Challenge #2: Fonts Inspiration

Amy J asks, “How do you get inspired for fonts?”

Even though I’ve got a category for it, I don’t often discuss my font design work on here, which is odd, given that the design of such things is such a strong part of my identity. I always carry a Moleskine and a source of black ink with me, and am often doodling in the notebook.

The source of my inspiration has actually changed over the years. When I first started designing fonts, I was inspired by a lot of external sources — mostly the work of other font designers. The last few years, however, my inspiration has become much more internal, and in reading an article about it, I’ve come to the realization that my creativity (at least where fonts are concerned) has become something like the thought process of a jazz musician.

I’ve learned to shut off my self-censoring. Like a jazz musician’s framework of the “rules” of music, I have the framework of legibility that I must work within. I’ll give myself a few more rules — for example, I’ll plan on a “handwriting font, comic book style, with an odd flourish”, and then I’ll just start doodling. I let the sketches mutate and evolve as I go on — I don’t try to make a perfect font right out of the gate anymore. And I keep the evolution process going until it “feels right” and that’s what I codify.

What I’ve noticed is that as I’ve started becoming more internally-driven is that the quality of my work has increased significantly. Whether this is because my work is less derivative of external influences or because the self-editing process has been put on hold is hard to ascertain.