Back in July, while recovering from a nasty cold, I received a beautiful postcard from my friend Richard. It displayed an alphabet he created, each letter inspired by a different writing system of the world.
The moment I saw these wonderful shapes I knew I wanted to use them in creating something new; to build on top of Richard’s inventive characters. Bed-bound as I was, it needed to be digital. I needed to bring these letters onto my computer.
It seems like I’ve always been fascinated by the printed word, the mechanisms humans have built for sharing their thoughts further and wider. I remember discovering that cliché is an onomatopoeia—that it sounds like what it describes: the noise a printing press makes when it stamps a word or phrase so common the block must be made out of a different material. But these letters were unusual enough that I wouldn’t be able to start from anything existing. It was time to learn about making a font.
I downloaded a trial of the excellent Glyphs font-design application and began to build something that might honour my friend’s creation, at least as much as the bedridden delirium my cold had cultivated would allow. I scanned the postcard, used clever software to draw around the outside of the characters, split them up, then used Glyphs to tease these unusual shapes into the parts of the font anatomy I was learning about. How much of that “F” is a descender? Is that a swash on that “Z”? How much energy did I have for ligatures? These shapes were so eccentric, where on earth should the cap line go?
Just as the evening started to draw in, I completed this font I call Caspian. I used it to send my friend a couple of artsy postcards but I also wanted to do something more.
I decided to build a microsite that would try and recreate the weirdness of its inception, referencing Bowie’s album Hunky Dory, which was playing almost solidly while I tweaked and moulded those letters. I made a website which plays the songs I listened to while in bed, typing the lyrics as they’re sung, in the pretty font that is Caspian.
Thanks Richard, for the diversion while I was ill, the beautiful postcard, and the opportunity to make something eerie and beautiful.