unicode is, I hope, a good start.

You will find all the new letters by selecting “Expert Mode” and then “Menu”, “Advanced”, “Unicode Letter Sets”:

Unicode Letter Sets

The letter-set select box in the bottom-left corner of the FontStructor has changed. There are many more options of course (360 letter sets), and also a handy new search box to quickly find what you are looking for (desktop only). Note that we broke up some of the huge code blocks, such as the CJK extensions, into smaller, numbered blocks.

Full unicode support has been a very frequent request over the years, so it’s great to finally be able to deliver.

Thanks go, as ever, to our Patrons, and to our sponsors GlyphsApp (the world’s leading desktop type-design software) whose continuing support makes the development of features like this possible.

Happy FontStructing!

(PS: We still don’t provide access to codepoints below 30 – control characters.)

*As @BWM pointed out in the comments, there is a technical limit for TrueType fonts of 65,535 characters, so there’s certainly no point in going beyond that.



Layers and Color

Dear FontStructors,

We are introducing three new features today.

For Everyone: OpenType/CFF Downloads

Strictly speaking this is not a new feature, but hitherto it was Patron-only. From today, all FontStructors will be able to download any appropriately-licensed FontStruction in the OpenType/CFF format. You can read more about the format and its qualities in this earlier blog post.

Layers (Patrons Only)

Layers were a part of the original FontStruct concept, and now, over 13 years later, we’re finally implementing them in the FontStructor.

To access the new Layers window, simply go into Expert Mode and then choose View->Layers from the Menu:

Layers Menu

Each FontStruction starts with one default layer, but you can add up to a total of eight.

Layers can be sorted using drag and drop, renamed, and, of course deleted if they are empty.

Layer visibility can also be toggled, and invisible layers will be excluded from the download. This opens up the possibility of creating guide layers which you keep visible while designing but hide for download.

I’m confident that the our wily Patrons will come up with many ingenious uses for layers, but perhaps the main reason for introducing them is to allow us to introduce something else, something entirely new to FontStruct …

Color Fonts (Patrons Only)

Layers and Colours

For good reasons, most real-world design employs only monochromatic glyphs. There is also plenty of scepticism in global design communities regarding the value of color fonts. Some see them as gimmicky, while others are frustrated that, up until now, for the most part, the colors are “baked-in”, and can’t be changed without editing the font itself.

But, polychromatic fonts do have clear uses: for icon sets for example, for emojis (yes, I know we don’t offer emojis as an option in the FontStructor yet) games and other custom projects.

Most importantly perhaps, color fonts are fun to create and use. I think they are a good match for FontStruct – already the birthplace of so many, wonderfully-extravagant display fonts.

So, with up to eight layers in the FontStructor, you can now work with up to eight separate colors. Simply assign a color to each layer using the color-picker.

Layer Color Picker

You can download your multicolored font from the FontStruction’s download page. The “Richard of York” image above was created using a color font built using FontStruct.

Note that only certain desktop software supports color fonts, and there are a number of competing formats.

The format we are offering initially is called “OpenType SVG”. This format is supported by Windows, OSX, by Sketch, the Affinity software, Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, by Paint.NET and by some (but not all!) browsers. Note that OpenType SVG fonts also always contain a monochromatic fallback version of each glyph, and you will always be able to download traditional TrueType and OpenType versions from FontStruct.

This is only the first step in our exploration of color fonts. We hope to add support for other color font formats (such as COLR) in the future to offer wider browser support. We may also add a multi-font download option whereby each layer can be downloaded as a separate font.

Become an FS Patron

As these are “niche” features, it’s likely that we will keep layers and color fonts as patron-only in the medium-term and possibly even long-term. If you are desperate to try out color designs in the FontStructor, remember that you can sign up to be a patron at any time to not only enjoy access to this feature, but also to directly support the ongoing development of FontStruct as a whole.


Thanks, as always, to our wonderful sponsors GlyphsApp, and to our treasured Patrons.

Happy FontStructing!


architaraz has created a great introductory video tutorial on creating a color font using FontStruct.



Twenties Competition Results

Dear FontStructors,

Wow! That was amazing. I didn’t think it possible, but you have surpassed yourselves once again.

