project 3: creating a letterform: setez
To create my own letterform, I studied the the modern font Didot. I began by observing what set Didot apart from the other 3 fonts assigned. The key characteristic seemed to be the highly contrasting thickness of anatomical structure as well as it’s lack for curves. Round edges do exist in this modern typeface but only where they are necessary to the form of the letter, as in d or j. The contrasting thickness of part of the structure is what seemed to give the letterforms a sense of visual balance in letters which otherwise would look uneasy. The serifs and finials were the next to catch my attention. All serifs in this typeface were flat on the baseline, x-height or cap- height. All finials were rounded up or down in a tear drop shape. These characteristics gave Didot’s letterforms the “modern” appeal. The serifs and finials move farther from the humanistic hand motions which once created the letterforms. They letterforms are more “machine-made” as an attempt to create a more easy to read text. The letters and their “attitudes” are more appropriate for reading in context because their structure references a continuous flow, when opposed again a humanist or transition typeface which tend to have abrupt finials and more hand-made characteristics.
With this is mind, I wanted to create a letterform that was both easily read and easily written. My thought was that what made a letter the perfect legibility, lied within the complexity of the letterform. I explored by collaging letters together and then isolating certain anatomical parts and growing them from a central stem or some other sort of base for the letter. I then took my sketches and refined them and began to see how they could be written. Some worked better than others so i continued with these more humanist-based letters.
I noticed that the lowercase letter “t” was the only letter to peak between the x-height and the cap height. I wanted to create a larger sense of unity in my entire alphabet and I had a sketch of a letterform that i could work with on this idea. I looked at all the vertical letters and none seemed to have much character besides the occasional counter or leg. From here i decided that if i was going to use this idea I would have to separate my letterform with a “new character attitude” so that it would not be confused with these other letterforms.
The top portion of my letterform sat like a “t” from just below the crossbar up. I chose to use a spine, as in a lower-case s, to push the bottom of the letter out to the right in an attempt to provoke the pizazz! My next decision was how to have the letter sit on the baseline. After pushing the line of the letter out to the right, I needed to counter that somehow in the opposite direction. After a few explorations, I chose to seat it as the bottom of a reversed “z”. again, I tried to create a greater sense of unity through the decision because the “z” is unique in how it site on the baseline. No other lower-case letter sits as it does. Comparatively my created letter resembles the shape of a “b” but had the structure of a collaged “t,s, and z”.
Having my letterform decided on, my next decision was where to place it in the alphabet…. “b” and “d” are very similar letterforms and are very close in position, only to be separated by c. “p” and “q”, on the other hand, remain right next to eachother. Turns out that when the alphabet is sung, there is a pause between “p” and “q”. I decided that my letterform could fit perfectly between these two letters. And it did.
My final decision was difficult… What to name my letter. It was hard because every letter has such a basic sound that somehow references the sound it actually makes. So, the name had to be simple, yet encompass what it might sound like, as well as set itself apart from the other letters and their names. Many possible names ran through my head… I narrowed it down to “zes” or “tez”… I couldn’t decide… I rehearsed the abc’s over and over with both names, trying to see which sounded the best. My conclusion was since there was a pause between single syllabled letters, my letter could be two syllables and change up the way the alphabet is sung. Setez (se-tez) was the happy medium, and it’s slightly complex structure was accompanied by a two syllable name rather than one. Also, when added into the alphabet between “p” and “q” it began and complimented a rhyme scheme to finish out the sung alphabet with “a b a b” end rhymes on “s,v,x,t”.
This was a simple yet challenging project. I enjoyed the process and explorations.