March 11, 2014 - design

When you draw your letters you spend more time moving points around than actually placing them on the canvas for the first time. It makes sense to adapt the construction of the outline to movement: with a couple of simple interventions you can make your outlines easier to work with.

Mind you: these are not esthetic decisions: constructing outlines this way does not make them better or prettier.

By compartmentalizing sections of the shape they become more robust. Edits to one part of the letter are less likely to also affect other parts. Which in turn means that you’ll spend less time cleaning up drifting points and noise. More focus, better work.

Think of this in mechanical terms: if a machine part moves fast, it is usually suspended in shock absorbers to prevent other parts of the machine from rattling loose.

  • Separate contours: if they’re really separate shapes: you can draw them as separate objects
  • Switchbacks: treat joints with an extra point so the incoming path and the outgoing path are independent

Download Drawing for Interpolation PDF


For instance, this ampersand. If you were to draw this in the classical structure without overlaps, the intersections would be defined by eight points (blue) rather than 4 (green and red). Deciding to change the weight or angle (for instance) means you have to move (and correct) 8 points.

Drawing with overlaps means the intersections are controlled just by 4 points.


Keep in mind

  • Not all shapes need this kind of construction.
  • Use common sense: every point you add needs to be supported in all masters. It pays to experiment with point structures and find the optimal solution for a specific shape in a specific designspace.
  • Overlaps need to be removed for final fonts. This means inspecting all outlines.