I’m sorry that it took an extra week to complete this blog post. One major difficulty was simply that there were so many competition entries worthy of recognition. Indeed, many entries merit a blog post all to themselves. I would encourage anyone reading this to browse all the entries directly because they simply cannot all be represented here.

Let’s have a look at a selection of the entries. You’ll find the prizewinners at the very end of the post, but everyone who entered is a champion. Well done!

From top to bottom: Codarte by V. Sarela (Yautja), db Mangold by beate, twentysomething by four, KD Dekorat by architaraz.

– We start with four wonderful, intelligent designs, all of which were a delight to work with as installed fonts. I love the dot details in Codarte.

db Mangold leaves me speechless. I’m guessing the inspiration is Bernhard Antique but this seems to be a completely original and mature design that goes far beyond what I thought was possible with FontStruct. Amazing.

twentysomething is a lovely, light and playful thing which ended up being the FontStructor’s favourite this time around.

KD Dekorat with its maze-like panelling is a beautiful example of how diverse Deco typography can be.

Twenties Comp Samples 2From top to bottom: G1 Decoreus by geneus1, KD Jermaine by architaraz, db Ventica by beate, KD Xxies by architaraz

I’m not sure what G1 Decoreus was inspired by, I’d love to know, but it certainly feels true to the architectural and decorative spirit of the 1920s. Stout and elegant at the same time. I love it.

KD Jermaine is an intricate and pretty multilined deco typeface, but note also the clever XX pun running right through the alphabet.

db Ventica: Um. What? How? ?? Another virtuoso re-FontStruction of an original ’20s typeface, this time, I believe, Fanfare. Amazing!

KD Xxies is yet another fine Deco typeface from architaraz. Note that although I have only used the caps here, there is also a lower case.

From top to bottom: bulbambulAF3630 by jirinvk, tm RenMac by minimum, Caligari by erictom333, Gilded Teatro and Gilded Teatro Double by Haley Wakamatsu (UkiyoMoji Fonts) (japanyoshi).

The inimitable jirinvk created an entire family of graphically strong bulbambuls for the competition, inspired by Gunta Stölzl (1897–1983), the Queen of Bauhaus. Note that the letters in the sample are rotated slightly from the original typeface.

TM RenMac, shown very much out of context here, cleverly takes the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the Glaswegian Designer and Architect, and reinterprets it on the FontStruct grid. Thanks for this one miminum!

Caligari is a lovely, messy cutout design which inspired the sample as a whole, while Gilded Teatro forms another little family: A perfect articulation of deco style in two pixel fonts, both a pleasure to work with.

From top to bottom: Noar2 by Galo (galoreporter), G1 Broadwaif by geneus1, ztefan eYe/FS by elmoyenique, Shooting Star by Echo Heo (bluemon).

Deco all the way in the above image.

Noar2 is a classic, condensed, deco typeface with a small-caps lower case, full of subtle and characterful details.

G1 Broadwaif is simply beautiful. There are alternate caps in the lower case.

ztefan eYe/FS will appear again later in this post so I’ll skip that one for now.

Shooting Star is that FontStruction rarity: a legible typeface which can work for copy at medium and smallish sizes. Well done Echo Heo!


Twenties Comp Samples

From top: KEM-base by nightpegasus, STRUCTURES by Oli Town (not a competition entry), briste by four, Moderto by V. Sarela (Yautja)

KEM Base is inspired by the work of designer Kem Weber. I enjoy the quirky asymmetry. For me the design is suggestive of early 20th century primitivism.

The beautiful leaf-like “briste” also has an organic character, belying the grid beneath, while right at the bottom you see the ambicase Moderto – a perfectly executed and very legible design inspired by Futura Display.

From Top: OshanDeco by Wataru (Wataru Aiso), ginevra’s typewriter by swash.buckler, (the third typeface in this sample sadly seems to have been deleted from FontStruct since I downloaded it. I think it’s great), strawberry by time.peace.

– A second breakfast decofest in the form of four diverse and perfectly-executed deco designs.

Twenties Comp SamplesFrom Top: Baardusan by Echo Heo (bluemon)ztefan eYe/FS, zergei eYe/FS and zandrine eYe/FS by elmoyenique. Pattern element from Brick Basket Rev2 by zephram (not part of competition).

