This summer I have worked on a typeface based on lettering from the Lindisfarne Gospels, a manuscript book created at a monastery on the island of Lindisfarne, off the coast of Northumberland, England, in the eighth century. The manuscript includes calligraphic insular uncial, but heavily illuminated pages feature drawn capitals that are a hybrid of classic romans and the uncial used on text pages. These hybrid drawn letters are the models for my design.
I wrote this post earlier this summer discussing the transition to lettering with a new technology. In addition to learning how to use the font design software, the biggest challenge has been to capture the spirit of the model while working within the limitations of the media and the expectations that today’s users might have for a digital font. Some letters are original designs, as there are no exemplars in the model text. Punctuation, numbers, and word spaces are also additions.
Another challenge has been deciding where to focus my time and organize the project. There are limitless possibilities and directions to take the design, and deciding where to start took more effort than I expected. In the end, I decided to focus on the basic shape and forms of the font and expanding the character set to include accents and punctuation, saving decorative elements and ligatures for later.The font, intended for display use, has a large set of glyphs in addition to an all-caps alphabet. As I finish up work for the summer, I will be focusing on refining spacing and glyph designs. Over the coming months I plan to incorporate it into other work, living with it, working with it, and adjusting it to suit my needs as I work.
In the future, I would like to add a number of elements to make the font more variable in ways that reflect the model. I will create ligatures to combine letters in creative ways, and decorative sister fonts that can be combined to mimic the effect of illumination.
Learning the technicalities of font design opens a new possibility of creative work in the future, but also means that I understand digital fonts more thoroughly and can use fonts designed by others more effectively. I’ve enjoyed my summer project immensely and am looking forward to continuing it!