Chicago Gothic Typeface

A Truly Versatile Typeface


Neutrality is a myth. Every typeface is loaded with cultural, historical, and visual baggage. Versatility is a worthwhile goal. A typeface, if drawn right, could work in a variety of contexts.

My Role


Typeface Design

Chicago Gothic typeface design process
Chicago Gothic typeface design process
Chicago Gothic typeface design process
Chicago Gothic in use
Chicago Gothic in use
Chicago Gothic in use

The Typeface Design Process


I started with the capital O and the capital E. These letters set the proportions for the entire typeface. Next I designed the boxy letters I, H, T, F, and L. The semi-curved letters R, P, D, and B are next. The diagonal letters A, V, M, N, X, Y, and W are next, followed by numbers 1 though 9. Punctuation and diacritical marks are the last step.

After the characters are designed, setting the side bearings and kerning pairs in the next step. Spacing is most of the work in designing a typeface. The first set of side bearings are calculated from the negative space of the H. These side bearings is tested with triplet pairs of the diagonal letters, and adjusted for even color. This second set of side bearings is tested with a series of special words and adjusted a third time. After the side bearings are set, the spacing is tested with kerning pairs and longer test words.

Successes and Achievements


I designed a typeface that is truly versatile. It can be urban gritty, retro cheeky, upscale luxury. The key to its success is even stroke widths and the just slightly squared-off corners. Too much squareness is macho and industrial. Too much roundness forces the letters into awkwardly geometric shapes. The right amount of squareness keeps the typeface from calling too much attention to itself. The contrast between the horizontal and vertical strokes is the minimum of exactly 90% for a very clean and even look.

Lessons Learned


Designing the letterforms is such a small fraction of designing a typeface. Most of the design work is the spacing.

gallery next