The Process of Creating Link
The architecture of letterforms can be broken down into a series of simple shapes, straight lines, and curves. If we were to stop and analyze our own handwriting for a second, we’d see there are some places where things naturally overlap. A simple example would be the crossing of a t or an f: it is clear that in the place the stem of the t meets the bar of the t the pen has gone over that spot twice. Drawing letters digitally employs that same principle — sometimes strokes or shapes need to overlap. When drawing digitally, having good overlaps allow letterforms to easily interpolate between different styles (like light to bold, or condensed to wide, for example).
So type designers usually draw letters digitally in a specific way to interpolate properly between different styles. There isn’t only one way to construct letterforms but there are some best practices. For example, one good practice is to keep different strokes as separate shapes so you have two smaller simpler shapes than one large complex shape. The Link Typeface Collection plays with how those separate shapes work together.
The Link family started with Link Overlap, a rounded modular typeface shaped by two design challenges.
Design Challenge 1:
Embrace and emphasize where two separate shapes connect inside a letterform. This results in ‘cutouts’ of the overlapping shape, and those cutouts reveal the construction system of letterforms.
Design Challenge 2:
Design each character in a way that the letterform can stretch without limits. With those constraints, it became an interesting construction game to play.
Once Link Overlap was completed, the next design challenge came to be, would this typeface work with traditional ‘invisible’ overlaps? The combination of emphasizing the overlaps and allowing for extreme width expansion resulted in some letterforms that felt original and unique. We wondered if the typeface without the cutouts would be able to stand on its own. We were happy to find that Link without Overlaps, so just Link, turned out to be a really friendly, usable typeface. Wherever possible we kept the outlines of the letterforms the same as Link Overlap, with optical adjustments where necessary. Because Link is a more traditional typeface, we also added some OpenType features to replace some of the weirder characters in case designers needed a more quiet typeface.
a → a
Ww → Ww
I → I
Cc → Cc
Link Stencil was a natural offshoot of the design process of making Link Overlap. Since Link Overlap was a test of how to balance the positive and negative space of the letterforms and cutouts, a lot of times we felt ourselves creating shapes that didn’t connect, allowing the gap to be the negative space. Over time during the design process we found ourselves with so many alternate stencil characters that we felt it was time to explore making these alternate forms a separate typeface, and so Link Stencil was born.
Stencil letterforms are historically used to quickly brand information onto physical objects or spaces. Like my initial design challenge with Link Overlap, stencil letterforms are another way of exploring the separate shapes that come together to form the letters we know. However, unlike my design game for Link Overlap where I was searching for how to best highlight letterform construction, Link Stencil (and most stencil typefaces) present a different challenge of how to maintain separate shapes (so the letters can be stenciled) while remaining legible. In Link Stencil, this meant making aesthetic decisions on where to break the letterforms so they maintained good legibility and the same overall feeling as the other typefaces in the family, Link and Link Overlap.