Some extravagant deco geometry in Baardusan, and then three FontStructions from elmoyenique. I really enjoyed the rich back story to his entries, connecting three art and design movements which marked the 1920s – Bauhaus, Deco and Contstructivism – with their three European capitals, and with three mysterious figures appearing in a series of period photos. When the novel comes out, I will read it. With Zandrine, as with beate’s entries we’re going back into typographic history, perhaps well beyond the 1920s in this case, to Rubens perhaps?

From top: tm The XX by minimum, Russian AG by Frodo7, Twenty-tmchty by m_cm, TwenTwenty by BWM, Frunze Stencil by Frodo7

tm The XX caught the eye of our guest judge, Nick Sherman:

“I love type that pushes the boundaries of how type should work or how it even can be rendered with current digital rendering technology. This typeface does both of those things. In many typical typographic contexts of size and resolution, all the little details of the design turn to mush (the fact that there are specific instructions on how to zoom to see it properly on the FontStruct site is just one such example). But if you have the bravery to set it at gigantic sizes, you can really see how wonderfully bonkers it is. Between the underlying patterns and the variants of each letter, there is also all kinds of potential for cool effects with color and overlaid glyphs.”

Russian AG is an impeccable Rodchenko-inspired slab-serif with cyrillic support.
Twenty-tmchty is a highly conceptual interpretation of the theme – a twenty-by-twenty grid and only twenty unique glyphs covering 66(?) different symbols. So for example, one glyph is used to represent l,u,v,L,U and V. Fascinating!

Twenties Comp Samples

From top: G1 2020 Vision by geneus1, db Questura by beate, NX Chaos by Nyxo8803

Nick was impressed by G1 2020 Vision:

“This typeface occupies a spot among other halftone typefaces like Calypso, Tonal, and especially Process. I’ve always had a fondness for type that plays with halftones, and the fact that this one recreates the effect so effectively within the limitations of FontStruct is admirable. The play on the concept of 20/20 vision by creating a blurred effect is also a nice visual tie-in to the ‘twenties’ theme.”

He liked the “Mexico Olympics vibe” of db Questura and appreciated the full character set, and he also saw something special in NX Chaos:

“At first I was on the fence about including this typeface among the highlights of the ‘twenties’ competition. There were other designs that were executed with more skill, had more complete character support, etc. But I kept coming back to this one because it’s a rare embodiment of pure nihilism in the form of a typeface. It follows a style of glitchy digital graphics right to the brink of complete illegibility, as if to say: ‘Go to hell. I don’t even care if you can read this’. It’s like a font from a cyberpunk nightmare, and sometimes that’s the kind of energy you need when designing in the 2020s.”


The winners are G1 2020 Vision by geneus1, db Questura by beate and tm The XX by minimum, and, as the FontStructor’s choice, twentysomething by four. Congratulations! You will be contacted in the next few days about your prizes.

Thanks again to everyone who took part.

Happy FontStructing!

Thank You!

To our guest judge for this competition: Nick Sherman. Nick runs HEX a typographic company that makes fonts and websites. He’s a founder and designer of and Fonts In Use, and art director of the Typographics design festival. Nick is a graduate of the Type@Cooper Extended Program in typeface design and has served on the Type Directors Club board of directors, the Adobe Typography Customer Advisory Board, and the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum artistic board.

To our patrons – those FontStructors who support the ongoing development of the project and help make events like this competition possible.

To our generous sponsors Glyphs producers of the world’s leading desktop font editor for OSX.

Twenties Comp

Dear FontStructors,

Twenties Competition Deco

It’s been a while, too long, since we last raised the gates to unleash FontStructor versus FontStructor in mortal combat.

It’s also been a while since we had a competition, so

Let the bricks be levied!
Let the grid be burnished bright and the curtains drawn!

It’s time to compete.

Competition Brief

We would like you to build one or more FontStructions which are somehow connected to our competition theme.

The theme for this competition is “Twenties” (thank you beate!). We chose it from among many great suggestions, firstly because it’s suggestive of an exciting era in typography, but also because it can be interpreted in a much broader and abstract fashion.

So please interpret the theme as loosely as you wish – it’s there only to inspire, not to confine.

– You might well be inspired by the Art Deco and modernist typography of the 1920s, but you might also choose to work on a 20×20 grid, or you could look to any aspect of our own peculiar decade for inspiration. You could turn your thoughts to the 1820s, the 1720s, or even the first XXs CE.

