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FONT MAKING: “IMPORT ADDICTS” versus “CONTOUR PURISTS”

Posted by Chris Muema on

The first decision for a font is the idea, of course.  But what happens next can get messy.

One of the very early decisions a font-maker has to make is the choice between the following:

  1. CREATE contours from scratch which in English means “To Draw.”
  2. INSERT IMAGES which means the contours are automated.  That means the contours for the images are scanned or calculated from an image.

The question is, which is best to create fonts: "To Contour or To Image?"

 

There is no exact and repeatable method or algorithm for that decision.  The font creator is constantly battling between those two decisions.

 

Some fonts lend better to contouring.  Other fonts are straightforward image automation.

 

Here’s what we know.  Fonts that are designed to appear with independent glyphs, such as the Sans or Serif or Monospace, are more efficiently created by inserting images and then edited by contour corrections.  However, joined fonts, such as handwriting effects, those require a lot more attention to detail. 

 

Handwriting often has imperfections that the font creator has to consider for each glyph.  The font creator may retain some imperfections for purposes of “realistic effect.”  However, some fonts require re-fitting, for example, if the kerning (spacing) requires zero/no spaces between glyphs, then glyph precision occupies a lot of contour effort.

 

Import images also do require corrections of contour but typically for touch-up purposes and less intensive editing compared to handwriting fonts. 

 

At KamaHapa, we want you to experience the fun of fonts in your lifetime!

One reason we’ve been slow to publish handwriting fonts is that take a great deal of time to contour.  Our strategy is more inclined to be “Import Addicts” and less “Contour Purists.” 

 

There is of course, the main caveat of automation.  The most obvious, of course, is to neglect examining the errors in the process of "auto-correct": akin to the common cause of "typos" in cut-paste writing.  Just as a cut-paste in writing can propagate errors, likewise, the same level of care is warranted for font-making. 

 

Despite the advances in Font automation, there are still some nagging issues that have persisted ever since humanity started writing.  As if the decision of contour versus image import isn’t hard enough, another nagging issue of font making is to do with proportionality.  Each glyph has unique attributes in terms of size, thickness, visual-texture and visual of space relative to other glyphs (i.e. kerning).

 

To deal with the challenges, we experiment, a lot.  Once we have a good concept, that becomes template that is then capable of thousands of font variations.  The template enables faster production of new font designs.  Imagine if each font had to be made from scratch!

 

So yes, we do the artwork.  But yes, we also do automate.  That's what makes us "Import Addicts" rather than "Contour Purists."

 


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