The Development of Tide Sans

Tide Sans Blog Post-01

Tide’s In! Started as a Painted Sign Revival. It was the First Sans I Designed, perhaps a bit too obviously so.

The Tide laundry detergent ad below served as the primary inspiration and namesake. But it provided very little by way of the lowercase set, or the crucial letters /HGMBV/ for reference.

Bezier Curves

Being extremely new to the sans genre, and new to type design in general, a lot was misunderstood about the appropriate shape of letters, and how to they should interact in the first few versions.

Most recently, I released V3 of Tide’s In at a pretty transitory point in my life. I had just started interning with Thomas Jockin, and had learned enough to know that if I showed Thomas my final version of Tide’s In he would have told me not to release it yet. I had spent the last two months working on it, and I didn’t want to be shut down right in the moment of my triumph. So, I released it and no more than two weeks after releasing it I had learned enough to realize that it was awful, and not well tested. So I pulled it from all of my distributing sites before the ugly scar I put in the design world was beyond repair.

Now, this was only four months ago. I’m under no misunderstanding about how far I’ve come since then. I realize that a year or two from now I’ll be criticizing the release of Tide Sans for having just as many issues. But this post isn’t about that. Many of you have emailed me, asking to buy Tide’s In or asking why it was no longer for sale. Many of you still use it, and will continue to use it after I send the update. This post is about a brief explanation of some of the important things I’ve learned since then. The tiny things that have made Tide Sans a HUMONGOUS, 1000 hour, project that at first glance might not seem justified.

Some obvious things that were changed include the addition of a few fractions, added weights, adjusted spacing/kerning, small caps, ligatures, and ordinal characters, but that’s not the stuff I’d like to talk about. I’d like to talk mostly about using bezier curves for drawing. I know you all think you understand how those work, cuz Illustrator and stuff, but you’ve got it wrong. There’s a bigger, tastier, picture here to be seen.

The colorful examples shown of each letter below are provided by the bezier examining tool SpeedPunk. I had this tool long before I designed Tide’s In, so it is not the reason for the improvement, but it does help illustrate the balance and momentum of each curve. I exclusively used the 700 weight for my demonstration, as it is the only weight that has the similar stem widths between old and new.

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Good Taste and What it Means

When I released Tide’s In I didn’t have a sense for good taste, and simply traced it because it was old. I still struggle with what taste is and how to bottle it up and sell it, but I the breakthrough I had with Tide Sans came when I set up this site to use Tide Sans Condensed as the body text. I cringed, not because it looked bad, but because they weren’t my style. I set the css to access the stylistic alts and it all looked much better to me.

This is the biggest stylistic jump for Tide Sans, and it was made only a few days before the release. Why would I release a design that I liked hidden behind a design that could potentially fit a niche? I guess I figured there weren’t a lot of perpendicularly cut off leg/arm terminal sans out there.

I still do use that style, but certainly not as much as I was going to use the stylistic alts. Taste is deciding to call something good more regularly than you would call its neighbor. I used to think that taste was something more absolute, that you could call better all of the time.

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