Grandis was initially intended for a first person shooter’s UI, so it guided the design.
The font had to be readable while maintaining sci-fi feel and also to not rely on kerning (most video games don’t support it). This meant a large x-height, steep diagonals and squared bowls to reduce the amount of white space between letters.
What makes the font stand out from similar grotesks is the letters’ classical proportions with wide bowls and narrow rectangles. The result is a readable, versatile workhorse with an interesting dynamic rhythm and where extreme weights/widths can also be used for display purposes.
Supports multilingual Latin and Cyrillic, including Bulgarian and Serbian alternates.
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In 2015, Epic Games were still developing (the now cancelled) Unreal Tournament 4.
The interesting part is that they let community contribute to the process. Concept art, 3D models, sounds/music, HUD designs and more would be submitted by Epic's forum users. Some would call this an unpaid outsourcing, but fans were excited about being able to work on their favorite video game. This also was a good opportunity for artists to get noticed by Epic and at least one person was hired because of their excellent concept art.
As game's HUD/UI was developed, I noticed that the font(s) used were generic and/or
ill-fitting. At the same time, I couldn't find a workhorse for the game (or myself) that I was 100% happy with. So I decided to make one. The game is a futuristic sci-fi shooter which calls for something edgy/cool but at the same time UI text needs to be readable. I wanted the font to be more interesting than Helvetica but more versatile than Eurostile. My first inspiration was a thought "how would a typeface of an industrial spaceship's (think Nostromo) signage would look like"? The first rough alphabet was made in a day.
At this point I started to think about font's purpose. Where and how is it meant to be used? Video games usually don't feature kerning, so that's an interesting limitation already. And limitations fuel creativity.
• The larger the x-height, the less uppercase-lowercase kerning is required
with top-heavy letters like T, V, P etc.
• The more upright the diagonals (A, V), the less kerning they need with other
capitals (AV, FA etc.)
Ultimately the feature did not end up mattering because the game was no more,
but the stylistic result remained.
The first changes to initial design were:
• Changed A, V, K, v, to be more upright.
• Raised ascenders for better readability. Also lightened the weight. When starting out, the first versions tend to be too thick. It's because you're working on big letters in a zoomed-in view.
• Made /n arches more symmetrical for that clinical look.
• Changed /t tail to better fit with other joints.
As I was still exploring the overall look of the font, I drastically opened up C, G, S, counters. I wanted to differentiate from standard grotesks a bit more. However, soon it became apparent that this created large white spots that hurt the overall look of the text blocks, especially for darker weights. I was not happy with the readability.
• So I went in the opposite direction and made the openings tiny since this also unifies the contours of the letters, requiring less kerning groups.
• Condensed everything a bit to make it more readable. Especially the /f because it had a lot of empty space underneath the crossbar.
• Lowered the x-height slightly.
• Put the /M middle joint on the baseline for more neutrality.
• Changed dot accents from square to rounded because why not?
The numbers changed a lot too and took on the standard shapes. Except /4 became forked so that the diagonal is more upright (less space outside). Apart from all that, the default numbers changed from lining to tabular. Tabular numbers all have the same width (total spacing) and as the name implies, are ideal for tables because they line up vertically. They also are good for timers, because it prevents things from jumping around when numbers change. The latter is important for apps/games. Number /1 acquired a base and became wider in order to fill up the needed width.
After all the changes to improve readability I was finally happy with how the font looked from a technical perspective but in the process it lost almost everything that made it unique. Of course, it's an expected tradeoff but now it was time to dial it in another direction. At this point the font looked a lot like several other analogues.
There's various ways to spice up a bland typeface. One common method is give one/several of the more commons letters (a, e, n, t...) a unique shape. Maybe remove all curves from /t, maybe make /e crossbar diagonal etc. This way even if the font is seemingly "standard", people can recognize it by that special letter.
Another way is to keep letters standard but make it so that the overall look of text block changes. It could be x-height, ascender/descender length, letter width, roundness etc.
The problem was that I already played with those knobs and settled down on what was readable. As I was wondering why certain fonts looked so good in all caps, it hit me.
The old capitals were constructed on a grid. Round letters like /O or /D were made to fit in a 2x2 square. /H or /N were square too. Other letters (A, P, S) would fit in a vertical 2x1 rectangle. Classical proportions and their variable widths make the words dance.
It breaks up the monotony and creates another kind of contrast: narrow versus wide.
Obviously I didn't follow the rules perfectly, I didn't use a grid and instead adjusted everything by eye. For instance unlike canon, my /H, /T or /K are narrow. One additional benefit of new proportions was that because of reduced width, I was able to make diagonals even more upright than before. Meanwhile wider /N, /W /M solved congestion problems of the darkest weight.
Now the font had something that made it stand out no matter the size. Afterwards, the work continued on Cyrillic, obliques, extended and condensed widths. Finally, last thing missing was the name. It's a good to idea to choose something that showcases the font's distinct features and I also like to choose Lithuanian words can sound foreign.
In this case, the word that fit was "grandis" ("chainlink").
You can get some free styles at MyFonts.
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