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SFT Schrifted Sans:
The Story of Font Development

Discover SFT Schrifted Sans, the first typeface from Schrifteria Foundry, and learn how it caters to various design needs, from body text to headlines. The article will explain how the ability to customize the typeface appeals to different tastes and needs, which makes it a must-read for font lovers and designers.
January 12, 2023 ∙ 10 min. read
SFT Schrifted Sans
What Should Be the First Font of a Type Foundry?
For four years, I worked at a big font studio called TypeType. It was an unforgettable and valuable experience. It was especially important to constantly communicate with clients, which gave me a lot of insights on how fonts are used by specific people in specific situations.

Over time, I realized that I had accumulated thoughts and ideas about how I would envision my own type foundry. And equally significant — I had enough confidence in myself to make my independent steps in this business. You could say it was a “Type” of destiny. ;)

Starting a type foundry is like starting a journey with the first font, and it all depends on that first step. Of course, you want to create a typeface that will bring in good income, so you have more freedom to do interesting things later on. But that puts the first font in a certain box.

I imagined my first typeface as something incredibly functional. It had to work well in small text and have enough character to be used in eye-catching headlines. Of course, there had to be a wide character set with lots of languages, symbols, alternate characters, and so on. But all the market research and customer surveys I participated in over the years showed that graphics are the thing that matters most. Unfortunately, it’s the most abstract indicator of success out of all possible.

And I set one more condition — this typeface had to become the foundry’s brand typeface. In other words, the first user will be me. And it’s an important experience that not all type designers get — to see the flaws in the font by using it yourself.
Schrifteria Foundry logo

SFT Schrifted Sans used in Schrifteria’s logo.

Font Design Idea
In 2022, I took a 3-month trip to the stylish, functional design capital of the world, Stockholm. After two years of being stuck at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I had forgotten what any other city looked like other than St. Petersburg. So, any differences in design stood out to me in a big way.

In my mind, Stockholm began to take shape as a font. It was a pretty round geometric grotesque, with a one-story a and a slightly raised waist on the R, and a bold, massive diacritical mark. Most importantly, I had a sense of cleanliness, simplicity, and a harmonious blend of typography and design in the city as a whole. All these feelings eventually led to my first sketches of letters.
Why Sans Serif?
When it came to creating the first font for the type foundry, I knew without a doubt that it had to be a sans serif. Based on my experience working with clients and observing the market, it’s clear that sans serifs are still the most popular type of font. So, it just made sense to create a sans serif font if I wanted to have a good chance of it selling well.

We’ve all grown accustomed to the safety of sans serifs. They can be used in any situation, whether it’s print, web, or low-resolution ATMs. While modern serifs can be just as functional, it takes some time to get used to them again. But I’m optimistic that this will change soon, and we’ll start to see more serifs among the bestsellers.
Functional Typeface
In the end, it all comes down to making the font functional for everyone. Of course, it’s not just about the classification of the font, but also about its content. I wanted to create a typeface that could accommodate a wide range of needs, so I had grand plans for it. Of course, the font should have a variety of thicknesses, but that’s just the beginning.

The core design of SFT Schrifted Sans is a geometric grotesque with generous proportions, but there is also a slightly more compact version for everyday use in the font family.

I originally planned to have two types of italics: regular italics and more expressive true italics. But as I continued to develop the font, I realized that adding support for the Cyrillic alphabet was a higher priority. So, I decided to put true italics on hold for now and focus on adding the Cyrillic alphabet to the font.
By the way, drawing Cyrillic is a very complex and interesting process.
We have a separate article about it.
SFT Schrifted Sans: Designing Cyrillic
Explore the process of adding multiple Cyrillic languages to SFT Schrifted Sans, considering local stylistic nuances. Delve into the challenges and creative solutions encountered during this design journey.
Font Family
Designing a new typeface is always an exciting adventure! And this project was no different. I didn’t have to do many sketches because, as I already mentioned, the ideas came naturally. The next step was to figure out what the family should look like.

When you are working on a functional typeface, you first want to find the weight of the Regular style. Just because it will be used most often and if it looks too different from the market average, the user may experience discomfort. In addition, I wanted to go for a pretty wide and geometric modern look. I also wanted to make circles and arches a little squared, especially their inner white space. This way I achieved an expressive texture for the text, which added identity to the font.
SFT Schrifted Sans Regular font in different sizes.

SFT Schrifted Sans Regular in different sizes.

Now, it was time to figure out what the boldest style could be in the font. This is also a very important question because it will be responsible for the headline component of the typeface. So, according to my plan, the “normal” styles should have good readability, and the boldest styles should be visually interesting and expressive.
SFT Schrifted Sans Black font style

The boldest weight of the SFT Schrifted Sans font family.

