In late 2019 I was tasked with building a font for the then unreleased typeface for the MLS products under the team’s stewardship. The typeface was a stark difference from the previous typeface, wider, employed additional typeface features like overshoot, numerous accents, and two sets of numbers.
Level of Detail
Soccer/Futball typefaces present specific issues for some font programs due to the high level of detail required to implement the brand logo into the typeface. In the case of the jersey numbers, the MLS logo is easily goofed up, so to speak. The values of the anchor points and the curves are rounded off to whole numbers on the coordinate plane.
The comparison image to the right or below shows the differences between what was produced by default for Fanatics’ imaging teams and what I was able to produce in the end. The initial specimen was too low quality for use on wholesale and custom apparel products since the MLS logo is plainly visible at final size. It was my task to address these details while remaining true to the original jersey specifications.
A second target to hit was accurate kerning. Kerning and metrics are both some of the most time-consuming parts of font production. The typeface design accounts for many visual goals whilst font production focuses on usability, advanced features, and spacing.
Since the glyph sets were relatively few for a font, legitimate fonts like Roboto consider many languages and tons of features, where the first benchmark are the glyphs A-Z, capitals only, and then a few glyphs with accent marks as needed I considered skipping detailed metrics, or the spaces on either side of each glyph, in favor of defining each kerning pair using an algorithm. For A-Z, that was 676 kerning pairs.
One problem with taking the approach of defining kern values for every kern pair is performance of the font once it is installed on a computer, they’re supposed to be lightweight and usable as a sub-program so-to-speak within other programs, it has to search for every kern pair and display it. With the number of glyphs using accent marks, that 676 number quickly increases to 12368 kern pairs. This is simply too many kern pairs to define.
In the end the solve was using kerning classes. Since all of the accented glyphs were based on an existing glyph of A-Z, then I could comfortably use the 676 set of kern instructions and reference those existing pairs.
This font was one of my first typefaces-turned-font tasks that took off to marvelous success. These fonts are in use at fanatics.com (archive link) across various MLS Jersey and apparel (archive link) teams and products for custom, made-to-order and wholesale categories.
Directly below is a sample of the MLS letters font. While using all caps, type anything to test.
Directly below is a sample of the MLS Numbers font. Only numbers glyphs are included in this font, feel free to type any combination of numbers as a test.