How a font is made in five days: Monotype’s Font Marathon

Terrance Weinzierl working on his font Terry Junior 

Monotype UK launched its first Font Marathon in London this month – with international typographers Terrance Weinzierl and Hendrik Weber working in the new Shoreditch office for a week to create a whole new typeface each.  We went along on the second day of the marathon.

The typefaces were created from concept to finish without the constraints of working for a client. Terrance and Hendrik were able to escape their normal environment and get creative, following the success of the Font Marathon in New York last year. 

Typefaces typically take months or years to design, but the marathon daringly took five days. The typefaces can be downloaded for free from and Linotype. Monotype also has made a donation to Room to Read – a charity that improves literacy and gender equality in the developing world. 

Hendrik holds a degree in type design and currently works in Berlin. During his time in Leipzig he rediscovered calligraphic skills and fell in love with heavy, condensed sanserifs. He developed a special interest in italic letters, even writing his thesis on this. 

For the Font marathon he captured motion in type design with a grotesque that comes with moving shadow. He named it Northsteam Wind.

His typeface was inspired by an attempted photograph of a shop sign that was interrupted by a passing truck, causing a blur of movement.

It’s meant for graphic designers to enjoy and play around with – best suited for display text and large sizes such in posters and billboards.

“I was told a word is like the theatre. Each letter is like a character, it has to play its own role, and each letter doesn’t [need] to be too much in the front or in the background, it has to be about balance,” he says.

Terrance works remotely for Monotype near Chicago, specialising in typeface design and lettering since 2008. Soon to be expecting a child, Terrance designed a typeface inspired by and for children – namely Terry Junior.


“I do a lot of brush calligraphy just on my free time when I'm not making serious fonts,” he says. 

“This was a perfect fit. I knew I wanted to use this tool and I knew I wanted to do this concept with children, so this is what I first started to draw.”

Terrance started Terry Junior by exploring basic proportions and details. When using a particular tool the size can change weight of the letters very much – and the size and weight is a big variable. 

“I think I was looking for something that was really natural and just something that would come quickly and easily. In a way a combination of my handwriting and calligraphy, just something that wasn't too modelled,” he says.

After the first day he had the final concept. The second day was about refining and expanding the idea to make sure all other letters match the more successful letters.

This editing phase involves discussion on the stress and stroke contrast, and excluding letter designs that don’t fit the type base. The original DNA can be regulated with "control characters" – essentially the letters you don’t change so there’s a constant.

“That's really where designing a type face comes. It's about the system and having that same design DNA in all of the pieces,” he says.

“Once we're finally at this stage, and this is maybe the second half of the second day, it becomes a digital process. Scanning these, using Photoshop, Illustrator, manipulating the pixel images, also auto trace vector stuff, and bringing that into glyphs to actually make fonts.

“That's where the real clean up begins…what we call fitting and deciding on the amount of void space between the letters.” 

Although the editing phase took Terrance half an hour for the Font Marathon, the process can take a lot longer, for example, if a client takes a while to get back to you. 

“This particular part style is quicker because I can use my drawings to make them very, very quickly. Also it' very forgiving because it's so organic. It's much less fussy than doing a geometric sound of something,” says Terrance.

His typeface has included two sets of caps so that when there are double letter combinations, the font will automatically substitute to a secondary piece so it adds a little more variety and spontaneity – mimicking lettering.

Usually when Monotype creates a new typeface, they stick to a number of pre-package character sets used for retail – such as small, medium and large. Terrance managed to complete his own as seen below.

Despite the week deadline, he says it wasn’t too difficult.

“I’ve drawn these things a number of times so it really gets easier with practise.”

The process also included testing the font in real life settings and the final refinements before production, then importing into web shops to go live.

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