Saw Type Development IV

Previous post here.

Anne-Marie Geals, a typeface designer, advised that “the typeface family (or variable font) will be lengthy to complete […], especially as you have expressed you want to include […]other scripts in addition to the variety of styles […] you will be in it for the long-haul!” She suggested that a short project description for the typeface would help enormously, and it follows below: 

A new variable typeface inspired by the architecture of Walthamstow to embody the innovation powered by the community. Its aesthetics will be geometric to represent the community’s burgeoning awareness of typographic style. It will shift its appearance on weight, width and roundness axes and include the full set of glyphs in Latin and European scripts. It will be designed for eye-catching display type in both print and screen-based media and for free personal use by the community.

Further feedback from Anne-Marie Geals

I’ve been looking at your blog so I can get my head around your project as a whole, not just the typeface. I understand now that the typeface is supplementary, that you would like to continue with the typeface after your final MA hand-in and that my feedback may give you some direction to continue on with it after the MA is done. I was a bit concerned, as you would only have a few days left to finish a whole typeface! But, now I know it is just the start, you are in an ideal position and can get it how you want, at your leisure. 
I think the typeface family (or variable font) will be lengthy to complete (possibly more than you realise yet!), especially as you have expressed you want to include Devanagari and other Indic scripts in addition to the variety of styles. So I think you will be in it for the long-haul! TBH, I’ve only had an afternoon’s training in Devanagari, and that was enough for me to decide that if I should want to incorporate it, I’d prefer to collaborate with an expert in the script to get it right. Reading Uni is certainly the best place to find out about collaborations in language scripts.
Bruno Maag once told me that type design is like a ‘divine calling’ rather than a job, and he is right, it commands 100% of your attention! It’s very easy to spend the whole MA on a typeface alone – trust me I know! So, I think it is a good decision to put the typeface on ice and focus on completing the other parts of your project. 
You certainly have thrown the net wide, and have clearly worked very hard! The workshops and walks must have taken a lot of organisation, and quite tough to analyse what you’ve got and what is useful or can be used. I found with my MA that I had researched so much, it was hard to cut through all the information and get to the heart of what I wanted to communicate.
I feel the online tool for local people to design their own letters is a fantastic idea and would be a lot of fun for the contributors. I’d certainly like to have a try of it, but I’m not from Walthamstow! It’s a pity that this idea was explored late on in the project. 
If the online tool yields plenty of responses from your audience, potentially this could provide valuable visual clues from the local community which could also have an impact on the design direction of your typeface. Some of their responses might come ‘from the heart’, and not necessarily something visible, such as landmarks or visual themes of Walthamstow, but something felt. 
I found with my Welsh typeface that my response to sounds was equally important, if not more important than anything I’d seen. What clinched it for me was the relationship between the sounds of the spoken Welsh language and the landscape. It’s very helpful to do mark-making exercises in response to sounds, such as music, people’s accents when talking etc. It’s quite difficult to give a physical shape to unseen things! But, it does help imbue a typeface with an emotion.
My feeling is that the Saw shapes which you have seen everywhere in Walthamstow is interesting and certainly a valuable angle, but only one aspect. The letters you have shown me have a clean, industrial and slightly geometric feel, and the typeface ultimately will communicate this. Is this what you intend to communicate about Walthamstow? I think it is also important to test it out on the target audience to see if they agree it is representative of their home-town.
I think there are other unseen and more emotive aspects that you may have not yet explored, probably because you had your work cut out with the other aspects of the project. Potentially, the community responses to the online tool may feed into your ideas. Different cultures may also have something visual to bring to the type, not just a different script and language, but a flavour of other cultures. 
At this early stage of the typeface design (with only caps part-done), it would be fine for it to metamorphosis according to new research and influences. Quite often I will end up far away from where I started – when rationalising, experimenting and targeting the design to what you intend to communicate, typefaces often evolve and that’s perfectly OK – as long as the design’s intended message is crystal clear to the audience/users! That’s where the mini brief comes in! 🙂
Being a relative newcomer to type design, it does take a while to ‘get your eye in’ and notice discrepancies, such as letter to letter proportions, stokes looking a little darker or lighter than the others (see K diagonal strokes), ink traps (see extra bold weight M & N). You did the right thing by referring to Karen Cheng’s excellent book “Designing Type’. I would also recommend you follow on Instagram 2 accounts – Grilli Type and also OHNO Type Co. Also follow Oldschoolnewschool account. They have recently posted some excellent resources for getting proportions right, allowing for ink traps and many other great tips.
I am also very willing to give you feedback and critiques as your typeface progresses after the MA. Message me when you’ve had a bit of a well-deserved break after hand-in!
It’s important to test the letters out in actual words and strings in sentences – this should be done as early as possible. Pangrams such as ‘the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dogs’ really helps reveal anything that leaps out and interrupts reading. It must always be remembered that ultimately, typefaces are a tool to facilitate reading. You have begun with the M, but I would usually recommend getting the H & O correct first. This will give you the treatment of the rounds against the straights, which will influence the whole typeface and help get proportions and weight right. I tend to sandwich all the other letters between the H & O… such as typing…..  HHOHOOHOAOHAH. It also helps get the inter-character spacing correct.
Actually, I mostly start with lower case n & o, as l/c is far more used than the upper case, and then I later design the caps to fit in with the l/c. Dalton Maag also do this. But, the Grilli Type posts cover that very well, with nice animations!
If it is to be used for both print and screen, at some point you will need to research what makes a good screen font. And what makes good legibility in print. The design will need to be tailored according to your findings and tested.

