Round and round we go

Inspired by the geometric character of Cera Pro, we — Lisa Fischbach and Jakob Runge — were excited to see what it would be like to make a soft version, a Cera Round.

It seems like it should be easy to make a rounded version of Cera. Click an effect named ‘Round Corners’ and job done: beer time! Prosit!

But it wasn’t so simple.

Type Mates Making Of Cera Round 01

Exploring different ways of round

To begin, the concept of how to round original Cera Pro had to be sketched and tested. What sort of roundness would work best with Cera’s design DNA? We liked industrially-milled lettering and were struck by how it manages to appear both mechanical and friendly — but how best to channel that spirit?

Type Mates Making Of Cera Round 02

There might be various possibilities in how we might harmonize strokes, but we concluded geometry had to become the main focus.

There might be various possibilities in how might harmonize corners and strokes, (, but we concluded that if we wanted our stroke endings drawn from a circle, geometry had to become the main focus. With this decision, we set off to face the many challenges on the road to creating Cera Round.

Troubleshooting with overshooting

Imagine you have a black square, for example the letter i, and you decide to make each stroke ending half a circle. Doing this, you change the balance between the black of the letter and the white space surrounding it: increasing the white. While the stem of the i is mathematically as tall as before, it looks shorter. To adjust for this, every stem in Cera Round was carefully assessed and brought into balance with non-changing letters like the — rounded already — o.

Type Mates Making Of Cera Round 03

Some stems, like the joins near n, d and r needed particular care. The combination of Cera’s original optical corrections and its new rounding could have made them look titchy. Here again, a new black/white balance was a part of the problem and the solution: restoring the ‘mathematical stem’ and rounding that meant the white space needed to prevent the joint of the letter clotting was created by rounding the top of the stem.

Type Mates Making Of Cera Round 05

Balancing the black and white

In general, adapting Cera’s light weights to the new style was simple. The difference to the black and white balance was slight and the counters caused no trouble. Those troubles showed up when working on the Black. In the lowercase in particular, we had to be careful in how we adjusted each letter to the new style. As letters were not supposed to narrow too much towards the end of a stroke, parts of some letters, like the top of the lowercase a had to be carefully re-designed before being rounded out.

Type Mates Making Of Cera Round 04

Antagonize the diagonals

The diagonal strokes were another challenge. The endings between Cera Pro and Cera Round could not have been more different from each other: Cera lets the diagonals end in a tip, stretching their presence on the baseline and x-height – while Cera Round was supposed to just end with a circular terminal. The goal was to have Cera Pro and Cera Round share the same widths for each letter, so that kerning was not affected and the super families’ variations could be exchanged without influencing a layout.

So we changed the angles of the diagonals, if necessary, to suit the letter better. These letters asked us to weigh out the level of change needed to strike a balance between designing a close variation of the Cera Pro on the one hand, and a typeface that works well with its rounded features on the other.

With our imaginary milling cutter in mind, a different approach to joints and baseline for v, w or Greek ν had to be proposed. Overall these letters turned out a bit wider in their general structure, compensating for the lost tip at the x-height but not changing the actual body of the letter.

Type Mates Making Of Cera Round 06

Different strokes for different folks

As Cera Pro is pan-European and, alongside Latin, supports Cyrillic and Greek, there was no question that Cera Round also had to have extensive language support. During this process, it turned out that Cyrillic letters were trickier to round than either the Latin or Greek had been.

In comparison to both of those scripts, Cyrillic has more rectangular shapes and some letters have a small outstroke ending that is crucial for character recognition – as in у and л. Getting these to be soft and rounded, while feeling right, was tricky. We did a lot of tweaks on these shapes to ensure that round feeling and to keep letters legible and balanced.

Type Mates Making Of Cera Round 07

Leaving the path to stay on track

The punctuation marks and the accents for Cera Round became very different from Cera Pro. As Cera Pro’s shapes had a high contrast, we needed to decide whether to make our new stroke endings the same diameter or to narrow them: either by a bit, or a whole lot. We found narrowing them slightly, enough to make each distinguishable from the other, turned out the best solution.

Type Mates Making Of Cera Round 08

Overall, the typeface was supposed to have a monoline feeling. In some glyphs, like the 4 or the +, optical adjustments had been made to Cera Pro, making the thickness of the strokes look the same in the vertical and horizontal. With the new round endings, however, these optical adjustments became visible and distracting — so obvious, that they had to be adjusted to be mathematically the same size to look right.

Other glyphs had be changed in their construction. The @ for example got a round connection, in contrast to Cera Pro’s @ with its sharp corner.

Working on the Round version made us rethink the original Cera as well: Bugs and optical adjustments in the existing Cera had to be and were rethought, evaluated and debugged. Rather than a simple rounding process, Cera Round turned into a whole new series of developments.

Rather than a simple rounding process, Cera Round turned into a whole new series of developments.

Type Mates Making Of Cera Round 09

Coming full circle

To round up: by creating Cera Round Pro, we made something unique, clean, happy and technical at the same time. It is a great addition to Cera Pro and is suitable for big headlines as well as reading text. The different weights n the feature of roundness in varying degrees vividness, making the family itself suitable for multiple uses.

We had fun creating Cera Round Pro and are excited to see it at work in your designs.