So, the image at the top of this post is there only for decoration. It does not indicate any expectations or a given direction. You won’t be judged on how “twenties-ish ” your design is.

If you’re really struggling for ideas, you could explore some of our curated Sets, such as “Bauhaus Inspired”, or “Art Deco”.

Competition Time Period

Thursday, 25th March 2021 – Friday 9th April, 2021

Competition Rules

  1. You must be a registered FontStruct user.
  2. Your submission(s) must be posted and made “public” between 25th March 2021 and 9th April, 2021. 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 than 9th April, 2021 at 11pm PST. Additionally, your submission(s) must remain public at least until 17th April 2021 in order to give the judges enough time to review all qualifying entries.
  3. Your submission(s) must be tagged with a “TwentiesComp” tag. (For fairness, during the competition time period, no FontStruction with the “TwentiesComp” tag will be awarded a Top Pick.)
  4. Your submission(s) must be downloadable. If your FontStruction cannot be downloaded, the submission will not be including in the judging.
  5. Your submission must be a newly published FontStruction. Simply adding the “TwentiesComp” tag to an already published font is not allowed.
  6. For each submission, you must post at least one sample image in the comments of the FontStruction.
  7. No letters in each submission can be MORE THAN 48 grid squares high.
  8. FontStruct cloning is permitted but the judges will be looking for original work.
  9. You may enter up to three FontStructions to the competition.
  10. This is a friendly competition. Cheering, favoriting and fun banter is encouraged but cruel and uncivil behavior will not be tolerated.
  11. No rules regarding licensing. You may choose any license you like for your FontStruction. (but it needs to be downloadable!)

Judging and announcing the winners

All qualifying FontStructions will by judged by the FontStruct staff and a guest judge* between April 10th and April 17th. Three prizewinners will be chosen. One of these will be the FontStructors’ Favourite. Winners will be announced in a FontStruct Blog post on Monday April 19th 2021.

*UPDATE: We’re delighted to confirm Nick Sherman as our guest judge for this competition. Nick runs HEX a typographic company that makes fonts and websites. He’s a founder and designer of and Fonts In Use, and art director of the Typographics design festival. Nick is a graduate of the Type@Cooper Extended Program in typeface design and has served on the Type Directors Club board of directors, the Adobe Typography Customer Advisory Board, and the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum artistic board.


Each winner can choose a t-shirt printed with a FontStruction glyph of their choice.

FontStructors’ Favourite

The valid entry with the highest number of legitimate favourites (yes we check) at 11pm PST on 16th April 2021 will be one of the three prizewinners.


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

May the best FontStruction win.

FontStructions in the image at the top, from innermost to outermost: Cabaret by blu., Half Deco by Wataru Aiso, fs When We Were Young by thalamic and Folletto AllaModa by blu.

FontStruct would like to heartily thank our principal sponsor: Glyphs and our many FS Patrons for supporting FontStruct.


Supporting FontStruct: Introducing FS Patrons

Dear FontStructors,

FontStruct – our website, our modular font editor – has always been free to use, and FontStruct will remain free to use for everyone.

Thanks to our generous sponsors, past and present (thank you Glyphs App!), and to our advertisers, we have secure funding to keep the bricks flowing through 2021 and beyond.

But, as this blog post hopes to explain, we have reached a point where we need to look at how the project supports itself financially, in order to keep moving forward.

Today, to try and address our funding challenge, we’re introducing a new micro-sponsorship scheme called “FS Patrons”.

By contributing a small sum (5€ / month, or 55€ annually) you can become what we’re calling an “FS Patron”.

Sold already?! You can subscribe here. Unsure? Read on …

The benefits of being an FS Patron

As an FS Patron, aside from revelling in the happy knowledge that you are directly supporting the FontStruct, you will receive a few tangible and guaranteed benefits:

  • No adverts
  • No nag-screens (We are introducing these for certain FontStruct pages. They will remind you about FS Patrons. You will notice them soon).
  • Optionally, an initimable badge of honour for your avatar.

We also plan to reserve some new features exclusively for Patrons.

For example, from today, we will be offering new download settings, including the option of OpenType CFF downloads, for Patrons only (you can read more about this exciting development in a separate blog post).

