Improving font kerning may make a significant improvement in the typographical quality of a project. Modifying typefaces can also improve readability or legibility in one case or another, give a publication or corporate materials a stronger look, or save time by creating characters that might otherwise have to be individually composed from different fonts or characters. Modifying a face can be as simple as embedding a new character as a keystroke, or as complex as creating new weights and italics for entire type families.

t e c h n i c a l    c o n s i d e r a t i o n s

Depending on usage, modified fonts can often be created quickly and simply (and relatively cheaply) with global transformations or may need more time-consuming (and expensive) scrutiny and adjustment of each character for more demanding or difficult requirements. Correct hinting and bitmap embedding can also be important if the main use of a typeface is on screen.

Below is a demonstration of factors to consider even when dealing with relatively simple sans serif fonts. The starting points are characters from Helvetica regular, altered then individually adjusted.

Simply adding weight to create a bolder setting leads to problems because cuts tend to disappear. Bold fonts generally have greater stroke contrast than lighter weights.
    Here the starting point was the bolded version. Then the heavy strokes were slightly thickened, and the thin strokes lightened.

Simply condensing letterforms reduces the weight of vertical strokes, while horizontal strokes remain the same weight. Letterforms are distorted, with an undesirable vertical emphasis.
    To produce a corrected condensed character, the vertical strokes are made as thick or slightly thicker than the horizontal strokes.

Skewing the roman to create an italic is often acceptable with sans serif fonts, but there is some distortion. Note the relatively thin stroke at the 9 o‘clock area compared to the 3 o‘clock area.
     Note the more even stroke in this font, where after skewing, the distortion was compensated for by reducing the stroke width difference.

A bolder and more assertive version of an existing bold face was required for this signage and identity project.

In this case, a telephone directory publisher wanted to simultaneously maximize legibility and save space. By increasing the x-height by 6 percent and decreasing the total ascender/descender point size by 5 percent, this aim was accomplished.

The client requested a bolder version of Univers Bold Condensed...

...and a lighter version of Univers Light. These are the results.