This is all so helpful. The length of the reply!

I always knew that the typeface wasn’t going to be the full end result of the project, but when I felt a bit lost it was something that I worked on to re-centre myself. Given the lack of submissions, I knew I would find it hard to get a suitable lack of feedback from the community about the typeface so I didn’t really try! But it is essential to make it work and to represent. I hope the other activities awaken a typographic interest in some people in the community that means they want to and feel able to give an opinion on it.

Geals also points out that I started at the wrong point – the M rather than the H and the O. This is appropriate given the source inspiration built in terms of type design eeeek! I think everyone has to start somewhere, and go on to refine it.

For a first typeface, I’m pretty proud. there is SO MUCH work to be done, and I don’t underestimate it, but i have enjoyed having a project that I can channel when times have been tough.


week 24: Website & online development

Previous post

Stuart has mentioned this to me time and time again, and I had fun playing with the tool at the time (and at Pick Me Up!) but I didn’t think that it fitted into my project, until now. The last few months have been me trying to get people involved in the project and receiving nothing back. It has been frustrating.

Now we are coming out of lockdown, it seems like a better time to launch the project. This is going to take efforts on multiple fronts, and one of them is web. Getting people to contribute in a simple way using a tool similar to Paint could be a way to do that. Over the lockdown, I’ve given people the opportunity to report pieces of lettering that they have seen in the area that fits a brief: for example, it looks like a stencil or looks 3D. This tool would allow people to create their own.

Using a tutorial and the p5.js library, I managed to create this simple web paint application:

It’s very simple, and I began to make it more to spec by adding options to draw circles and squares. This is all well and good, but I found myself out of my coding depth very quickly. Instead, I am going to build an example interface to show the examiners that I would commission a developer to make (or learn how to do outside the stress of course deadlines.)

Here is an annotated page of what I would do:

The annotations do show the process pretty clearly, but basically: a participant clicks to take part and then is taken through a tutorial explaining the following: they are given a prompt to follow, for example, they can only use straight lines. They are also given a glyph, such as a capital H, and also a feature, such as it being tall. They can interpret this how they like. If they are unhappy with the prompts they can re-roll, or if they are unsure, they can ask for a tool tip that thoroughly explains the task again.

The canvas has dotted grey lines in the background that can be snapped to so as to provide the participant guidance. The tools on the left of the canvas will differ according to the prompt, for example a curvy line and circle won’t be available for the prompt “can only straight lines”.

Before launch, an example database will be populated to give the participant an idea of what others make of the option combinations. They won’t be the same: the example will show, in this instance, glyphs that are also tall, or an H, or drawn using straight lines, but not all or a combination of these. When sufficient glyphs are drawn, the examples will be from those available. I wonder if the glyphs will become self referential from the first submitted.

The participant can enter their name, and then also submit their letter. the letter will be then human checked so that it doesn’t show anything inappropriate. It seems a little censoring to do this, but given that the tool is open to everyone, and that participants have little restriction about what they draw, it seems prudent to check that drawings of swear words or rude images are not posted.

Here is a workflow showing the process, and a list of prompts I have so far thought of:

The glyphs submitted with be wonky and crude and maybe not make sense, but I want to give free range. The tool will be available on tablets and smart phones so that participants can use fingers if they want to.

