Font Design Exercise

written 19 Sept 2002 being revised May 2006

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1   Introduction

This is an exercise for individual students. Prerequisites are at least a year of active webpage design at the level of the Intermediate Chapter. This is enough experience for students to gain knowledge of various kinds of fonts, and to have seen many banners and logos and be able to review them critically.

The most difficult part of this exercise is finding the inspirational idea for the font. This may be an event for which a poster is to be made, or a product or service. Theatrical events which are themselves full of colour and of novel forms are a fruitful and inspirational source. Perhaps designing a poster for a production that may not actually take place is possible, but something for a real school production is much better, because the results will have social reality. So the obvious candidate is a poster for the play which is in the English syllabus for the year, for example a Romeo and Juliet font, for which there will be existing examples as a result of past movie releases.

In the past fonts have been characters of a 2-D planar nature, and strictly black on white ( or reverse). The history of fonts and characters and the way they are represented in documents, dependant on the technology used to reproduce them, is an interesting study. In the past, the constraints of computer technology have limited each character to occupy its own rectangular space on the page. The fonts used for presenting this paragraph on this webpage are a good example. But in the area of display fonts which are still effectively handset or at least hand manipulated there are no computer constraints. In fact quite the reverse for now a character can have a physical depth so that it is modeled in 3 dimensions, it can be bent, folded and twisted, and it is no longer has forced to sit flat on the page. Characters no longer even need be static objects.

The availability of tools such as Ulead COOL 3D (reviewed in the Advanced Chapter) opens up totally new fields of font design for which designers can exploit to provide exciting new fonts that have never been conceived of before. These can be sold for royalties through existing font promotion houses.

2   Step One - Draw Font

This exercise consists of drawing up font designs for the characters to be used in the poster, possibly completing a full alphabet in capital letters. Typically the words to be used in the poster may help determine the shape of the characters.

3   Step Two - Digitise the alphabet to image format

This can be done using scanner or digital camera.

4   Step Three - Convert image to vector graphic

Use the Ulead COOL 3D Path Editor to trace a vector format from the image format. The path editor is a tricky little application that takes practice to learn to use properly. Each character is then saved as a vector graphic file.

5   Step Four - Import the Characters

Assemble the vector graphic characters to make up the signage using Ulead COOL 3D Tools and output the resulting GIF image of the font in action.

These four steps should be done reasonably quickly, even in a single workshop, mainly as a learning exercise. The student will learn quite a number of things from the exercise. These are to do with the technological innovations which the software makes possible:

Once the student has taken on board these types of possibilities it is time to restart the exercise from scratch again, this time taking a little more time over each stage and getting each step in the process right and to a high standard.

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