I’m calling the typeface Pipe Minimal, at least for now; easier than calling it “the typeface”. It’s aggressively minimalistic in terms of the core design elements, and those elements could be commodity bits of piping, just a bucket full of straight bits and an elbow joints in PVC or copper.
The above demo plate is what I put together as soon as I’d crossed the threshold of having an actual usable font file; I managed to sort out a few problems that only came up once I tried to get FontForge to export, and got a set of lowercase characters into an .otf file and Photoshop was happy to use it.
But when I went back to FontForge to start working out upper case glyphs, I found myself frustrated by a couple things:
1. Really bogged-down performance when I tried to add a couple more guideline arcs and lines to the guide layer, the backdrop that I’m using to to create consistent shape/size in my glyphs. I wanted a few more guidelines but more was (honestly pretty surprisingly) killing the program’s responsiveness to the point of being unusable.
2. I wasn’t even feeling confident about where, exactly, to lay those new guidelines out. There seemed to be a few different logical options that contradicted each other a bit, and it became clear to me that I needed to think through the problem.
So I took a break and scribbled on graph paper and thought a bit about my guidelines situation.
The core of it is that I designed the typeface as a a collection of razor-thin lines originally, a skeleton vs. meat-on-the-bones thick-walled characters. And those thin drafting lines fell on a grid nicely; thickening up the walls changes the situation in slightly complicated ways and makes a character that was e.g. twice as tall as it was wide no longer hew to quite the same proportions once it fattens up some.
And so I started over from scratch with a razor-thin line instead of laying out exterior and interior walls, and that has worked fairly well. It feels like something FontForge doesn’t quite like — the thin lines can basically disappear visually if they fall along a guideline (which mine do, religiously) and only closed shapes like the circular loop in many characters will show up in the miniature glyph preview/navigation window. So it feels a bit like flying blind. But it works.
I redid all the lowercase letters that had made it into the sample up top, and verified that I could take those skeletons and expand them into thick-walled characters, and with that sorted out proceeded with the rest of the characters I was aiming for: upper case letters, numerals, and basically all of the punctuation that shows up on a standard US keyboard. Enough that there won’t be obvious conspicuous gaps when writing casually using the typeface.
And once I’d gotten the full set done and one fatten-and-export step done, it was easy enough to do a couple additional passes of fattening and exporting. So now I have demo versions of Pipe Minimal in three different weights: thin, regular, and bold. They’re not finished — I’ve got a bunch of little things I need to futz with, and need to figure out kerning lookup tables and keep reading up on FontForge to figure out which other things I don’t know yet that I’m missing. But it was a good day for getting past the intimidating impression that FontForge left on me at first glance yesterday.
As a kicker, here’s the initial graph paper sketchbook takes on a bunch of the new glyphs; a couple of those uppercase characters changed from the initial sketch, but I also fiddled with a couple different takes on numerals (ultimately I like having them be three units high, splitting the difference between the four-unit uppercase and primarily two-unit lowercase letters) and scrawled out four potential ampersands all of which I ended up throwing away in favor of a different variation on the uppercase E.