With rich ready-to-use packages like Google Fonts, it might seem like creating a custom font is not with the struggle anymore. You have thousands of fonts to choose from – something surely fit your vision. Right?
Actually, it’s not entirely the case. For one thing, these fonts lack a distinctive style. To make package typefaces more universal, designers avoid bold creative experiments. In other words, even if you’ll try really hard to stand out from the competition, your hands are tied.
Some brands need custom fonts more than others do. If you position yourself as a creative brand or promise offers a personalized experience, customized elements should be used throughout your branding materials.
Who needs custom fonts?
Let’s see where developing a customized font is not a luxury but a must. If your company works in any of these fields, you should seriously consider investing in a unique font.
- Handmade products. If your brand end to deliver a custom handmade experience in products, it makes sense to follow the same purpose in your brand design. You can incorporate the signatures from your products to the design. For instance, artists who work in a cartoonish style can bring the same element into their logo.
- Premium products. After you are above the price tag, there are certain standards to hold on to. Now you are expected to deliver experiences that can’t be obtained elsewhere. Text styling is also a part of a premium experience.
- Design and artwork. If you are in the field, it shouldn’t take too long to make a distinctive touch for your business as well.
Media companies and printed editorials should pay attention to custom fonts as well
Where to create a custom font?
If you are a beginner in making custom fonts, it’s best to start with simple tools with ready-to-go templates. Sure, professional software is definitely more functional, but it’s full of unnecessary technical specifications.
Four must-download tools for fun tool creation
- PaintFont: free software for turning to handwrite into a digital package. The tool offers a ready-to-use template, ready for filling out.
- FontStruct: this tool turns geometric figures into letter curves and shapes. It’s a fast way to switch between official edgy letters and less formal curved lines.
- Fontself: the software is compatible with Adobe Suite (Illustrator and Photoshop) and is used to transform on-paper writing into the digital script.
- Metaflop: this one is based on the scientific approach to font creation. You need to open the editing panel, edit the letter’s spacing and width by adjusting specific parameters and preview the result.
The best thing is, these tools work for italic handwritten scripts as well as for official typefaces. It’s really handy if you need to create multiple interfaces on a regular basis.
How To Create A Custom Font?
Having the tools is only the part of the process, and not even the crucial one. The success of a custom font design stems from a strong creative vision. If you know exactly what you’d like to achieve at the end and save these expectations in the brief, the entire project gets twice as fast.
There are 5 main steps of planning and creating a custom font – let’s review each one in detail.
Step #1 – Creating a vision
Making a custom font from scratch is an impossible mission. Finding the right approach to letter alignment, shaping, and spacing without references is hard to even for experienced designers. This is why the first step of the process is to do your research.
Notice how BBC follows a unique vision throughout all their projects
Don’t worry, it’s not about stealing good ideas from others. At this stage, you are testing the waters, analyzing the solutions that you like or not. Before you start analyzing, prepare the evaluation criteria – uniqueness, readability, official or informal tone – this depends on the industry.
After you’ve gone through dozens of your customers’ websites, make a detailed analysis that sums up your research. Save five best options for future reference.
Create a mood board
To come up with a truly creative solution, don’t limit yourself by sticking purely to your field. Instead, look for fan arts, quotes, Pinterest, explore designers’ portfolios on Behance.
At this point, you want to amass various influences. The more versatile is your reference list, the more sources you’ll have for the inspiration.
Exploring movies and TV shows is a great idea. Star Jedi – Star Wars style font is a great example of an iconic typeface, recognized by millions of people. Incorporating the features of the movies and TV shows that your audience lieks allows you to speak their language.
Iconic fonts are created by best international designers – there is much to learn
After you are done with the material collection, it’s time to unify your vision in the single bigger picture. Create a mood board with the best fonts, color pallets, and pictures that reflect your brand’s spirit and purpose.
An example of a detailed mood board
Step #2 – Create A Detailed Brief
If you will cooperate with designers and developers, you need to bring your thoughts across to colleagues. If you need to present the vision to colleagues, having a clear brief is an essential requirement.
The best way to get ahead of crucial detail is by asking the right questions. We made a list of essential concerns that need to be cleared up before the execution.
