Designing a Type Revival: Jasmine de Lune

Designing a Type Revival: Jasmine de Lune

If you're curious about the body text font you're reading this blog post in (at the time of publishing) then look no further, because I created it. 😊 I'm enrolled in this year's online cohort for Type West, a yearlong educational program for designing typefaces. The program is hosted by Letterform Archive, a creative heaven based in San Francisco for design nerds everywhere. Our first project was to create a type revival.

First things first — wtf is a type revival?? Here’s the definition given by one of my instructors, Michele Patane:

A type revival is a new [type] design that aims to re-create the appearance of a historical source which is unavailable in the current technology.

Essentially, I'm designing a new, digital typeface (or a font, in layman terms) based off of an older, analog type that was carved out of metal and physically stamped onto pages, in the days of letterpress printing. (If you're looking to go down a rabbit hole, here's a fascinating video documenting the last day of hot metal typesetting at The New York Times before transitioning to a photographic production process.)

My revival source: Saint George

Reviving a typeface created before current technology meant that we were to choose from sources printed over 100 years ago. Almost all Latin-based texts that I found reminded me of Shakespeare: old, hoity-toity, Englishmen vibes. But this one felt friendly and easygoing, with its wide body and rounded shapes.

The source typeface that I chose for my revival is Saint George published in 1908 by the type foundry, Stephenson Blake & Co. It was designed as "a high-class letter for commercial work, booklets, catalogues, books and more". I'm lucky to have found this as part of an actual type specimen catalog, which means the print quality was stellar and easy to work with.

For the type aficionados, I'll note here that Saint George is quite similar to its widely-popular sister typeface, Windsor, which was also published in the same specimen catalog.

Initial observations

Every typeface has a personality, and I wanted to make sure to capture the "sparkly" personality of this typeface. Its casual, elegant, but un-sophisticated glamour seems to be tempting us with a secret, or some type of mischievous allure. It feels like the type companion to Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”.

Some details that I gush over are:

  • the curl of the f, which is repeated in the J, ?and several numerals
  • the slanted outer stem of a, m, n, and u
  • the diagonal bar of the e
  • the wonky squared-off terminal in the y, repeated in Q

These pleasant idiosyncrasies are repeated across several letters for good reason. Designing a typeface is always a balance between personality (there's no point in designing something that gives you nothing) and consistency (it should look like a cohesive family). A quote that's common in the type/lettering community is that the goal is to design "a beautiful group of letters, not a group of beautiful letters."

Iterations upon iterations

After analysing our chosen typeface, it's time to digitize! We use the Glyphs app to replicate our source in nodes, edges, and Bezier curves. The general process is to first faithfully digitize (ie. replicate our source exactly), then clean it up. The latter involves making decisions about how to handle inconsistencies found in the printed source, such as ink bleed, inconsistent widths and spacing, wonky curves, etc.

Here is my first faithful digitization of a subset of glyphs, you can see how rugged and uneven everything looks!

Click here for higher resolution image.

To be a type designer, you must love the process of critique and iteration. The rest of this project was essentially a weekly back-and-forth between us and our teachers/TAs: feedback and iterate, feedback and iterate. Here is my progression throughout the rest of the semester, using a clever pangram I made up describing my life:

Click here for higher resolution image.

Week 3: First faithful digitization. The modulation between thicks and thins look inconsistent and random. Curves are all jagged and uneven.

Week 4: Curves are smoother (see O, c) but still look wobbly. a is too thin. Dot of i lacks definition. 

Week 5: Fixed the shoulder joint of m, n, h so they are smooth and consistent. Curves of c, o, g still need more massaging. Make sure x-heights and basic dimensions are the same across all letters.

Week 6: Decreased spacing. Tightened the 2nd hump of m. At this point, aside from some curves that need smoothing, the focus becomes consistency in weight and spacing. The goal is for an entire page of text to look even and consistent, to mitigate having certain bits appear darker and certain bits appear lighter.

Week 7: Re-increased spacing after checking for legibility at smaller sizes. Massaged curves in O, c, s. Evened out top/bottom bowl alignment of d, p. If you scan the letters from left to right you'll see that the weights look inconsistent — some look darker and some lighter.

Week 8: Smoothed out counters (ie. negative forms) of o, s, c. Thickened e but it needs to be heavier still. o and a also look too light.  s looks too heavy. 

Week 9 (final edit): Re-aligned axis angle of c. Tweaked spacing. The letters now look more like a solid line of soldiers marching together in a constant cadence, as opposed to lights and darks that are flickering in and out.

My final type revival: Jasmine de Lune

You can continue iterating indefinitely until the end of time, but as any artist or designer will tell you, at some point you must put the pen down and call it done. For me, "done" was when I got that "soldiers marching in cadence" feeling from my letters.

Finally I whipped up some basic graphics with my non-existent graphic design skills to present to you: Jasmine de Lune. You can see high resolution images of this typeface and those from the rest of my class at the Type West 2024 Type Revivals website!


The final name of my typeface was an amalgamation of influences: the Aladdin text sample from the Saint George type specimen, my friend Taha's suggestion of using Jasmine's name, that "Starry Night" feeling I wanted to capture, my friend Jaz who noted the similarity with her name and my friend Luna whose name means "moon". 

If you have any questions about type design, creating this typeface, or if you'd like to purchase this typeface for your personal usage, please feel free to hit me up!


Back to blog