Syzygy was designed as part of an assignment at Langara in which we needed to develop a lowercase typeface using Fontstruct.
While Fontstruct has inherent limitations dur to the usage of a grid and selection of pre-established blocks, I challenged myself to design typeface with old-style characters featuring stroke contrast and attractive curves. While it was frustrating to lack the freedom to design letterforms as I wanted, Fontstruct’s accessible and understandable mechanisms provided a valuable first step into actually designing type.
Beginning our alphabet, each of us were assigned a different letter to start with—mine was ‘k’. My design concept for the typeface was to apply the character and styling inherent in Garamond’s stroke contrast into the openness of Helvetica’s letterforms. Creating the first letter, ‘k’, took a significant amount of time. Unfamiliar with the tool and still solidifying my design style for the typeface, I spent time exploring Fontstruct’s capabilities (and limitations) before picking the solution that best matched my concept. Once I established an acceptable first pass, I began working on other letters. Using ‘k’ as a basis, the next letters I looked at were ones with a similar stem—’l’ and ‘h’, followed by ‘n’, ‘m’ and ‘r’. The ‘r’ in particular forced me to revisit the level of contrast in my letters. Early revisions saw the thin sections at a width of roughly 1.5 to 2 blocks, but the ‘r’ worked so well with a width of just 1 block that I needed to revisit the contrast on every other letter, ultimately to their benefit. Feeling more confident in my understanding of the design style and ratios, I expanded outward to finish off the rest of the alphabet.
When creating a glyph, I did not simply try to make the final version of the letterform from the start. Instead I began with a rough sketch—this was to estimate where the thicks and thins would lie and how wide each should be. Second, I filled in the edges of the glyph based on the sketch. Finishing the initial pass at the edges, I would reconsider the weight and balance of the glyph and make corrections where I saw problems. In the case of the ‘a’, I found the bowl did not have a good feel to it and needed to be weighted more on the bottom. However, the resulting letter was too heavy and felt sprawling, so I narrowed it by a brick and thinned the line where the bottom of the bowl connected with the stem.
Overall, the letters went through many revisions over the course of development. I struggled in particular with the ‘x’ and ‘z’, partly because they needed angles that I didn’t have available in the pre-established brick-set from Fontstruct. In the end I found compromises to overcome the problems and was happy with the letters I created. With extra time, I decided to further extend the alphabet to include text figures and punctuation so that it could be used to actually set text.
The end result of my work on Syzygy is a readable typeface that can be used to set text type, even at smaller sizes, and is created entirely with straight lines.