Prototypo Makes It Easier to Design Your Own Fonts

There comes a time in every designer’s life when the font she needs just doesn’t quite exist. Each project calls for a unique and holistic take on its subject matter — and the choice of font, with all its characteristics and personality, is integral to the overall design. That means in some cases existing fonts won’t necessarily do. Why not try your own hand at typography? That way, you not only have the sheer pride in saying, “I made that poster and that font,” but also the pragmatic plusses of creating a font that suits your project’s exact needs. This month, open-source online font creator Prototypo is launching in beta. Prototypo is not the first of its kind, but it’s certainly an elegant take on the free-typography-making options out there. Created by Yannick Mathey and Louis-Rémi Babé, Prototypo allows you to tweak all glyphs — or character designs — at once in more than 20 parameters. One can also modify each letter as far as depth, width, serifs, proportions, and more.   Of course, there are many considerations to make when creating a font. Not only do you need to know about proportions, kerning, aperture and all sorts of typography jargon, you also need to know how to use them effectively. Overall, good fonts are easily readable, even at small sizes. They also increase reading speed by creating good rhythm and flow. Good fonts also fit with the design sensibility of the piece. This means considering the tone of your project and being sensitive to the personalities of the fonts you create.  A lot of times this involves intangibles, like: Is the font energetic or relaxed? Commanding or meek? Mysterious or personable? Once you’ve figured all that out on Prototypo and you’re happy with your customized font, simply export it as .ttx, which can be converted into .otf, and voilà: you have an ad hoc font for your design project. A Kickstarter for Prototypo launches this month as a way to expand the program with more glyphs, parameters and modification options. According to Mathey, both the beta and the Kickstarter will be up by the end of October.

Kickstarting Font Creation from yannick mathey on Vimeo.

Today Yannick and Louis-Rémi have joined forces to revive Prototypo and make it even more awesome (and real). It will be an online app, it will be open-source, and it will be released soon, with your help! Visit for more information.   Rani Molla has a digital media master’s degree from Columbia Journalism School. She’s a journalism reader, writer, photographer, videographer, data visualizer and general doer. Follow her on Twitter.

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