As time goes on, and as additional new features are added, we hope that exclusive features will be opened up to the rest of the community. In this way, “FS Patrons” is intended to function as a kind of early-access/preview programme. You may be familiar with this kind of model if you use “Patreon” – where creators release material exclusively and early to their patrons, before a subsequent public release.

Why does FontStruct need FS Patrons?

Staff Pick Starfish

Asterias Fontstructi commonly known as “Staff pick stars”, pictured in their natural environment. Considered a delicacy by FontStructors, they are in fact a common species. While easy to find, they can prove perilous for staff to gather. Their brittle, razor-sharp points, and their preference for the slipperiest of rock pools necessitates the wearing of thick gloves and expensive footwear. Best harvested shortly after high-tide. Photo by Brian Yurasits

FontStruct is busy all year-round, 24/7, with FontStructors from all around the globe: from school and college students to budding amateur typographers and established designers.

Browsing through the amazing archive of modular typography that’s accumulated in the gallery is a daily joy. We are boundlessly proud of everything that the FontStruct community has achieved over the last 12+ years.

We have welcomed over 1.5 million registered users to the site, and there are over 1.8 million FontStructions great and small adorning the database. That’s a total of almost 50 million glyphs!

– These are some quite big numbers – A great crowd of people, and a great heap of data to administer and care for.

For the FontStruct staff there are always support mails waiting for an answer, servers to maintain and content to moderate. We have hosting and CDN bills to pay. We have bugs to fix.

In an ideal world, we would not only busy ourselves with maintenance and support. We would also spend time designing, developing and delivering new features, improving our users’ experience, writing new blog posts, updating our documentation, running competitions and investing time in moderating site content. We are doing all these things – but, because of our very limited resources, we can only do so slowly and patchily.

Pixel bricks are not a natural product. Mixed according to a secret recipe and baked each night in industrial trays, they need to cool to room temperature before being fed into through the precision cutting machines. Photo by Andrew Moca

The truth is that the “FontStruct Staff” does not really exist. While FontStruct has many kind friends who continue to help and support us in one way or another, and of course there is the wonderful “we” of the FontStructor community, there is no real “we” here at FontStruct towers. Since 2010, I (Rob Meek) have run FontStruct as a personal project from wherever I am, usually from a room in my flat. I’m sitting there now on a late Sunday afternoon, writing this blog post, having spent most of the day so far making some very silly pictures of imaginary brick harvests.

But FontStruct is not a one-person show. It’s less than that. Because FontStruct brings in no significant revenue, and in order to actually pay the bills, I need to spend the majority of my time doing work that has nothing directly to do with FontStruct. For example, working as the lead developer for the wonderful Fonts In Use, as well as for the excellent new type foundry Fontwerk. I also regularily work freelance for the design agency CDLX. – These are all great jobs which I enjoy but I have other clients as well and I could happily drop some of them. – So, in reality, the human resources available to this project are very thin indeed.

I’d like to work more for FontStruct, more frequently and I’d like to be paid for some of it. That’s why I’m launching “FS Patrons”.

Harvesting Circle Bricks

– Circle bricks are actually a perfectly spherical fruit, best harvested in the early morning. Only the ripest, roundest examples are good enough for the FontStructor. Photo by Bambi Corro

But don’t worry!

All things considered, with or without “FS Patrons”, our project remains healthy. Technically we are in a reasonable place, and we will continue to manage well with the limited funding we currently enjoy. Personally I continue to love most of the work I am able to do on the project, so I’m not going to walk away …

… but, given more funding, I would be able to dedicate some more time to FontStruct, and work on more new features, such as, for example:

  • improving the way we present character sets
  • extending unicode support
  • adding layers
  • supporting colour fonts
  • supporting custom bricks
  • supporting some OpenType features
  • adding real support for non-latin scripts
  • sorting out the abysmal gallery search
  • updating the site design

– All these things will take a long time to implement, with or without additional funding, but your support can help to accelerate the process.

So, if you’d like and if you can (I know times are tough for many!), please consider becoming an FS Patron.

Thank you!

Rob Meek

Founder and Lead Developer of FontStruct.

One Last Thing

If you haven’t done so yet, please read about our new OpenType download feature, exclusive to FS Patrons.



OpenType Downloads (with CFF outlines)

Note: This blog post is about a FontStruct feature which is currently exclusive to FS Patrons.

CFF vs TrueType contours

Today we’re excited to introduce a new kind of download for our Patron FontStructors: OpenType font files using CFF outlines with the .otf filename suffix.

