The Almost Perfect Font

What to do when the client loves your font choice, but asks could you just change one character?
Chris and Trish Meyer
By Chris and Trish Meyer 04.06.05

The LoveLetter Typewriter font had a few characters that were difficult to read (top line) until they were modified (lower line).

When planning a new project, the font you choose can lift a design to a new level, or add an all-important attitude. So when you've spent hours picking a font that the client agrees is "just perfect," panic can set in when they object to a couple of characters as being too weird or difficult to read. The more high profile the job, the fussier the client will be; after all, if they've paid millions to open their movie with the name "Zellweger," the Z better look good! Rather than picking a different font and possibly disrupting the schedule, an hour spent editing the troublesome characters can save the day.

Those who have edited fonts in the past may be familiar with Fontographer, which unfortunately languished for several years without updates. The new kid on the block for professional font designers is FontLab Studio. For the type of font editing we do, its high-end features and $649 price tag (as of early 2008) is a little steep. So thank goodness for its little sister, TypeTool: a "light" Mac OS X and Windows compatible font editor for just $99 (again, as of early 2008).

We mostly use TypeTool for modifying fonts for legibility (see the LoveLetter example at the top of this page) and improving a confusing character (such as a "t" with a very short crossbar). If you have an alternate or swash version of the font, you might want to create a custom mix of your favorite characters (see below). You can even paste in logos, Euro symbols, accents, special punctuation, or custom bullets into rarely used characters of your company house font for added convenience. As another example, the After Effects Numbers plug-in can create random text animation from the numbers 0 through 9. By copying and pasting dingbats from various fonts into these slots, you can create a custom font for use with Numbers (also below). Ditto with pasting icons into the 0 and 1 slots for use by effects that randomize binary code.

The Mason Sans font from Emigre comes with an Alternate version. If you prefer a few of the alternate characters, copy and paste them to the regular version and save a custom mix. Note that we straightened the bar on the H and removed the center bar from the Z in our custom version.

The Cage set of fonts from P22 is based on the handwriting of John Cage. We moved our favorite characters (upper line) from the Extras font to the 0-9 slots so that the Numbers effect in After Effects could randomize them. The original characters from the number slots are shown on the lower line.

So if you'd like to add "Font Wrangler" to your resume, follow along and we'll show you how easy it is to perform simple modifications to Postscript Type 1 and TrueType fonts using TypeTool. Download the demo version so you can explore as you read, but note the restrictions on saving a usable font with the tryout version.

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