For this project we were asked to design a typeface from scratch, and then create two type specimen posters to go along with it. My typeface, Black Cat, is inspired by art deco style fonts and early 20th century hand lettered signage. I noticed in this signage, letters had exaggerated high and low waists. I decided to incorporate both high and low waists into my typeface, along with hairline serifs. For more information on my design process, scroll down to the "About the Process" section.
When approaching the posters, I wanted something minimal, yet striking. The black and vector imagery are meant to be the minimal elements, while the bright colors are meant to be striking. I designed two posters for this typeface: an analytical poster and an expressive poster. The analytical poster is meant to show the technical aspects of the typeface. The expressive poster is meant to highlight the potential this typeface has in its use.
This font has influence drawn from 1920’s and art deco style fonts. However, there is a more modernist twist put on it with the narrowness and height of the letterforms. Direction and groundedness is added with the hairline serifs, and an intense vertical stress is emphasized by the thick vertical strokes added into the letterforms. This typeface would be a good choice when doing poster design, or having titles displayed on magazines or book covers. The high and low waists on the letterforms add a sort of quirky character to the font, making it approachable while giving off a slightly historical feel.
The Name ‘Black Cat’ comes from the early 20th century slang term ‘cat’ used to refer to young men. To class up the attitude that this font gives off, ‘black’ is added to the title as a representation of sleekness and high fashion. Together, the name Black Cat portrays the stylish, playful, yet classy attitude of these letterforms. This font would add an elegant, yet classy attitude to any store front, giving a feel of high fashion, while still being simple. Adding color to these letters makes them playful, energetic, and quirky, making it perfect to be expressive, while still maintaining decorum.
About the Process
This journey began by looking through old images of hand lettered signs. I compiled the ones I liked best together, and studied the features I liked most and least in the letterforms. These images feature a few of the letterforms I examined.
I began sketching out the letterforms I observed, making careful note of the features I liked most. I found I preferred the exaggerated high and low waist heights of the letterforms, as well as the unconventional serifs.
After copying many of the letterforms exactly, I combined the features I found I liked the most and began sketching my first round of my own letterforms. These letterforms were then presented at a critique. It was noted during the critique I should try to play around with the contrast of thick and thin strokes. Also, a few letters I presented needed some work (like "A" and "M"). So after this round, I decided to stick with the hairline serifs, and work with more dramatic contrasts between strokes.
Continuing, I moved on to fixing some of my prior letters (deciding on a low crossbar "A" and fixing the serifs and contrast on "M"), and sketching out a new batch of letters. This round brought out dramatic differences in thick and thin strokes. I kept the hairline serifs, which added to the direction of the typeface as a whole. The typeface was ultimately looking narrow, as well as tall. To exaggerate this narrowness, I made the choice of adding low and high crossbars, high waists, and high arms. If these components are set more in the upper third or lower third of the letterform, it creates an illusion that the overall letter is narrower than it actually is. I liked the idea of a tall, narrow typeface because it adds character.
This was my last round of sketched letters. I wrote out the whole alphabet, with one or two versions of each letter. The top page features some letters I sketched when I was trying to perfect them from the round before. I decided to make the thicker stroke of the letters even thicker than before. I also rounded out the bottom part of "B". I put the thicker contrast on the leftmost part and the rightmost part of the "G". I also did the same with "O".
Bringing the Letterforms into Illustrator
I finally moved my work into Adobe Illustrator. I scanned the pages I sketched the letters on, opened the page in Illustrator, and traced the letters using the pen tool and rectangle shape tool. I changed "S" to have curvy contrast as opposed to the straight line contrast that is in letters like "O" and "C". I wasn't sold on it because it was my most challenging letter. I made a choice on "K" to go with a rounded leg like "R". I also made the tail on "Q" different than what I had originally planned.
This is the final result of all of my perfected letterforms. "S" was my most difficult letter to conquer, but ultimately the curvy, contrasting spine is what worked out best. This typeface has a modernist feel due to its high contrasting strokes.
Sketching & Brainstorming
I began designing the specimen posters with rough thumbnail sketches of how I imagined they should look. These thumbnails weren't meant to serve as concrete ideas of how I imagined the posters. Better yet, they were a quick way for me to get out as many ideas as I could and find further inspiration from there.
Bringing the Ideas into Illustrator
I implemented some of my thumbnails into various ideas for the final products. I found that my final posters weren't necessarily ideas I originally sketched out, but rather ideas that came to me along the way.