Fonts illustration featuring Envato Elements authors

Discover Font Design Tips from Top Typography Designers

If you’re a budding font designer looking for some typography design inspiration or are just in the market for new and different font styles, there’s no better place to look than to the pros.

That’s why we’ve selected three of the coolest and most sought after font designers on Envato Elements to share their awesome designs and advice on how to get started.

Adam Ladd

First up, the multi-talented Adam Ladd. Adam has been working in branding, art direction, and magazine layout for a number of years, but it’s his stunning font design that he’s now renowned for.  Adam very generously shared his insights with us on his journey as a typography designer.

How did you get into font design?

Over 13 years of working as a graphic designer, I found myself more and more interested in type and fonts. I wanted to understand what made for quality craftsmanship in a typeface and how to produce a font. I started studying existing typefaces, spending time in font software forums, reaching out to type designers with questions, sketching and practicing creating letterforms.  

Eventually, around 2016, while working as an Art Director I started a side project in type design and eventually moved into type design as my full time occupation.

What do you love and hate about being a font designer?

I enjoy that creating a font is typically for a purpose—that it will be a useful asset or tool for someone. Letters can communicate so much and uniquely express a message based on style decisions.

On the flip side, creating type can involve a lot of tedious redundancy of actions. For example, spacing and kerning after drawing all the glyphs. There can be days when it’s difficult to sit at the computer and keep energized about producing the more technical aspects of a font after you’ve already been working on it for weeks or perhaps months.

Could you take us through a bit of the process?

I usually start with pencil sketches to get some rough ideas and quick forms down on paper. This allows me to see if my idea may work and how some of the letters might relate to each other with design characteristics and proportions.

If it’s a hand drawn font, then I’ll typically draw all the base characters on paper with pencil and pen, and then scan and trace in Illustrator, eventually pasting into the Glyphs font app. If it’s a precise, multi-weight family, I’ll still do the pencil sketching but usually then go straight into Glyphs to draw the vector characters, using the sketches as a reference as I go along.

After completing all of the base glyphs and components, I move on to spacing and kerning and any other OpenType features. Along the way, there is exporting and testing of the fonts in progress to make sure they’re working properly and look as desired.

In your opinion, what makes a good font?

It’s a good question, but a tough one because of the vastness of styles and intents for which a font is created. I think some of the criteria that apply to all fonts are drawing quality, both hand drawn and precise vectors and good spacing which equates to a nice visual rhythm and relationship between letter groupings/words. Optical corrections to make a character appear more balanced are also important, rather than basing everything exclusively on math or purity of forms. Good technical quality is also necessary to make sure fonts function in use as intended and nothing is cut off or glitchy.

Do you have any tips for creators that are looking to get into font design?

Learn the basics but don’t let them limit your vision or creativity. 

Read books, searching online for info and tips, study existing, well-established typefaces and consider how the letters relate to each other and what makes them work. See what classification or category they belong to (e.g. Grotesque, Humanist, Geometric, etc.) as this helps inform and guide certain design decisions and characteristics.

Visit font related forums like the Glyphs app forum, the FontLab app forum, and the TypeDrawers community forum and ask lots of questions.

Which are your favorite fonts you have listed on Elements and why?

I’d probably have to say the Config families if I had to pick one. It’s a versatile, modern typeface, with enough distinction to make it interesting. There are multiple variations of it as well to help suit the need: Normal family, Alt family, Rounded family, and Condensed family.

Croatian-born font designer Leonard Posavec has always loved drawing, so it’s no wonder that he eventually turned his talent to drawing fonts. The autodidact shares how he got started designing typography fonts and tells us about the work he’s most proud of. 

Leonard Posavec​

Where did you learn your craft?

I’m a self-taught font designer. Back in 2009 when I was 14, I was playing a browser based online game, and began to notice players with awesome looking signatures at the bottom of their posts. I wanted to create some signatures for myself, so I started to learn Photoshop. This was just my first step. After this I began watching tutorials, learning and experimenting and in 2013, I created my first font.

Where do you find inspiration?

I really enjoy exploring, drawing and designing and generally find inspiration all around me but mostly on social media and by studying other font designers.

Finding inspiration isn’t hard, what’s hard is transforming inspiration into artwork.

What is your personal approach to designing a font?

I have a couple of different approaches. One approach is completely instinctive and spontaneous. I just start drawing sketches of font ideas from my head without any research. Once I begin I’ll keep going all the way like that until I finish my design. After finishing, I refine my sketches in a vector and create a font. Then I assess my work and decide whether I publish it or just delete it.  

My second approach is more structured.

  1. I choose a style, do research, think about how users could possibly use the font, investigate trends in that particular style and demand for fonts in that style, etc.
  2. After this I start with rough sketches and combine letters.
  3. Then I create all the glyphs, alternatives and other stuff, and see if it is applicable to the design styles I imagine.
  4. My fourth step isn’t one I like very much. It involves metrics, kerning, programming and other stuff related to technical issues.
  5. Next I create cover images and write good preview text and descriptions.
  6. When all of this is done, I publish it.

Which of your fonts are you most proud of?

One of my most successful fonts and the one I’m most proud of is the Storehouse Font. It’s inspired by tradition, the 1800s and hardworking brewers. I guess I’d describe it as an old-fashioned typeface with a modern touch.

Which font trends inspire you?

I’m really into retro fonts and playful fonts. They’re the styles I like the most and I find them enormously inspiring.

Kwanchai_PortraitStudio

Founder and Design Director of Deltatype, a typography foundry based in Bangkok, Thailand, Kwanchai Akkaratammagul is an experienced typography artist who creates fonts in both Latin and Thai scripts. Kwanchai took the time out of his demanding schedule to share his stunning work and know-how accumulated over years of hard work. 

What got you into font design?

When I was studying communication design at University in Bangkok, I took a class in Typography which got me interested in type design. After that I honed my skills by taking workshops, attending type design conferences and learning from the pros.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I draw from music and contemporary lifestyle. I try to break the rules a bit and create something different from what others are creating at the moment. I’m driven by a desire to create the best handcrafted alternative font design for clients.

How long does a font take you to create? 

Each font can take anywhere from 3 months to a year because we work on a standard Latin4 glyph set, which has around 800 glyphs inside with a standard of nine weights including Thai. Typically a 27 styles font pack could take half a year to complete.

In your opinion, what makes a good font?

Every detail is very important: proportion calculation, size of the stem, negative space, metric, kerning, etc. As a designer you have to make things easier for people who are not designers. Your clients need to be able to use your fonts easily and feel confident that they are special, tasteful and accurate.

Do you have any favourite fonts?

I love every font that I’ve created but my Morton font, a classic sans serif font inspired by 90s music, is very popular. 

I’m also quite proud of the MartiniThai Neue Slab, a contemporary style slab serif font that was awarded the Good Design Awards from Japan.

Do you have any tips for creators that are looking to get into font design?

Actually type design for me is about designing something that looks like what it’s not. So you could say as little design as possible. We have digital typefaces because we have handwritten ones from the past. How we retain the design and make this still exist in a high-quality way is the key for me. 

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