Reverse Engineering

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Analogue Forms for Digital Application

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One process I am constantly working on in both the print workshop and the design studio is the design and development of new typefaces. Once each design is complete, I aim to publish them digitally and thereafter manufacture in wood for use in the print workshop.

The first stage begins in the sketch book with outline designs one letter at a time – the process is very time consuming but takes us away from the usual confines of the computer – which we enjoy.

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My initial studies utilised a modular grid as the framework to develop simplistic letter forms – consisting of only vertical and horizontal elements. The final alphabet relates considerably to the pixel, affording the font an interesting ‘digital’ personality. At present I have only developed an uppercase version of this typeface as it is only really suitable for use in headlines or large scale display work.

As the design is rectilinear it will be a fairly simple operation to construct from wood for letterpress printing.


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A more complex design (below) was inspired by incised Roman lettering. I have been developing the shape, proportion and geometry of each letter over a long period of time. The final proposal includes:

  • A very light stem weight across the whole alphabet – affording a delicate letterform – taking your eye away from the structure of the letter to the terminal and change points.
  • Serifs take a larger proportion of the stem ending – definitively punctuating each terminal and visually anchoring the letter.
  • The junctions and change points adopt curvilinear transitions – removing harsh and abrupt, acute angles.
  • Within two letterforms (P, K) the structures are totally disjointed – affording an experimental treatment to the traditional letter form.

The challenge was to design a typeface with a foundation in the traditional heritage of ‘hand cut’ lettering but afford the final treatment a contemporary, digital styling.

I am currently developing a range of different weights, lower case letters, punctuation, accents and numerals for this typeface.


Further information will be posted as the project progresses.

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Another typeface currently being developed is a contemporary styled sans serif. Like the project above the transitions adopt a curvilinear treatment – this generates an interesting visual massing at the change points.

As the project develops it will be interesting to see the impact on legibility and readability of this typeface, and if it is viable when used to set large bodies of copy.


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Further work in progress below:


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© Carl Middleton – 2020

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