- What kind of application will a font have? (main brand’s font for web projects only, specifically for printed materials, and others)
- What are the required sizes?
- Do your team members and audience prefer Serif or Sans Serif (this is defined by the A/B testing)?
- What are some aspects that you definitely don’t want to incorporate in your font – based on your analysis and mood board?
Make a detailed file with answers to these questions and share the document between all project participants.
Step #3 – Paper Comes First
While software seems to make things easier, it’s actually a wrong intuition. With handwriting, you have endless correction possibilities and much higher flexibility.
Software is used to transfer your creation to the digital format and refine technical details – edges, curves, lines. Using a pen or pencil saves you a lot of time and is cheaper in the long run.
Must-known tips for font creation
- Don’t spend time on the entire character set – you need to understand the key font features. Do ‘control characters’ first – these are characters that represent the main typeface’s characteristics – like ‘H, ‘y’, ‘n’, or ‘o’.
- Keep track of height lines and baselines. Throughout your work, you’ll need to make sure that these characteristics are even.
- Avoid moving your hand on paper. When you need to go up, down, left, or right, slide the paper instead. This way, lines will be smoother and straighter.
- Make separate variations of the same control characters – don’t just stop on one design.
- As soon as you have at least five characters fully refined, discuss the progress with your team. There is no use of making more if the result doesn’t satisfy colleagues.
Step #4 – It’s Time To Actually Start Designing
Whenever possible, avoid starting from scratch. You want to make the process as efficient as possible each step of the way, and this means reducing the amount of manual work. Make sure your tool of choice allows uploading paper drawings or ready-to-edit templates from computer storage.
- Translate handwritten control characters by uploading the scanned image.
- Include other symbols to the font – letters, numbers, and additional characters.
- Start editing each character individually and put them together to check the evenness of the height lines and alignment.
You can start with bold, just like Youtube did
To speed up the process, your first goal should be to get a solid grasp of the terminology. We collected all must-know terms – although be ready to expand this list upon your working process.
- Glyph – a single character in a font;
- Baseline – the line under all characters where they ‘stand’ or ‘sit’;
- Ascender height – a defined height, shared by all characters;
- Descender depth – the length of the strokes that go down on letters like ‘y’ and ‘p’;
- Stem – a vertical stroke where the upper elements are positioned (take a look at the T letter);
- Bowl – the rounded part in letters o, d, or b.
These essentials should be enough to get you by, although this is only the starting line of all there is to learn about font terminology. There is no need to worry, this knowledge will come naturally as you get better at font creation.
The basics of letter anatomy
Step #5 – Edit Characters As A United Set
Getting caught up in editing an individual letter is a common beginner’s mistake. You want to refine every single character so much that you end up forgetting the technical specifics for symbols that were done before. As a result, letters end up looking fine one by one but put together, it’s a disaster.
To avoid this pessimistic scenario, test your characters together after each new addition. Whenever you finished a letter, combine it in words with those done before.
Essential testing hacks for a character set
- Check kerning and spacing by combining your font with the ones in the mood board;
- Change text sizes after creating a new letter;
- Test your work in all target mediums – print letters out, publish the text on the website, send an email with an attachment, performed in your font.
The last and final step
All that’s left now is uploading the text on your website. You have to download a plugin that makes the typeface accessible from all browsers and devices. For WordPress, it’s Use Any Font – a fast and simple plug-in for font integration. For Drupal, we recommend CKEditor, with similar functionality.
Finally, it’s time to show your creation to the audience. The easiest way to get feedback is starting targeted advertising on Google Adwords- You need two campaigns – one with the old font, another one wit the old one.
To get clear results, build in a pop-up that’ll ask users directly about the font. You don’t have to keep this practice upon a regular basis – the first week is usually enough to understand the dynamics.
At the end of the day, it’s worth it
Fair enough, creating a custom font is quite a hustle. Still, unique brand typefaces are what make the difference between a premium and average user experience.
A great experience of a wholesome premium branding
Don’t forget that it’s a long-term investment – the font will work for your business at least for 5-6 years, up till the next rebranding. Some brands use their fonts for decades, and the creative work has repaid the invested time and resources a dozen times at this point.