The London Font Marathon

The Font Marathon is a week-long exercise in type design endurance. A group of Monotype type designers met in London to design two brand new typefaces from concept to finished font, all in five days.

Designing a typeface usually requires months, if not years of research and design. And the creative process is usually restrained by design requirements or a client brief. So, what happens when you condense the timeline to just one week and remove all restrictions? 

That was the idea behind our recent Font Marathon. We invited type designers Terrance Weinzierl (US) and Hendrik Weber (Germany) to our London Studio to design two typefaces in just five days. Escaping their regular day-to-day environment allowed them to disconnect from their usual methods of approaching design. 

A typeface is not just a finished product but rather a whole process of design

We invited the world to follow the #FontMarathon live on social media. In case you missed it, here is how a typeface goes from concept to finished font in just five days. 

Day 1: drawing and calligraphy

It all starts with a concept. Hendrik decided to capture motion in type design with a  grotesque that comes with a moving shadow. Terrance explored a “perfectly-imperfect” brush calligraphy typeface for children. The morning was spent sketching these concepts and sharing ideas. By lunchtime, the design directions were starting to settle in. 

Hendrik explains, “Usually when we think about fonts in movement we instantly think about italics. But actually, there is another way to put fonts in motion, and show movement through the type.”

Terrance, who is expecting his first child decided on “something directed towards children. It was about capturing that mood, something soft and free,” he says.  

Day 2: bringing concepts to life

Day 2 was spent translating manual sketches into a working typeface. Calligraphy, lettering, and type design share many things, but not every sketch can become a typeface. The nature of pre-fabricated letterforms that are automatically typeset dictates certain design decisions. This phase is critical to the development of the concepts.

Day 3: testing in real life settings

By Day 3, we had working versions of the fonts that we began testing in real design settings. It's important to test the font with its intended usage to make sure the typeface does what it is supposed to do. Most of the second-half of the day was spent on expanding the character set and drawing accent figures and punctuation.

Day 4: final refinements and QA

The morning of Day 4 was spent on kerning and a few last minute touch-ups. By noon, we sent the fonts off to production. By 3pm, the fonts were produced and passed off to quality assurance for final testing. One hour later the fonts had passed all tests and were imported into our web shops, ready to go live on Friday. There were lots of cheers across the office when that was done!

Day 5: fonts available online for free download

By Day 5, the fonts are available for free download. 

Terry Junior, created by Terrance Weinzierl, is a youthful typeface—with perfect imperfections—that is a balance of clarity and playfulness. Designer Terrance Weinzierl used his own handwriting and calligraphy as a base for the design, while tuning it into a typeface that captures the lettering spirit of paint and brush. It’s sweet, approachable and soft, prefect for children, food packaging or home goods. Terry Junior is casual, fluid and well behaved.

Northstream Wind, created by Hendrik Weber, is a Neo-Grotesque typeface in motion. The typeface was inspired by an attempted photograph of an interesting shop sign that was interrupted by a passing truck. The resulting effect was a blur of movement and designer, Hendrik Weber, wanted to capture that feeling within the typeface. The result is a whirlwind of a design and the shadow behind the letterforms creates a very interesting effect. This typeface is meant for graphic designers to enjoy and play around with, and it is best suited for display text and large sizes such in posters and billboards.