On a plane ride from New Hampshire, Millie was born.
When I first drew up the Millie alphabet, all I wanted to do was create a cool font, and as a result have people think I was cool. It was the logo for Milwaukee Tools that got me started. However the logo doesn’t begin to have enough data for a complete font. For a budding type designer, this lead to some problems that I was not ready to solve – or comprehend.
Last month I decided to re-approach Millie in the same way I have approached my more recent type designs. This necessitated that I be very deliberate and methodical. This post is a summary of those deliberations.
Before the creation of Millie I had only ever used design to solve problems. I had never asked myself what kind of project Millie should be equipped for. Which meant that I wasn’t sure of the full expanse of the character set. This kind of “preemptive strike” design was an entirely new idea to me.
Millie’s objective was to fill the void where a tough, straightforward, and durable script should be. Stylistically speaking, I hadn’t learned enough to pursue the goal of making Millie a script. So I ended up with an amalgam of all the off thoughts I’d had on typography—made geometric. I was somewhat aware of its lack of script-ness, but found that a lot of the script conventions contradicted the straightforward, tough, and durable goals of Millie. I just didn’t have the skills to negotiate a compromise.
The script genre is quite expansive, and spans from simple hand painted styles, to more formal styles with swashes that make letters nearly unreadable. Here are four examples from MVB, James Edmondson, Laura Worthington, and Parachute that demonstrate significant differences in scripts I often use.
With those conventions in mind I set some firm guidelines this time around. There are three big rules that helped me draw Millie into her proper spot in the script universe:
- Text must be clear and easy to read in headlines and titles.
- Each letter must connect, unless connecting impedes on rule #1.
- Each weight must hold its space as if it were as heavy as the heaviest weight.
Drawing a script letter is not so complicated. The madness lies in ensuring each letter will properly connect to the letters on either side. Sometimes that even means setting a criteria for when two letters should not connect.
When I designed Millie Light, I had more space for experimenting with connections. This lead me to draw many more variations, and design an almost completely different alphabet. Even still with this weight there was confusion on when to connect. There was no criteria for why two letters should connect.
In this latest release Millie will essentially always connect. Some connections were removed if those connections impeded clarity. In hindsight, the solution seems simple, but this solution required work that I just wasn’t able to stomach at that time.
The most obvious example of these connection difficulties is the letter o. The o script requires that negative space become aesthetically scrambled. This was the problem that I avoided because the optical solution was beyond my comprehension. It’s also complicated because it’s one of the few ligatures that doesn’t connect to the next letter via the base. So I crafted a simple opentype solution that essentially says: if it makes sense to connect, do it. Otherwise, keep your counter untouched and beautiful. Here’s what it looks like:
From Logotype to Just Plain Type
What works in a logo, doesn’t always work in type. Some big things that didn’t transfer well included:
- The slant.
I increased the slant of the type by about 4 degrees. The main objective in doing this was to maintain motion, and the sensation of straightforwardness and strength when the type was put on a slant.
- The case contrast.
I decreased the size of the uppercase set by 200 units (out of 1000). You can see in the comparison below that I kept that bigger size in v1.0. I ditched the 200 units to keep with the objective of appearing durable. For the same reason, I increased the x-height by about 50 units.
- Certain angles.
For example, I tried to keep the angles found in the letter /k/, but eventually decided that it cluttered the continuity.
A terminal is often decided based on the way that a calligraphic pen would release the stroke. You’ll notice in the example below, that Millie’s terminals are not decided that way. That decision was made when I felt like the angled terminals of the pen detracted from the modern, strong, look I wanted.
Attention to Detail
The original drawings took place in Illustrator, which is a poor environment for attention to detail. This time around, everything was built out in Glyphs using a guide to ensure that every stem and turn was at the right incline and weighted correctly.
I would love to illustrate the angle differences, but they are too minor to effectively show. Before I had a purpose for Millie, slight differences didn’t mean anything. Nobody is measuring, right? With my new objective of being durable (and by extension: precise), small details like that were being counted on by users.
They weren’t measuring, that’s my job.
Millie V5.0 is Alive
This deliberate design, tailored to new demands makes Millie a piece of software. It is prepared for your problems. Millie has been through a troubleshooting process that makes it road ready. For this reason, V5.0 is the last update Millie will go through. From here on out all of my type families will be on par with that scale of consideration—I’ll prove it by accompanying each one with a post similar to this.
Enjoy, and as always, thanks for your support!