Type Design Journal — Having Constraints

Vitória Neves
Oct 8 · 4 min read

I haven’t written here for quite some time, but now I decided to come back to it and document the progress of designing Klapt — a geometric sans serif typeface family.

At first sight, having some sort of constraints may feel limiting. But, sometimes it can make something more interesting, clearer and even liberating, because you don’t get overwhelmed by an infinite number of possibilities.
With Klapt it was the first time I had really clear rules/limitations in designing a typeface.

Even when I don’t design the full character set on paper, I always need to put the idea on paper first, even if it’s just with a single character.

Klapt — first explorations of a sans serif type face
Klapt — first explorations of a sans serif type face
Klapt — first pencil explorations

As you can see in the image above, I was not sure whether I wanted to have soft or sharp outlines. To help me decide, I drew the character digitally. At first, I experimented with the lowercase a

Klapt — first digital explorations

and then (don’t ask me why… I’m a peaceful person) with the word cannonball.

typeface with sharp outlines
typeface with sharp outlines
early explorations with sharp outlines
sans serif with soft outlines
sans serif with soft outlines
early explorations with soft outlines

Even though these are just some early explorations and nothing of this is polished, it gave me a better idea and helped me make a decision. When looking at these, I noticed that the soft outlines created an interesting contrast with the inner sharpness of the characters, and so my constraints for this typeface were established: it had to be sharp on the inside but soft on the outside, and this idea had to be replicated to all characters. From this moment on, the idea was clear, and now, I just had to make everything work. It’s like doing a puzzle.

Firstly, I worked only on the lowercase characters. It was fairly easy to design letters like d, p, b, n, o using that initial a. It got more complicated when moving on to characters like v, w, x, k. I’ve already written about how I dislike designing characters like these, especially x here.

basic lowercase letters

Then, I moved on to the uppercase using the same already established rule.

basic uppercase letters

I won’t go on about all the details of designing a typeface, but diacritics were next and this time I also decided to include Vietnamese.

Growing up in Germany I’ve always had a thing for multiculturalism and I wanted to create a more inclusive typeface.

Klapt speaks many languages

I realized that this is something that I truly want to pursue. It is also a way to combine my passion for foreign languages with my passion for type.

As I’m writing this I remember the famous quote from Paula Scher: Words have meaning. Type has spirit. The combination is spectacular. By working with non-latin script I’m hoping to have an even more spectacular combination and experience.
Klapt has already been released and now I’m working on the Cyrillic version of it.

Sneak Peek of Klapt Cyrillic

I always wonder how people come up with the names for their typefaces, because I sometimes have a hard time finding a name that I like and that is still available. With Klapt, however, it was really easy. Klapt comes from a thought I had in German: es klappt! which can mean something like it works! and it was just something that came to my mind when I realized that I was working on my own. Long story short: I was working with a partner but I’m not any longer and that’s OK and es klappt! The word klappt can also mean to fold something, and Klapt reminds me a bit of the effect you get when you fold a ribbon.

What do you think about having constraints? Do you think they are helpful, good or bad?

Klapt is available in the following places:


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Vitória Neves

Written by

Type designer by day type designer by night http://seventype.design

The Startup

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