Typeface Design Drop-in Workshop

This was originally posted without the link to the font!
Oops! Here’s the updated post!


On two different recent Saturday afternoons we invited visitors to help us create a typeface — or nice looking collection of letters, numbers and symbols, like a comma or question mark — that we are going to turn into a font, or tool we can use to write with this typeface on a computer. Each visitor who participated picked one or more glyphs (any of the letters, numbers or symbols) to design.


The visitors arranged small 1″ x 1″ pieces of paper on a grid to design the shape of their glyph. There were squares, triangles, “lemon shapes”, teardrops, and other rounded-corner options to build with. The only rule was that there can be only one piece of white paper per grid square, and it must fit entirely within the square. We used these paper pieces to prototype (or test) the designs, because they’re very easy to more, correct and change.  The designers had to use their knowledge of allographs (what does an “A” have to have to make it look like an “A”?), think in a constrained grid system with limited shapes, and design creatively to create an attractive letterform.


Once our typographers were happy with their glyph, we used the free website Fonstruct to make the designs digital. The website works with the same system of shaped pixels on a grid, so it was relatively easy to replicate the pattern on the computer. We entered some of the designs, but a number of visitors chose to do this step themselves. This required counting, matching shapes, double-checking designs, navigating a 2-axis grid system, and using digital tools.


Every part of this typeface looks different because so many people added to this creation. Now that all of our glyphs are completed, we can write a pangram, or sentence that uses every letter of the alphabet:

Few black taxis drive up major roads on quiet hazy nights.

We named this font “MAKESHOP Prototypeface” (prototype + typeface) because this was a prototype for how we can make usable digital tools with visitors, and the visitors themselves prototyped the typeface with pieces of paper before they settled on a design.

Our visitors did all the hard work, and now you can download the font (or from Fontstruct, here) for free and use it for anything you want! What do you think of the design? Make something cool with it? Tell us about it!

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