All FontStruct downloads have been OpenType font files for quite a while now, but OpenType fonts can contain different kinds of “outline” (in FontStruct, the outlines are the actual brick shapes).

Hitherto, we have only offered downloads with TrueType outlines. From today, we’re also offering CFF outlines.

CFF outlines differ from TrueType in several ways, including:

  1. (mostly) Smaller file sizes.
  2. (often) More accurate and economical description of curves. For example, rounder circles.
  3. (optionally and experimentally) “fixed point” coordinates, which may facilitate more accuracy of detail for certain downloads.

Smaller File Sizes

The new CFF downloads will often be smaller than their TrueType counterparts. For example, the illustration shown below uses the font “zporty eYe/FS” by elmoyenique. This has a font file size of 444K for the TrueType download, and only 162K for the CFF – that’s much less than half the size. File size is important, as fonts take up memory and large fonts can crash software. Some downloaded FontStructions are very large!

More Accurate and Economical Curves

In a CFF file, curves are represented using two control points (these curves are called “cubic béziers”), as opposed to the TrueType outline format which represents curves using single control points (“quadratic béziers”). For many FontStructions this difference may not be noticeable, but in some cases you will find that CFF outlines are more accurate. For example, you can see the distinction clearly in the case of circular bricks, especially when you use a great number of small circles in your design:


Some of you may have noticed the dough-like melting which afflicts FontStruct’s circle bricks in TrueType downloads. Many years ago, Luc Devroye shamed FontStruct on this point, and quite right too! Things have improved in the intervening time, but CFF outlines now give us our best, and most reliable circles ever!

Fixed Point Coordinates

We’ve also added an option to create CFF outlines with “fixed point” coordinates. I’d like to stress that this is quite an unusual format variant. As far I as I know, it’s seldom employed in professional type production.

In a standard OpenType font, all the contour points are placed on a grid of possible positions, the resolution of which is called the “em square”. Roughly speaking, if you have an em square of 1000, then all your contour points must sit on a 1000 x 1000 unit grid. “Design with Fontforge” has a good page explaining the em square format.

OpenType fonts with TrueType outlines traditionally use an em square of 2048 or 1024 (the former is the default for FontStruct) while OpenType with CFF outlines generally have an em square of 1000 (Although it can be more. We’re trying 2000 as FontStruct’s default for CFF.)

Crucially, all the points in your designs have to sit exactly on the intersections of this notional grid. So, in a standard OpenType font, despite it being an infinitely-scalable vector format, there are very clear and finite limits as to where your points can sit. You can position a point at exactly a grid coordinate of (100,100), but not at (100.5, 100.5). i.e. You can only have integer (whole number) coordinates.

From today, FontStruct also gives you access to an option, allowed by CFF, which overcomes this limitation. You can choose to define your coordinates as “fixed point” numbers. This will not affect your design work the FontStructor, but it will affect accuracy when it comes to converting your design to a font file. Using fixed point numbers, the font generator can position points more “freely”, at 100.5, 100.5 or even 100.3333, 100.3333 etc. if it needs to.

To be honest, I’m not sure how useful this fixed-point coordinate option will prove to be, but considering how complex and detailed some FontStructions are, it may help in exceptional cases. We will see!

It’s important to note, that if you do opt for fixed-point coordinates, this will make your download sizes significantly larger.

For background on this topic, I recommend the seminal article by Read Roberts at Typekit.

Download Configuration

To support our new download format, we’ve added some additional download configuration options to the FontStruction pages, and also one important option on your personal settings page.

On your personal settings page, you can opt to allow any of your shared designs to be downloaded by others as OpenType fonts. You can also override this setting on a FontStruction-by-FontStruction basis.

On the FontStruction page, you can access the new options by clicking on “Advanced Settings…”

New Download Settings

– Here you will find a couple of familiar options along with some new ones.

You can now choose to:

  • Share alternate formats (i.e. OpenType CFF) with other users (only if you are sharing the FontStruction for download of course). This setting overrides the global setting from your personal settings page.
  • Choose an em Square for TrueType and CFF downloads from a list of sensible options.
  • Use fixed point coordinates. (experimental)

Interested in using CFF downloads today? Not a patron yet? Learn more …

Happy FontStructing!