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Concept Sketches Refinement Character Set Test Flight

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Astrotype | 4

My project began with a love of the atmosphere surrounding mid-century space exploration. This was an era when mankind strapped itself to a rocket and flew to the moon with computers less powerful than a modern cell phone just to prove it could be done. It’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer audacity of such an enterprise. I wanted my typeface to recall the advances in science and technology during this time while reflecting the elegance of the universe that we still marvel at today. I wanted my typeface to be a geometric-sans serif whose clean lines and structure were loosely based on Futura (Paul Renner, 1927). All of my forms were based on the three basic shapes: the circle, the square, and the triangle, and decisions like x-height, character width, and stroke weight were all based on mathematical reasoning. All of these things became the essence of Astrotype.

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I started with a pretty clear idea of what I wanted my typeface to look like. In my sketches, I experimented with different x-heights. I finally settled on my x-height being exactly halfway between the baseline and cap-height. I found that, although this is not common practice in typography, this choice best reflected the mathematical decision-making I wanted to use in my typeface.

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The relationship between A, V, and W became a key aspect of my typeface. A and V are based on the same triangle and W is the combination of two of these triangles.

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After my original sketches, I found that I was not satisfied with the variety of character widths, especially with my majuscules. On my first attempt at sketching my letterforms, I tried to make all of the majuscules fit within the same square. This made some characters much too wide to be aesthetically pleasing or even functional. To solve this problem, I turned again to geometry. I bisected the largest equilateral triangle that would fit between the baseline and cap-height and found that these shapes were the perfect proportion to be the negative space within the letter Z (yes, this is confusing, see illustration). I then based all the majuscules I could on the width of my Z. Characters that were based on circles, such as the O, G, and C, as well as B, P, and R remained the way they were originally drawn.




Astrotype Regular

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Astrotype Oblique

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Astrotype Regular

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Astrotype Oblique

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All images courtesy of National Geographic. Hannah Isennock 2013