When the glyphs are submitted, I’d like to bring them out into the open for people to see and to advertise the project. It might be something similar to the letter grid, or maybe on a presentation stage such as the Sketch Aquarium.

In Week 25 I will figure out how to present this …

Next post

Saw Type Development III

Previous post here.

Over the weeks I have been working on the glyphs for the saw tooth typeface:

These are super rough, and it’s my first typeface! I transported them into the Glyphs app:

And here is a Zoom in:

At this stage, I decided to contact Anne-Marie Geals, who I had a conversation with earlier in the module. She has kindly agreed to give me feedback on my typeface. While I did this, she suggested that I:

What I think will be important for you to do is a ‘Short Project Description’ for the typeface aspect. It will help you enormously.
I think that it is vital in terms of assessment that you show conclusively (evidenced) that you have thought about the typeface in terms of;
• What do you wish to convey with it – e.g.. emotions, feelings, a message, and does the end product communicate what you intended?• Who is it for – target audience. Have you tested it in the target audience?• How do you intend/envision it will it be used – e.g. headlines, body text, editorial, printed, online.
To give you an example, I had to write one for my MA, and it was so useful. I referred back to it every day;

A new typeface inspired by, and designed for, Wales and the Welsh to help facilitate the use of the declining language. Its aesthetics will be culturally expressive, yet practical and include the full set of glyphs required for bilingual typesetting. It will be designed for long, immersive reading in both print and screen-based media.

You can see the description clearly states what I was aiming for, who it is for, what it is for, and how it is intended to be used. I had to evidence that I had considered the needs of screen and print based media in my designs, and whether my typeface functioned as well as I hoped in these environments (evidence of testing). I also had to evidence how my Celtic visual theme/style had been inspired by my research. I also evidenced that I had tested the working font on Welsh people and had received feedback.

Nadine Chahine, whose Font li Beirut project I have previously covered, describes a typeface brief as such:

Type design is equal parts suffering and euphoria. It is a walk along a winding road that goes on for many weeks and months before it’s done. A type design brief is like a charter path: It asks you questions, and the answers will guide you to where you want to be.

Nadine Chahine

So, what do I want this typeface to be/do? Here’s an unstructured list of my thoughts:

  • Personal response to the area of Walthamstow
  • Embody the history of varied industry in the area
  • The saw tooth roofs and the Warner house arches used to inspire the shapes represent everyday people
  • Variable typeface with axes on width, weight and roundness
  • Display typeface rather than for long passages of text
  • Showcase the ethnic diversity of the area
  • San-serif font

There is also a difference between what the typeface is now and what it could be. At the moment it is just an uppercase, and doesn’t have a full set of glyphs. It only caters for the Latin font, and doesn’t include characters needed for European languages. To make it truly represent Walthamstow it needs to cater for Tamil, Bengali and Devanagari scripts too. I haven’t tested it either, or considered the difference between print or screen.

I’m going to copy Geal’s statement directly, pasting in my details in order to construct something myself.

A new variable typeface inspired by the architecture of Walthamstow to embody the innovation powered by the community. Its aesthetics will be geometric to represent the community’s burgeoning awareness of typographic style. Its will shift its appearance on weight, width and roundness axes and include the full set of glyphs in Latin and European scripts. It will be designed for eye-catching display type in both print and screen-based media and for free personal use by the community.

Next post here.

Visual Experiments: Logo II

Previous post

As you know, this project came from a previous module, and so I have a fair amount of branding already done. Still, I think it’s good to test out a few things to make sure I can make the best out of it.

The top line has been drawn over with felttip pen to give a pleasing ragged edge then scanned.

I wanted to experiment with the thickness and density of the scribbles making up the letters, so used different pens, pencils, crayon and charcoal with varying strokes to achieve this. Here are my experiments and notation about what worked and what didn’t.

I also found that I like the ‘e’ tilted so that the crossbar is pointing upwards rather than horizontal.

I do really like the current logo because Stowe has a pleasing weight and neatness that I didn’t achieve in the new experiments whilst still retaining a craftiness. I don’t like writing the Framework underneath – I’d rather have it typed – because it provides contrast and looks more polished.

From this stage, I’ve gone onto tinker with the logo some more and used the experiments above to refine the look.

I used Illustrator to create a vector file and touched up the letters.

Playing around with a website logo and favicon using different weights of Archia.