When I finally decided what the Regular and Black weights should look like, I could calculate the parameters for the rest. It’s crucial to distribute the thicknesses in a way that the difference between them is noticeable, but not too big. You can achieve this by gradually increasing the difference between the weights as the thickness increases. If you were to plot the thicknesses on a graph, it would resemble an exponential curve.
Compact Styles
But my work with this font family wasn’t over yet. It was time to implement the idea of a compact width. Like I said before, I wanted to make it “normal” — and to us, what we see most often is the most normal. If we think about the most commonly used fonts, the first that come to mind are the system fonts (like Roboto, San Francisco, Segoe). They’ve become so ingrained in our lives that we don’t even notice them anymore. In my opinion, they’re the perfect candidates for the title of “normal” font. They have a very similar proportion — they are not too wide, and their letter widths are relatively uniform. That’s what I based my search for the right proportions for the Compact version on. After a lot of trial and error, and wasting loads of paper testing different options, I settled on 90% of the base designs.

But that’s not all. When working with width, it’s not enough to simply shrink all the characters by a certain percentage. To get the most accurate results, you should work with different groups of characters separately and adjust their proportions individually. In our font’s case, we had to compress the round characters 4% more than the rectangular and triangular ones to make the Compact style more evenly spaced. And I also decided to make the characters a bit more open in this subfamily, because why not.
Font Customization Options
Let’s dive deeper and see what’s hidden inside a font. To start, I wanted to make it customizable. In fact, all you have to do is change one letter in the font to make it look fairly different. Imagine working on different projects and wanting to use the same typeface. Swap out a single-story a for a double-story one, and you’ve got a whole new look. And if there are multiple letter variations in the font, you can even mix and match them. In short, you can rebuild the font for different projects and maintain their uniqueness. It’s a simple and not-so-new idea, but I only truly understood its importance after talking to font users, specifically those who know about the existence of alternative characters and OpenType features. I just hope more and more people will learn about them in the future!
But my favorite set is called “Headline” and it transforms fonts into something bold and adventurous. I added expressive, daring shapes for the letters J, j, f, r, t, y, and Л, л, д, г in Cyrillic. I think this set looks best in heavy weights. And I highly recommend using contextual alternates. Since these letters have quite complex shapes, to make them look good in all combinations, I had to add their simplified versions for specific combinations.

And as a little Easter egg, I also drew a couple of specific discretionary ligatures (which are turned off by default). By the way, one of them is in our logo.
Stylistic sets, contextual alternates, discretionary ligatures of SFT Schrifted Sans typeface.

Notable forms of the letters f, j, r, t, y, л, д, г. Contextual alternate of the letter t after r.

Discretionary ligatures fr and ft.

OpenType Features
The presence of stylistic sets is the most desired feature according to feedback from users, despite the fact that many still don’t know how to use them. However, there are also several important features that are often needed.

First and foremost, tabular figure. I have encountered many targeted requests specifically for this type of numbers. I can’t say the same for old-style ones, interest in them is much less. Nevertheless, I decided to include all possible types in the font: lining (default), old-style and their tabular versions.

Then I regularly had to deal with requests from clients to add additional currencies to fonts. So in SFT Schrifted Sans, their list is quite large. And by the way, they have the same versions as the numbers, that is, you can find proportional and tabular currencies and even smaller versions for use with old-style numbers in the font!
Types of Numbers and Currencies in SFT Schrifted Sans font.

Types of Numbers and Currencies in SFT Schrifted Sans.

Continuing on the topic of numbers, miniature subscripts and superscripts must also be present. Otherwise, at least making footnotes in the text will be difficult. These numbers can be found in many decent fonts. But miniature letters are much less common. However, in some languages they are necessary, for example in French.

Interestingly, users are interested in the presence of fractions in the font. I have never seen their real use, but arguing with reviews would be foolish. Therefore, SFT Schrifted Sans has fractions and the ability to compose them independently using the Fractions feature.
Illustration of small figures in SFT Schrifted Sans font.

Illustration of small figures in SFT Schrifted Sans.

Language Support and the Rest of the Character Set
To appeal to a wide range of users worldwide, a font must have an extensive language support. Currently, SFT Schrifted Sans includes support for over 200 Latin languages and 60+ Cyrillic languages, including localized forms (Bulgarian Cyrillic is a prime example). The font will continue to evolve over time.

Punctuation in the font also has language support. For example, “¡¿” for Spanish and a wide range of different quotation marks (as different countries have different preferences for their use). In general, the punctuation and symbols are quite standard and cover all basic needs. By the way, some signs have a CASE version that raises them to the level of uppercase characters. This feature works if you turn on the All Caps function in the text editor (instead of typing text with the Shift key pressed).

And be sure to leave the contextual alternates feature on! For example, it will raise some punctuation marks (: - – —) between two numbers or use a shorter version of j before certain characters to prevent overlapping.

As a small bonus, the font has a few decorative elements, although quite minimalistic.
Although I tried to make the typeface content to cover most of the user’s needs, the most important thing in the font is its graphics. And communication with clients confirms this. And this is the most difficult, unclear, and at the same time wonderful thing in type design — to draw a font that will find a response in the hearts of many people. Of course, not every project has such a task, but when we talk about the first typeface of a foundry, it is that very case. Again, it is extremely difficult to control and calculate the effect of the font, if it is possible at all. So I decided to make SFT Schrifted Sans primarily for myself (or rather for my foundry). And I built the character that I would like to see in it. I can only hope that my tastes will coincide with the preferences of many people.
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