Plutonium Sans — designing my second typeface

A work in progress.

A few months ago, I worked on a casual typeface based on my handwriting. I called it Lettuce Party. It was my first foray into type design, and I came out of the experience with a lot of insights into what not to do when you are trying to design a typeface. This summer, I read Never Use Futura and decided to work on my own sans serif inspired by the geometric forms of Futura.

Getting started

I started Lettuce Party with no previous experience or research into type design, and my ignorance of certain technicalities caused a lot of problems later in the process. This time I did my homework, and read up about starting with type design.

Glyphs

I had previously used Birdfont, a free & open source font editor, but had found it confusing and badly documented. I was keen to try out other font editors, and settled on Glyphs for Mac. It’s a paid software with a 30 day trial that I used, and their website has some great tutorials to get you started.

Glyphs for Mac

I used Illustrator to draw the HOno as control characters to define the look and feel of the typeface. I used Illustrator since that was what I was comfortable with, but I moved to Glyphs soon after and the pen tool quickly grew on me. Before long I had completed a first draft of the lowercase letters.

Version 1 of the lowercase letters.

Making words

I started stringing them into words to check how they looked. Certain combinations of letters looked off, and it was helpful to compare characters side by side to see what worked and what didn’t. I tweaked things as I went along, and took screenshots of anything I liked so I could come back to ideas.

The lowercase a & s went through a couple of explorations, and I briefly considered a 3 degree slant to the right. I kept trying random words and edited anything that looked off.

A few days later I was happy with my lowercase letters, and it was time to work on the uppercase. I followed a similar process of trial and error, creating a few characters and then stringing them together and making any modifications that felt appropriate. I wanted the typeface to look modern and clean but not too formal, so I allowed myself to have some fun with some of the letters. I was particularly happy with how the k and y came out.

The Result

I spent a lot of time polishing Plutonium and while there’s still a long way to go, it’s at a stage where I feel comfortable sharing a preview.

What’s next?

Plutonium still needs some work before it’s launch ready — the numerals and punctuation are a little rough, and I still haven’t fully wrapped my head around kerning. I want to eventually make Plutonium a high quality free and open source font family with Light, Regular, Medium & Bold weights, and submit it to Google Fonts.