After consultation with my esteemed cohort, I am go with logo 5 as it has a nice balance between the two elements:

As you can see, the Framework in the new logo is now justified under the Stowe and with a bolder version of the typeface. The t in Stowe is more defined too. A good result!

For the favicon, I’ve decided on this one:

It will work at a small size and on light and dark backgrounds, as shown above.

Saw Type Development II

Previous post here.

Over the weeks I have been working on the glyphs for the saw tooth typeface:

I’ve changed some of the glyphs from the previous – the F, E and I. I did think that the Emigre E was cool, but distracted from other features.

I’ve been working through Designing type by Karen Cheng (978-1-78277-544-8) as it provides a usual step by step for each glyph set and gives existing examples. For a san-serif uppercase, it recommends starting with an O and an E, with a W and M one of the last characters to design. Because this typeface is so inspired by the saw tooth roofs, I’ve had to work backwards a bit.

Next post here.

Week 22: reassessing aims

Plans for this week

  • This week is the big week for the critical report! I’ve got a lot done so far, and am very happy with the project, but I just have these little parts that I need to do before I set it into Indesign.
  • I’ve asked Anne-Maria Geals to take a look my glyphs that I’ve designed, but scheduled this for after the deadline. She has created some great typefaces and worked with Bruno Maag, so she will be an amazing person to get feedback from. She’s such a lovely person giving up so much time.
  • My partnership with Forest School will hopefully yield some submissions that I can include on my website and analyse for my critical report.

project Aims

I’m taking a look through old blog posts at my previous work on this project and assessing how far I have come. In Week 4, I planned for my formative assessment, the outcome of which is here. More interesting is when I started planning the difference between this MA project as a testing phase and a more detailed Stowe Framework I could do later. The original is here.


I’ve already established that I need to scale down this project, and make it a testing phase for a project that is run as a full-scale project. I made a table that breaks down the elements of the project and how I can achieve them.

What do I want to do?How can I test this?
Photo walks with adultsSmall walks with a few people doing it independently with survey at end
Adults asked to look for typography they likeSmall select group of adults
Target wide demographics to reflect WalthamstowMake sure people are varied, but a smaller number
Adult asked to design glyph for themselvesThis could be possible, but it will have to be independent rather than in a workshop and I would have to get more feedback about what went well and what needs improving
Area Survey photo walksGo around myself to take photos like in GDE720
Photo competitionCould this launch the beginning of the full project and be formed from feedback?
Talks online with local typography experts such as archives, Bracey, Angry DanInterview them myself and publish. Ask them to design type/glyph/describe their favourite piece of type


It is heartening to see that what I achieved has broadly followed my plan: I have designed and published a range of workshops that people can take part in. Some of them are the same, for example the Area Survey walks, and some have been changed, such as glyph designing, as a result of the pandemic. I have jettisoned some ideas, such as the photo competition, for this stage as it felt like the project was becoming too broad.

I would have liked to reach more people with my workshops and am disappointed that I have not got more responses so far. It is hard to distinguish between the shortcomings of the workshops I designed and what is down to the pandemic. I’m going to do a more thorough review later in the project.


It’s hard to put into words what the pandemic has done to everyone, and to see how it has affected my project has been tiring. I am excited about this project just feels like bad timing. It’s not what the people of Walthamstow need right now. I feel constrained by deadlines of the course and would ideally push it back until September to be able to get out into the world and engage with people in libraries and museums that are opening up as of today.

Next week

I will be free to concentrate fully on the outputs, and my plans are to:

  • design more glyphs
  • so that I can experiment with distorting them
  • ensure that the type map is working because I’m not happy with it as is

Easter: Website development

As well as showing photos on maps, I would like the website to show submissions from the workshops. After my first submission yesterday, I have created a section of the website to display the outputs. Here is the finished look, which you can also see here:

Current look

Here is how I did it …

I use Wix to host my website and uploaded test images.
Wix has a nifty data collection tool so that you can use a CMS to flow into your website. I started by creating a table with the test images to populate the gallery.
On a new webpage, I created a gallery to link to the dataset.
I connected to the dataset successfully
To create a more full look, I created dummy items based on the template letters. Each letter has a title, image, description, contributor name and tag for filtering.
Here is a mid-point look with the letters populating in any order
To filter, I experimented with choices linked to tags and filled them out. However, it has to be a dropdown feature so I reworked the page.
Here is the final page with the letters in order with a dropdown and an All button to reset the filter.
Here is the filter in action for the letter M.
The gallery allows for each image to be shown in an expanded view with contributor credit and description.

