6 game changing benefits of skeleton based type design
How skeleton based type design could shake up digital type design workflows
The process by which we design type has not changed significantly since Fontographer has introduced into the market. Today, there are many experiments trying to breathe new life into the type design and one of them is skeleton based type design. Why is skeleton based design advantageous compared to traditional outline drawing?
The stroke is the fundamental artifact. Nothing goes further back than the shape of a single stroke. We cannot postpone a shape by drawing outlines first, because any drawing (outlines included) begins with a shape.
— Gerrit Noordzij
1. Understanding the basic principles of letter-forms
By using skeleton based type design, it’s easier to understand how letter-forms work. Using a skeleton based approach brings digital type design back to its roots of broad nib pen and also leverages the possibilities of pointed nib pens. Designing with skeletons digitally makes it easy to understand quickly how the strokes you’re drawing create the forms of your glyph without forcing you to become a master analog calligrapher. Gerrit Noordzij leverages such principle to teach his students. But even mature type designers still need guidance from time to time. I have been asking designers around the world, why they joined Letterink’s beta list and one of the answers were, “the design will be easier”.
Your project is interesting to me because one of the hardest thing with conventional type design tools is that you are limited to work with the outlines. Working with a skeleton, allows to predict more accurately where the contrast will happen in a letter.
2. Empowering non-latin type designers
I am glad that even few of non latin type designers join Letterink beta list and I had a chance to talk with them. I see that there are many more opportunities with skeleton based type design than just in drawing latin letter forms. In the future I wish to gather more feedback and insight into type design workflow in non latin alphabet countries. Write me in beta list or tweet me.
3. Sketching with skeleton in mind to keep consistency
Nowadays most designers start sketching their ideas on paper. They told me that sketches express the shapes already AKA outlines. This way it’s quite easy to lose the letter construction. But, if you started with sketching the skeleton you can follow construction easily and save plenty of time later.
4. Making quicker changes closer to the final result
A few of you guys were searching for something which allows you to change brush and skeleton during the whole process without losing the option to change the form of the skeleton. What if you can try different brushes and completely change a feeling at the same time? It could really expand the speed and quickly validate what works and what doesn’t . The idea brings to mind the work of Petra Docekalova and her project Monolina.
I have been working on a superfamily, based on my handwriting. I have been experimenting with using different pens, and it is difficult to automate the result in a pleasing manner.
5. Interpolating skeletons
Of course it’s necessary to interpolate between weights. Working from the bottom to the top versus the other way around. But, also two skeletons can be interpolated. What If you decide to interpolate between fractured and rounded form, or between opened and closed shape? This is where the magic might occur and I am really looking forward to it.
If you can name it, you can control it.
6. Automating drawing with parametrization of skeletons and brushes
Recent advances in type design technology have introduced parametric type design. But these tools are often based on shape components, which do not always result in the desirable outcome. I am not going to promise that skeleton based parameterization is different, but to me it makes more sense and solves many of the issues inherent to outline based type design. The main idea behind that skeleton based design is to allow you to create classes with desired values and apply them to certain parts on every letter. Change one class at one place and the result will take effect on every glyph with the same class.
Talk to me, I am listening
I have been talking with type designers, letterers and graphic designers for two years. I have been asking them about their workflows, ideas, needs and struggles. This blog post is the result based on the research insights. Feedback is an essential part of this project and the most meaningful way for users actual needs to be met. So please if you have anything to add to the discussion don’t hesitate to write to me or tweet me.
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Special thanks for the blog post reviewing credits to Mirko Velimirovic Iverson.