Customizing type

Posted on Mar 4, 2010 in Visual design

Even as an untrained designer growing up, I had a designer’s mind. I spent my days making things with my hands, and less with barbies and the television set. I liked things to look customized. I wanted to be and make things that no one else had. This meant hardened playdough characters, homemade paper and clothing for both myself and my cabbage patch dolls. This desire for the handmade, the one-off if you will, has developed into a bit of an obsession of decorative title fonts looking unique and handcrafted as well. I hate seeing a beautifully decorated book cover with duplicate letters staring out at me like they were the last little detail to be forgotten in the greatness of the graphics.

When Choom Lam, the classical animator that Taura and I collaborated with for our final project, sent me a psd file for the cover graphic, the first thing I did was to fiddle with the text. I reset it in Illustrator and converted it to outlines. For those of you following my blog without an obsession for clean vector art, this means that the letter “E” was no longer text, it was a picture of the letter “E”. This allowed me to go in and create individual letters unique to their duplicates on the page. Pinching, pulling, filling in hollow areas and slightly skewing the letterforms helped me create a typography (fancy word for text) treatment that would compliment Choom’s illustration beautifully.

I also created custom, yet simple block initials for the inside of the book. With only 5 letterforms to create, it took no more than ten minutes to make each one feel customized by rotating, flipping, and pulling and pushing some of the corners and angles on each one. It’s well worth the ten minutes in my mind. I can’t speak for population without a designer’s eye, but custom font treatments for me are the finishing touch on a project that speaks volumes. It may not be something you notice when it’s done, but it’s certainly the first thing I do notice when it’s not.

Leave a Reply