Saw Type Development

Previous post.

From this image of sawtooth industrial roofs,. Walthamstow has an industrial past, with the London Rubber Company and film studies setting up in the early twentieth century.

The shape of the saw tooth roof intrigued me, and I saw the motif everywhere, from the top of gates and on modern residential buildings.

The sawtooth looks very much like a capital M, so I started building the typeface from this. A few sketches of my first type and how I could keep lines straight rather than use curves:

I built up a few template lines to be able to keep them consistent, with notched edges like to make the shapes more interesting. The typeface is designed as an upper case only typeface.

I really love how the A and V letters in the examples below fit into each other and how letters such as H and T are ligatures:

So I thought that some glyphs can have a slant in different directions that can also be used for an italic version:

I thought about, if I wanted different weights, how to break down the strokes:

After a tutorial, Stuart recommended Emigre magazine for typefaces as a way to play around. As you can see they used pieces of paper to angle lines in the same way I use grey boxes!

I really liked the E’s at the time, and wanted to use that diagonal detail. In the diagram below, I also try to make an O, which I was ultimately unhappy with.

After I’ve sketched out the components, I copy the features to a new board and expanded the experience.

Getting the Glyphs into Glyphs 3 🙂

This will continue to develop! Next post here.

Community Activities live

AREA SUrvey 

I devised the first activity of Stowe Framework and detailed the results of the first alpha test here. In the Area Survey, the participants are asked to take a short walk around an area of E17 and take photographs of typography (or lettering, as I described it) and remember where they took them. When they returned home, they choose five examples of lettering, mark the examples’ positions on a map of Walthamstow and answer some questions. One purpose of the activity was to add more examples to the photo archive. More than that, the underlying motive is to enable the participants to start thinking about how they undertake the challenge. In asking them to submit only five examples to me, they curate their experience rather than unthinkingly responding.

I have copied out the questions with my reasons for asking:

Looking at your photos, did you start to favour certain types of lettering? Can you guess why that might have been?

Here, I want the participants to notice patterns about their preferences and a reason for their bias. For example, a couple of remaining ghost signs feature advertisements for printing presses and typewriters, and the owner of a local publisher might find these fascinating. I intend these to lead to further qualitative research between myself and the participant.

Did you stick to a route, or did you let yourself wander? Did anything draw you off your expected route? What was it?

I am curious about the participant’s mindset: do they start with a rigid plan, or do they wander? How they react to unexpected stimuli? The questions are deliberately broken down into easy clauses to allow comprehension by many people.

Did you find the lettering you were expecting? What surprised you?

Like the questions above, I want to understand the participant’s preconceptions and if they are open to being challenged.

What do you think the lettering tells you about the area you surveyed? What kind of lettering would you like to see more of in E17?

Now, I am eliciting their opinion of what the lettering says about their area rather than speculating, and giving them a chance to shape the area in the future.

Week 13: activity development

A lot of my feedback from December focussed around the activities, as this was the most significant part of what I passed by the tutors. I’ve gone back and worked on them several times, run them by people in the community and who run local workshops, and I have also passed it by Cassie Yates of Knots Arts CIC who regularly engages people in participatory arts projects. Here is where they are:

Most of the changes focus on the language that I use: although I had attempted to make it suitable for a non-design audience, Cassie Yates suggested that I make some changes. Typography has become lettering: even though the words are not technically interchangeable, people are more likely to recognise what lettering is and the word sounds less intimidating. Sentences are broken down and relevant information more visible by cutting out extraneous details. It is a hard balance: to give the reader enough information in order to complete the task and not leave them confused but not overwhelm them with detail. However, with feedback from Cassie I feel like the balance has been reached.

Week 13 Overview

And at the end of January, Week 13 begins! I wasn’t idle with the course and used the time to do research and have an experiment. In all:


This week we had a webinar, and here is my presentation for it:

There are some links that people recommended to me:

Stuart put me onto a Studio that used to be in Walthamstow and thought they might have an interesting perspective. I haven’t heard back yet!

Daire’s Interviews

Daire’s interviews for his final output where listed as a good resource for me to look at.

Other media – TikTok and Facebook

Alice suggested I get on TikTok, which pains me, but I know is good to do.